Monday, December 21, 2009

The Past Decade in Architecture.

You've read about Art Deco. You've experienced Post Modernism. But right now you're living in a new era of architecture...but what is it? Well as the first decade of the new Millennium comes to a close, here is a slideshow of the decade in review. It's fascinating to see how far we can come in just ten years; or how far back we can go.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Twitter!

Follow me on Twitter!

Oh, the hooker reference is to my last name...I swear...

Returning Again!

Ok, I'm back. I know--I'm the most inconsistent blogger ever. Well, actually, that's probably not true...I inconsistently forget to update! mwahahaha...


Life is good! Done with finals, which is a relief. And I decided on a job in Chicago!


Well, here's the story. I had opportunities in multiple cities (Houston, New York City, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Chicago), and so I had to weigh out the options. While my love for the Twin Cities isn't quite dead, I just know the opportunity I am pursuing is the best for me and my career. It's a very challenging position that will best utilize my Supply Chain knowledge. Score.

Good thing is I don't graduate until June, so I have plenty of time to live out my final days in Columbus. So this is an open forum to suggestions! What should I do with my last days in Columbus? Here is the beginning of my list:

  1. Go to a Blue Jackets game
  2. Go to COSI
  3. Go to Schmidt's in German Village.
  4. See a performance in the Southern Theatre (the only theatre I have not seen a performance in)
  5. Go to Hocking Hills (again).
And, well...I can't think of anything else. I mean, I've been here five years, and there's only so much to take in throughout Columbus. But if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment and let me know! I only have 187 days left so I gotta make the most of them :-P

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Could Be Moving Here...

I received a job opportunity in Houston. I don't graduate until June, but it's cool knowing that I have this possibility. While not Minneapolis, it's certainly still a great city. :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Supply-Chain Management: Freight Planning.

Since I am a Logistics major, and since I study it incessantly, I thought maybe it's time to share with you a little about Freight Planning.

But first off, I'll let let the US Department of Transportation give you a great understanding of specifically what Supply-Chain Management is, and the importance of reliable, efficient modes of transportation.

They did a pretty good job, huh? Hopefully that gives you a visual understanding of how the supply-chain works. However, the supply-chain is more than just different vehicles utilized to carry products--it is the entire process that begins with raw materials and ends with the product in the consumer's hand. For a more formal definition:
Supply chain management (SCM) is the control of materials, information, and finances as they move in a process from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Supply chain management involves coordinating and integrating these flows both within and among companies. The ultimate goal of any effective supply chain management system is to reduce inventory (with the assumption that products are available when needed).
So you see, the supply-chain is just not "boats-to-trucks-to-home", it is the entire system in place that brings goods to people. It includes the inventory that sits on a shelf, the raw materials necessary to produce a single unit, the people required to coordinate the creation and transportation of a product, the financial data necessary to continue to produce a product, so on and so forth.

Focusing specifically on Freight Planning, there are many, MANY questions to consider:
  • Is the current system working?
  • Is the current system under/over utilized?
  • Does the current system provide enough capacity to hold future freight loads in 2035?
  • What are the environmental impacts of rail freight versus truck freight?
  • What are the costs associated with rail, truck and ocean freight?
That is simply the beginning. Currently in North America more than 6,500,000 trucks travel on our highways. Due to linking rail and ocean freight, most trucks travel only within 50 miles of their base (although there are many outliers to this generalization). By 2035, however, this number is expected to dramatically increase, causing usage to balloon to over 600 million miles per day. Looking at the maps below, you can see where the increase in highway congestion will appear:

2002 of Highway Congestion

2035 Projected Map of Highway Congestion

Can you even see the states of Ohio, Ilinois, Indiana or Kentucky? This unfortunate truth gives us three options: we can expand the highways, expand the runways or expand the railways. I, along with the rest of sensible people, recommend expanding the railways.

CSX is one of the largest private rail companies in North America. Historically rail has been unreliable, hence the shift to relying on trucks instead. However, companies are recognizing that rail is CHEAP--like, real cheap. For example, a CSX Train can take one ton of goods 427 miles on a single gallon of gas. Is that not insane? As a private company, they are constantly seeking ways to improve, and since 1980 they have improved efficiency 80%. In addition, rail is not only the cheaper way to go--it is the more environmentally friendly way, too! Look at this graph on the difference in carbon emissions between a trailer traveling 1000 miles on a truck and a 1000 miles on a train:

Clearly, rail provides better financial outcomes and environmental stewardship. However, rail moves slower--and it isn't as direct. It is impossible to route trains to be able to deliver all kinds of material right to your doorstep. That is without question. However, planning practices that support rail and provide for a larger system across our country would significantly reduce transportation costs for a company and cut out carbon emissions by a huge margin. In addition, AMTRAK could utilize the rails to provide better commuter service. And, if there is one thing about transportation, it is this--it goes hand-in-hand with economic development. Just as a coastal city cannot trade if there is no port to receive goods at, a city cannot grow without modes of transportation for people to utilize. It will become stagnant. It will lose it's attractiveness and luster. It will, essentially, be Columbus.

Reduced Costs, High Environmental Stewardship, Better Transportation Options and less congestion on highways? And people argue against this?

Now you know why I'm going into the private sector and not into planning.

Not Too Far Away.

My friend recently moved to Maui, and she has nothing but lovely things to say about it. She wants me to visit, and so I became curious about the precise distance between us. In order to fulfill this curiosity, I went into Google Maps, clicked on "Directions", and then typed "Columbus, OH" to "Honolulu, Hawaii". That's when I got this:

God, I love Google. The answer, by the way, is 5,221 miles.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For Objectivity.

World leaders react to the Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

US President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his "extraordinary efforts" to build diplomacy and promote nuclear disarmament.

Since coming to office in January, President Obama has pursued an international agenda that includes a push to restart peace talks in the Middle East and negotiations over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Here is a round-up of world reaction to the award as reported by news agencies.


We are entering an era of renewed multilateralism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort. President Obama embodies the new spirit of dialogue and engagement on the world's biggest problems: climate change, nuclear disarmament and a wide range of peace and security challenges.


It confirms, finally, America's return to the hearts of the people of the world... you can count on my resolute support and that of France.


In a short time he has established a new tone, creating a willingness for dialogue and I think we all should support him to make peace in this world possible. There is a lot do but a window of opportunity has been opened. His advocacy of a world free of nuclear arms is an aim we all need to make real in the next few years.


I am really pleased. I want to congratulate him from my heart. I've seen the world changing since President Obama took office. It was outstanding when he made the speech in Prague calling for a nuclear-free world.


President Obama has made extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.

He has also demonstrated his strong commitment to help build peace and defend fundamental human rights, including through the atlantic alliance. This honour is well deserved.


There is nobody today in my view who is more deserving of that peace prize than Barack Obama. In less than a year he brought a radical change in the way we look at ourselves, in the way we look at our world. He is restoring the basic core values that every one of us should live by - dialogue, respect, democracy, due process, human rights, a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons. His dedication to these values rekindles hope that, finally, we could have a world at peace with itself.


We have no objection if this prize is an incentive to reverse the warmongering and unilateral policies of the previous US administration and if this encourages a policy based on just peace.

The appropriate time for awarding such a prize is when foreign military forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and when one stands by the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people.


We congratulate Obama for winning the Nobel. His hard work and his new vision on global relations, his will and efforts for creating friendly and good relations at global level and global peace make him the appropriate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.


We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable.

We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute's awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year's peace prize as unjust.


You have already inspired so many people around the world, and I know that this award also expresses the hope that your presidency will usher in a new era of peace and reconciliation. Nowhere is such a peace needed more than in the Middle East, a region that has been long marked by terror and bloodshed.

I look forward to working closely with you in the years ahead to advance peace and to give hope to the peoples of our region who deserve to live in peace, security and dignity.


We hope that he will be able to achieve peace in the Middle East and achieve Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital.


We are in need of actions, not sayings. If there is no fundamental and true change in American policies toward the acknowledgment of the rights of the Palestinian people, I think this prize won't move us forward or backward.


I am happy. What Obama did during his presidency is a big signal, he gave hope. In these hard times, people who are capable of taking responsibility, who have a vision, commitment and political will should be supported.


He's not even finished a year in his first term of office of a relatively young president. It's an award that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all.


So soon? This is too soon. He has not yet made a real input. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act.

This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let's see if he perseveres.


It is a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations. It shows the hope his administration represents not only to our nation but to people around the world.


I think it's extremely well deserved. I think it will take some time before people put together all the different moves that linked his speech at the UN on the abolishing of nuclear weapons, his shift on the missile defence programme in Eastern Europe and the movement of Russia to joining the international consensus that confronted Iran to abide by the non-proliferation treaty.


I think that it is kind of foolish to think that the Nobel Prize isn't politicised - it's not a humanitarian prize, it's a prize in recognition of change in the world to contribute to peace, sometimes its a recognitions of visions for peace. He is facing huge contradictions as well - he is going to be sending 40,000 new American troops into Afghanistan just as he receives the Nobel Peace Prize? I think that is a contradiction that needs to be seriously looked at.


Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is a way of encouraging him to not renege on the universal principles that he has championed.

We would have preferred a human rights defender like Oleg Orlov from Memorial in Russia or Natalia Estemirova [human rights activist murdered in Chechnya].

Call to Action. (From Barack Obama)

Chris --

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh That Love of Christ!

Always a friendly bunch, those non-judgmental Christians!

The Greatest...?

  1. Norway
  2. Australia
  3. Iceland
  4. Canada
  5. Ireland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Sweden
  8. France
  9. Switzerland
  10. Japan
  11. Luxembourg
  12. Finland
  13. United States

In order, that is the UN's 2009 List of the World's Most Highly Developed Countries. The United States Ranks 13th behind all of these other countries.

Bike Traffic.

This is cute. Well, cute if you can imagine there ever being Bike Traffic in the USA.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The System Map of France.

At over 260,000 square miles, and with a population of over 65 million people, France is not a small country. For comparison, the total area of France is larger than Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina and West Virginia--combined.

And yet a country such as France can have a system map that rivals independently each one of these states. The mobility for the French, and for the rest of Europe, acts as a catalyst for more business opportunities, higher quality of life for the citizens and for sustainable infrastructure that doesn't need to be updated every 20 years. Why, oh why, does the United States rely so heavily on the automobile when other countries provide transportation options like this to their citizens which in the end raise the standard of living for everyone?

Just look at how the many nations of Western Europe have built a system together that mutually serves their part of the continent! Why is it that "the best country in the world" can't even get rail into the states like Texas with 34 million people, or in Ohio with 12 million, yet it can be done all over Portugal with 10 million?

I realize it just seems like I whine and complain incessantly about the void of transportation options in this country, but I just feel so helpless. Even with my rants, the people I am close with have no desire to demand change. Much less do the other 304 million people care! They are far more concerned with watching spectacles like Glee or American Idol than actually caring about the state of country that they call the greatest in the world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ohio Fails Again.

Ugh. My endless lamentations about how awful transportation in Ohio is never seem to come close to resolution. My complaints are founded on the lack of intercity rail, the seemingly nonexistent state commuter rail and the incredible reliance that the 7th largest state in the US has on the single-use automobile. I recognize, however, when efforts towards smoother transportation-system use are made and try to be optimistic towards these efforts.

Recently the Ohio Department of Transportation had a slight opportunity to improve highway efficiency with its E-Z Pass program for the Ohio Toll Road. Many states--including Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc.--have implemented these fast-pass lanes with grand reception and simple implementation.

But, unfortunately, Ohio fails again.

The adage Keep It Simple, One Thing at a Time wasn't heard in Ohio.

Instead Thursday October 1 they had a cash toll hike plus the startup of electronic tolling simultaneously.

And they grossly overestimated first day uptake of electronic transponders.

Initial lane allocations were based on an estimate that first day penetration of E-ZPass transponders would be 30% of traffic.

The actual percentage Thursday, Day One, turned out to be about 10%, officials said.

E-ZPass Only lanes went unused while traffic backed up at cash lanes.

Plaza superintendents scrambled to change lane modes.

At first they changed dedicated E-ZPass transponder lanes to mixed mode.

[And] then there was sign confusion.

Mixed mode lanes signed everywhere else in Inter Agency Group country CASH/E-ZPass in Ohio were signed TICKETS/E-ZPass which apparently led many cash-paying motorists not to understand they could use the lanes.

So the mixed mode lanes went underused while traffic queues grew at the cash lanes. The Turnpike Commission apparently felt they couldn't call the non-E-ZPass lanes CASH because they have payment machines that not only accept cash, but also credit/cards.

[Continued in the article...]
From a planning perspective, Ohio is rarely the forefront state leading the way in unique initiatives. A few consummate examples of states really introducing unique planning practices include Maryland's Smart Growth program, Oregon's Urban Growth Boundaries, and California's Coastal Protection Program. Ohio has nothing like these. So am I surprised when a state that never introduces new ideas fails at ones that have already been properly executed?

Unfortunately, when the state is Ohio, the answer is no.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Are You on...THE LIST?

I can't remember if I ever posted this on FITC, so here it is. (Again?). It NEVER gets old though!

"Booze, Guns and the Rise in Rural Suicide"

It was a long time ago that I took Sociology 100, but I remember learning that suicides were always in higher percentages in small states than large states. My Professor showed us how Wyoming has an incredible number of people offing themselves, and yet in New York the per capita numbers make it look like it never happens.

Anyway, this article seems to not only reinforce this, but it actually says its getting worse!

Attempted and completed suicides take place at higher rates in rural communities, especially in areas that have more bars and taverns than other rural places, according to a new study.

The numbers of suicides were highest among white men.

Suicide rates were higher in both urban and rural places with concentrations of bars and taverns, according to the report by Fred Johnson, Paul Gruenewald and Lillian Remer. The authors speculate that a wide range of factors contributed to higher suicide rates in rural areas, including widespread use of firearms, local economic problems and alcoholism. Three out of four rural suicides involved firearms, according to the report.

The study shows a sudden and sharp increase in the rural suicide rate beginning a generation ago. In the early 1970s, suicide rates of rural men exceeded the urban rate by just 4%. But by the late 1990s, the suicide rate for rural men exceeded the urban rate by 54%.

Check out the link for more on how they conducted the study.

My love for cities and city development goes beyond just the aesthetics of a skyline and the incredible alacrity that comes over me when I'm in the heart of a metropolis--if I boil it all down, it comes down to opportunity for community. Within a city you have the ability to create your own version of what you experience. Take Columbus. To some, there is the Buckeye/Ohio State Columbus, the city that has 'the best damned band in the land' and the football team that squashes Michigan (6 years in a ROW!). To others, they have the fancy downtown and the arts districts. To the gays, Columbus is a unique surprise, an unexpected liberal haven tucked in the center of such a fickle state. To someone like me, I view it as a temporary home--a place I will always look back on fondly. The bottom line is we all view it differently, and yet it is the exact same place.

In small, rural areas, there isn't that ability to re-create your own village. When you have 1200 people in a town and nothing for 50 miles in any direction, it is what it is and you just accept it. This lack of mobility and diversity in a community is really the destruction of community, and it's one of the main reasons why suicides are so frequent there. If you can't find friends, if you can't find your community, if no one knows if you exist...why bother? Why keep going? Would anyone even know you were gone in the first place?

More Rail Options in DC!

There are many, MANY reasons whyI do not like Ohio, but the lack of rail options is by far one of the biggest. Organizations like All Aboard Ohio are working hard to change this, but for now the reality still exists--if you're in Columbus, there ain't shit for transportation options. And this affects what Urban Planners define as "Transportation Behavior", which is the belief that your surrounding area,not your personal preference, will control which transportation mode you select. For example, you would be deemed insane if you were living in Westerville and decided to walk to work in Reynoldsburg. On the flip side, that's about the same distance between College Park, MD and Washington, DC--and thousands upon thousands of people use the bus and Metro system to make that journey. Why the change? Because frankly driving to DC is a pain in itself, and the parking fees are so astronomical that taking the metro is way more convenient! Here in Ohio we don't have those options, and because of this our transportation behavior is solely single-use automobile.

So, now get this. Virginia is about to launch rail service from Lynchburg to Washington DC, and it's part of a test to see how VA would benefit from more rail options. Why can't this happen here in the Buckeye State?
Virginia launches its first state-funded intercity passenger train Thursday from Lynchburg to Washington, a move that will enhance mass-transit options for Northern Virginia commuters and people across the state.

The new service is part of a $17.2 million, three-year pilot program the state is running, and fully funding, to determine whether enhanced rail service is viable in Virginia. The pilot program will offer two trains, one from Richmond and one from Lynchburg, that will travel to Union Station and then on to Boston. Service between the Virginia terminuses and Washington will include stops at some Virginia Railway Express stations; service between Washington and Boston will include stops in Philadelphia and New York.

However, the train set to run from Richmond will not launch until Dec. 15 because the necessary infrastructure improvements -- about $78 million worth -- are not complete, said Jennifer Pickett, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. She noted that $43 million in improvements were completed so that the Lynchburg service could begin.

"This is a pilot project. It is the beginning of something, not the end of something," said Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. "We are going to see this grow."
It's sad that in one of the largest cities in the US (Columbus), there is no intercity rail service, nor is there any kind of commuter rail whatsoever. If Lynchburg, VA can get it (and St. Cloud, MN; Madison, WI; Portland, OR; etc.)...why can't we?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Will Try Tomorrow!

I'm doing such a bad job at updating more! I'd honestly, truthfully, really, swear-to-the-god-I-don't-believe-in write an entry now...but the library closes in ten minutes! :-/

However, I will say that this library--the remodel of The Ohio State University Thompson Library--is by far the most beautiful structure in the state of Ohio. Absolutely incredible. If you're an alum and happen to be around campus, get down here as soon as possible. You've got to see it.

Just to give a preview (though hopefully not a spoiler), here are some pictures of the recently transformed library!

....oh wait! I'm being kicked out! I can't even finish a friggin' blog post! Gosh darn it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Funny, The Places I Like.

I found this pic somewhere on the web, and it's apparently the image the religious right has of The United States. However, strangely enough, as one of those recyclin' liberals they seem to despise...they're kind of right. All the cities I would ever live in are in the blue, with Denver being the only exception. Besides that one city, I have zero desire to live in any city or state among the orange. Ha, for once the freepers are actually spot on!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Taking Sides.

"Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
~Elie Weisel

The conversation of why I am a vegetarian always seems to come over dinner, naturally. And I generally say things like, "...well you're eating right now, so I won't go into it." I am that feel-good, don't-say-anything-that-makes-others-feel-uncomfortable kind of guy. But when focusing on that quote--reading and re-reading it--I am realizing that I am playing a part in the continued torture of animals. And if you eat meat, you are too.

The meat industry is among the grossest products of the human race. Ten billion animals are raised and killed every year in The United States alone; imagine the number when you include the rest of the world. These 10,000,000,000 animals spend their lives confined to concrete stalls and metal cages, terrified and suffering in disgustingly unnatural conditions. These animals live in fear and pain and you--yes, you reading this--are the cause of it. I am utterly sick of hearing people say, "No, don't tell me, I don't want to know." What willful ignorance! What a blatant grand admission that you like to live with shudders on your eyes! By your eating meat, you are keeping these animals in these putrid conditions. And by eating meat, you are keeping human beings to have to work in these same horrific conditions.

Chicks have their beaks burned off in order for you to have chicken fingers. Cattle and pigs are castrated at birth to make you enjoy the taste more. Cattle are dehorned and branded--of course without any painkillers. Cows spend the majority of their life standing in their own shit. Veal calves and mother pigs spend their entire life in lonely isolation, never seeing the light of day. Millions upons millions of animals are skinned and dismembered while still alive--and no one gives a shit because it all happens behind the scenes. That's the tawdry beauty of capitalism in a huge country like the US: you can reap the benefits and sweap the massive consequences under the radar.

I was a vegetarian for five consecutive years, and then I went on a mission trip where I was forced to eat meat. For three months we stayed in host families' homes, and in order for me to be on this trip I was told I had to eat meat. It would be 'rude' to not eat a meal prepared by our hosts. So I gave it up, and it was one of the worst decisions I have made in my life. It took me another five years to wake up and realize what I was doing--that my fork was a choice, and I was choosing to torture animals. I was choosing to keep humans in filthy work conditions.

It's been nearly a year since returning to being a vegetarian, and I no longer will play the role of neutrality. My beef (ha!) with the meat industry is not the killing and eating of animals. That is a very natural part of the circle of life. My problem with the industry is the methods and procedures that I have already mentioned--confining animals to dark steel crates for their entire lives, stuffing thousands of chickens into a windowless chamber and coming in the middle of the night to kill them, etc. As part of the so-called "greatest nation on Earth", how do we get away with this? It goes back to Americans and their blatant desire to not know the truth. And I will no longer be a part of it. In the interest of comfort I will no longer aid my friends in the role they play in torturing animals and locking human beings into a miserable life.

The answer is not to simply stop eating meat (though that is the option I would say is best). The compromise is for people to start researching what they eat and where it comes from. There are local farms all over the country that treat their animals humanely, and I'll tell you what--the quality will always be better. The purpose of factory farms is to produce the most meat using the leat amount of space/money. Because of these shortcuts, the animals suffer--and so does the quality. However, you as the consumer have the ability to vote with every food purchase you make. I encourage you to carefully consider where your food comes from, and if possible, find a local farmer that treats animals humanely.

Putting the shudders back over your eyes, however, is not an option. That is unless you like blending in with the crowd of ignorant Americans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day One in the Pacific Northwest.

Last night we here at the hostel had a community dinner together. I sat with a friendly couple from Long Beach, Brenda and Alee, and we had a great discussion about traveling, Alee's home in Iran, Seattle, religion, politics in America...very unexpected way to spend my evening.

But then it got even better. The hostel had a group field trip to a place called the Comet Tavern, which was a grunge/punk/ska music venue featuring four different bands. The first band--I think their name was The Super Cutes, but not positive--was one of the best. I initially saw a man playing the tambourine and I had to laugh--until I watched him. Then I quickly learned he was kind of amazing. (I never knew the tambourine could be that difficult. I was wrong though.)

I met some lovely ladies from England who have been traveling across the United States for almost three months! They have been absolutely everywhere--Boston, New York, Nashville, Austin, Las Vegas, LA, Chicago...these ladies were so inspiring! I can say they have been to more American cities than a large majority of Americans (which is frankly pathetic, if you really consider the statement).

After the concert a group of us (Jasper from Australia, Matthew from Chicago, myself and the Brits) went to a downstairs Mexican bar that was solidly red throughout. It was seriously the only lighting in the bar. We each had a beer, decided we were tired, and then on our way out a fight broke out. Which was more amusing than intimidating, to be honest.

Although that was my evening, my day was spent schlepping all over Seattle. I went to the Space Needle. Saw the city from Queen Anne. Checked out downtown. Went shopping (seemed necessary). Walked along the pier. Went to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum). It was a fantastic day and if my big adventure continues to be like yesterday, I am surely in for the time of my life.

Call me a freak, but from here on out I'm hooked on hostels. It's the absolute best way to travel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Journey Thus Far.

Well, I can finally check something off my bucket list--staying in a hostel. Besides walking into my room and being welcomed to the sounds of a man masturbating (there is simply no way that a man could sound that happy when he was taking a nap), the trip has been just lovely. I've met and made friends from Germany, Alaska, Oregon and Illinois, and almost every person surrounding me has some story--running away from home, backpacking across the coast, just getting by, going on an epic journey...I can certainly say this is a very, very unique place.

You sleep in a room with 5 other people. There are three sets of bunk beds, and beneath the bottom bunk is a locked case for you to store your belongings. Surrounding your bed are curtains so that you can sleep with a little privacy (although in terms of my jerking off bunk buddy, it simply does not provide complete privacy). There are private showers on each floor which are first come, first serve. So far no trouble.

As I write this I am staring out the window at the iconic Public Market Center. This hostel is right in the center of it all. They provide breakfast, which was a welcome surprise, but there is a catch--you have to cook it. They provide the bread, the eggs, the pancake mix...but from there you are on your own.

Some of the renters work here to live here. They cannot afford to pay the cost of the stay, so instead they help out with odds and ends in order to make the rent. They cleanup the bathrooms, prepare the breakfast area, clean the different was a very peculiar addition to this hostel experience I had not expected. Essentially, because of the ample amounts of free food they provide, you could theoretically continue to work here just to sleep here for one more day. It's like a modern day form of indentured slavery, or at worst high-end, glorified poverty.

They provide daily activities--today is a tour of all the famous dead musicians graves--and they do everything they can to create a fun and friendly atmosphere. The spin is that you can embrace this and make new friends from all over the world, or you can stay to your lonesome self and not say a word. It is entirely up to you.

I'm reminded that I am in a global city because of the computer I am on. They are courteous enough to provide free internet and even free computers, but even here there is a catch--it's a French keypad. If you go through this blog update, every single apostrophe (') has been cut and pasted into this document. I have no idea how to locate it on this keyboard, and frankly I just gave up looking!

The journey thus far has been fun, exciting, challenging and filled with the unexpected. I'll be sure to continue with the updates as the myriad stories find their way to filter in.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Big Summer Adventure!

In just a few hours I begin my big summer adventure! Four days in Seattle, three days in Vancouver (!), a day in Tacoma, Washington and another day in's going to be great! I'm utterly stunned at the audacious journey. I'll be staying in hostels, meeting up with an co-intern I have never met, hanging out with a long-time blog buddy from LA that happens to be in Seattle, taking the AMTRAK up-and-down the's going to be so frickin' cool!

So I searched for a fun map to share with you. Nothing too cool came up. So, instead, I found a part of Seattle that has a ton of art galleries--and I thought I'd let you enjoy that instead. So here you go!

Oh, with art galleries galore like this...I think I am going to enjoy the Pacific Northwest. AND, to make it better, I checked the weather and for once luck is running in my favor--it looks like the entire week will be rain-free! Does that ever happen in Seattle or Vancouver? Regardless, I'm not complaining ;-).

So I'll leave you with a few photos. I hope you enjoy and I'll try my best to update along the way!

Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. However, the entire metropolitan population size is almost identical to Minneapolis/St. Paul--something no one wants to admit!

Although a Peninsula, and not an Island, Vancouver maintains a level of density surrounding the Central Business District that only has one mirror in North America: New York City.

Vancouver is an anomaly of a city in that it balances dense city life with natural greenery and epic scenery that can be enjoyed by as a if you were in a serene field or in the center of Times Square.

So pretty! So dazzling! So great! Can't wait!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Abandoned 8.

Abandonment is a universal fear that permeates across humanity. The fear of abandonment puts troubled individuals through years of counseling, ruins relationships, tests families, forces companies to never fully trust their employees...and it also is the biggest fear for a city that wants to remain vibrant.

Ohio is not isolated from abandonment. Flocks of people are abandoning Cleveland, Youngstown, Dayton and Zanesville (to name a few), only to leave empty streets and dilapidated structures. Nothing destroys a town more than collective abandon--and these 8 cities are the paradigm of this urban planning nightmare.

This photo comes from the icon of a failing city--Detroit, Michigan. Once a glorious triumph of the American spirit, Detroit now stands as a beacon of failure and demise. The Michigan Central Station, in the picture above, was the world's tallest train station when it operated. It was designed by the same men who crafted New York's Grand Central Station, and it embraced that same essence. Now, it is bound to sit in desolation and wait for its doom.

The article link above features the other cities, including cities in Germany, China and Italy. It's interesting to know that abandonment is not just an American problem.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


The number of days I have left here in Columbus!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scary Mary--Trailer.

It's like 3 years old, but I still love it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cars, Density and Public Transportation.

Ugh. This article right here is the reason why I'm so pressed on leaving this country.
It's hard to appreciate how truly pitiful our public transportation system is until you spend some time with a system that works.
Oh, there's more to that article--but just go read it. It'll certainly begin to get your blood boiled.

The first half of the article circles around the devastating truth about this nation--the reality that public transportation will almost never be universally accessible. We love our cars, and we're too damn fat to consider taking a hike to work instead of driving our gas-guzzling vehicles to our fat office chairs.

I have preached it for years, and no one likes it. But it's the truth. If we ever want to get Americans out of their cars, we need to raise the entire cost of owning a car. And that begins with raising gas taxes, toll prices, parking fees...raise them all! Few reasonable people drive in a place like Manhattan, and that's because it's frankly faster to use the subway than to try to bother with driving. If we want that same Manhattan-connectedness throughout this country, it'll have to start with making it supremely inconvenient to drive.

Why am I so obsessed with public transportation? For one, it's far more economical. And I don't mean financially--I mean the supply-and-demand of land! Ever consider how much space highways, roads, parking garages and cars take up? My lord it's a huge waste of space. Having people commute to work, social functions, etc., via a collective effort is simply better for the development of cities. It's long-term sustainability.

It is also, clearly, the healthier route to pursue. New Yorkers walk around 5-miles a day, while the average American doesn't even make it to a single mile. And you know what? Americans are freaking huge, they could surely use a 5-mile walk.

Efficiency about public transporation may be in question, because there are many systems in this country that do not run efficiently (COTA bus would be one great example). But as more people ride the transportation systems, the easier they are to become more convenient. The difficulty lies in getting people to push the system to a point where they must expand.

The first bit of the article focuses on the dim future for public transportation in The United States (::angry face::) and the second part reviews American's hatred for high-density neighborhoods (::really angry face::).
David Boyce, an adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University, said another key piece of the puzzle is land use. Americans prefer low-density communities and large lots for their homes.

This may be swell from a quality-of-life perspective, but it's an enormous challenge for public transportation, which requires relatively large numbers of people moving from point A to point B on a daily basis to be profitable.


I hate to be cynical, but I simply can't imagine political leaders at the local, state or federal level telling voters that they support a big increase in gas taxes, sky-high parking fees and high-density neighborhoods.

So don't hold your breath for a public transportation system that rivals what our friends abroad enjoy. It's not going to happen -- at least not until a majority of us agree that we're prepared to accept the trade-offs necessary to bring about such a wholesale change in how we live and travel.
Baby Jesus on a cross, do you see why I am love with this article? It's like I wrote it myself! Words right from my own lips!

No one is going to find me holding my breathe for these kinds of developments, and I'm frankly just not committed to this country enough to be part of the movement towards this ideal. This country won't let me serve in our armed forces, won't let me marry the love of my life, won't even give me legal recognition in the majority of the where's the incentive to stay? It's certainly not the crazy gun laws or the lack of access to health care! It's not our impressive education system or the upcoming generation of idiots that this nation is brewing up right now! Hell, I can't even give blood in this friggin' as a clearly unequal citizen of The US, I honestly, from my viewpoint, find almost no reason at all to stay here.

There is plenty wrong with this country and I'll be the first to point it out. But at the same time, I will be here for at least 1-2 more years at the minimum; 5-7 years at the most. So although it's fun and easy to write up a quick rant about the atrocities of this country...perhaps I should make the best of my time? Instead of whining and complaining as the next few years go by, why don't I do my own small part to make things better? That's a far better approach than to relentlessly bitch about how awful it is here.

Sigh...the only problem is it's easier said than done.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thoughts On The Outside.

Someone was asking me the other day specifically why I think suburbs are the downfall and ruin of this country. Their defense was that technology has provided people with the ability to own both worlds--the world of the city and the world of their own. Interesting argument, because I personally believe the opposite.

First off, suburbs are simply a reflection of our auto-dependent lifestyle. His point about technology paving the way for these type of developments is spot on. However, what he fails to realize is the sustainability of these types of structures. No one likes to admit it, but there is a simple supply-and-demand equation when it comes to oil. Demand will continue to rise as our nation continues to grow. (Projected to be 450 million Americans by 2050). However, the supply of oil is a very specific amount, a number that is pretty difficult for us to predict. Nevertheless, when that peak hits and oil production slows down, what will we be left with? An immobile country, that's what.

Gas right now is at a comfortable $2.60 a gallon (in Ohio). But what happens in five or so years when we will be paying $8 or $9 per gallon? Will we still be able to drive 30 or 40 miles to work? Will big box industries still be able to sweep all of their transportation costs under the carpet? Will travel still be as easy and affordable? The answer is a quite obvious NO to all of these questions. And if we continue to plan and develop suburbs that circle the center city, we are planning for our own destruction.

So, to get back to the topic at hand, I believe suburbs are the ruin of this country because they will not be able to exist forever. On top of their future bleak outlook, as they stand today they are horrendous for the development of real communities. Notice how there are rarely sidewalks? It's because the developers want you to drive everywhere. And if you're isolated in your car instead of walking the streets, you're alone. And, to follow the cycle, if you're alone you're not making friends. You aren't establishing relationships. There is no community when you park in the garage and never step foot towards your neighbors house.

As a note, I have no problem with neighborhoodss that are outside of the center city. I myself don't live downtown, and it would be a ridiculous assertion to say that everyone must live in a skyscraper. That's not my point here. What I am getting at is the typical type of development that American cities are seeing 20, 30 or even up to 50 miles outside of where people work. This type of development is just plain awful, and it goes beyond just the lack of community and the dependence on the automobile. Why maintain ten mini-cities with tax dollars when, if the city was denser, you could support just one? This one point alone is enough to make me cringe.

Columbusites spend millions of dollars maintaining Westerville, Lancaster, Marysville, Polaris, Grove City...all of these large areas 20 or so miles outside of downtown, and it just doesn't make any sense. We wouldn't need 15 different fire departments or police stations if we just moved the people closer together. Think of all the roads that must be maintained, or the schools, or the streets, or the stoplights, etc. etc. If we didn't have a land of suburbs we wouldn't need to pay for these things over and over again--and thus our city could function far better.

But people argue that they enjoy having their own space. And that's understandable--but it's just not practical. One of the very basic tenants of good urban planning is Jane Jacobs' idea of "Eyes on the Street". Our sidewalks and streets are the fundamental building blocks of our cities. They are what make people feel safe--and this simple feeling is the determinant of a successful city or a failing one.

So how does one create safe streets? Well, simple--eyes on the street. Have coffee shops with big patios, get runners, parents with their kids, people walking their dogs...activity is where it's at! But this activity goes vis-a-vis with that safety factor, and its by no means an easy equation. But it's an imperative one. Suburbs by nature cannot create this vibrancy or this level of activity. Their low-density and exclusionary practices keep a homogeneous group of citizens and an inactive feel to them.

Let's make a recap--suburbs cannot be maintained because of their dependence of the soon-to-be-costly automobile. Suburbs to a fault destroy the ability to create communities. Suburbs guzzle tax-dollars because of their low-density yet high-maintenance requirements. Suburbs do not create the kind of activity that favors low-crime and high-likability.

But wait, there's more!

The actual planning of suburbs is just atrocious. It's bad enough that they just turn into a sea of cookie-cutter homes, but do the planners really have to design the roads so disgustingly? I mean, who actually likes driving out in the burbs? Planners just seem to hate grids in suburbs, but grids are frequently what is most efficient. Sure, grid style developments leads to cars cutting through side-streets, but I'd rather have that than the ugly and uninspired crap that planners shit out these days.

That's my case. I fully believe that one cannot attain a high-quality of life when they're commuting 30 miles to work or school everyday. I do not believe in any capacity that the American suburbs are sustainable developments which will continue to be well-maintained in the far future. At the same time, if you personally enjoy the suburbs, who am I to point and tell you to move? If you're happy, then ignore this whole post. My only concern is for the collective future of this country, and I truly question what kind of place it will be when the central cities continue to fail and then the suburbs go down with them.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

They Even Rob Their Education!

I used to have this manager. Whenever someone would do something wrong or quirky or rude, he'd bark out this particular way of saying "unbelievable". He'd hold out the 'un' really long, and then quickly blurt out the 'believable'. "That was unnnnn......believeable." It was his distinct phrase, something everyone at my job would say at really any opportune time.

Right now, in my head, I am hearing his voice say it over and over again. Unnnn...believeable! Unnn....believeable!

Why am I in such a state of disbelief? Because I came across some of the "rigorous" requirements of a certain bible college's classes. What are these awfully difficult class reqs? Well, for a Ph.D level course, 20% of a certain grade comes down to planning a Sunday School lesson. Another, for a Master's course, gives 20% of a students final grade for leaving comments on websites. They even have one unabashedly biased course--"Intelligent Design or Unintelligent Evolution."

What a flagrant perversion of education! What a flippant abandon of the pursuit of truth! Schools like this are just sick, because they are raking in thousands upon thousands of dollars from students, and in return they so horrendously rob them of their education. They hand out unaccredited pieces of paper that are supposed to represent a Bachelor's Degree, but with class selections like this, how can one learn?

I have sat through my fair share of Women's Studies and Sociology classes. Been through my biology, physics and chemistry. Knocked out four classes of Calculus. I have never had a grade handout in college. It has never been easy. But it has rounded me out and opened my eyes to new perspectives and ways of thinking. But if my college degree was based upon the foundation that everyone around me thinks the same way I do, what type of development could I claim? How could I have grown at all?

Specifically one of my professors comes to mind. He was a stout man with a tiny head and huge body. He wore Big Dogs hoodies to lecture. He frequently flirted with the ladies. But his outlook on life was so peculiar and so precise that it forever changed how I read books, how I watch movies and really how I take in anything in life.

I got an A in his class, but it didn't come easy. I read 9 novels, wrote 7 papers (all over 2,000 words), turned in a 20-page thesis paper and didn't miss a single class. There was no extra credit, there weren't take-home exams...and it was a basic GEC! The fact that I have been pushed by my Professors is what has encouraged me to continue to pursue education in every direction I take.

So that is why I am so outraged at this pathetic "institution". (I won't even call it a college or seminary). Writing comments on blogs should never be credit in any college course, much less worth 20% at a Master's level! It is such a disservice to themselves, their students, their institution and even to education itself. I feel horrible for these students. When they graduate they will be no better when they started.

How Would You Go?

So if you were gonna kill yourself, how would you do it? Shoot yourself in the head? Swallow a bottle of gin and bottle of pills? Jump off a bridge?

It's an absurd question, one that I have never really wanted to ponder. But, it's worth at least considering--if you wanted to take control of reality and really off yourself, what would be the best way?

Well, by its popularity, it seems the best way is quite easy--jump off The Golden Gate Bridge! More than 1200 people have taken that long plunge, and this ridiculous map right here lays out the history of suicides:

(Click to embiggen)

I think if I were to pull the carpet on my life, I'd want something absolutely unheard of. I'd wanna make the news. Unless I was jet-skiing with an infant driving the boat or going out in a bunny costume in front school children, I just wouldn't be satisfied. But I think that's just how I live my life. Pretty ridiculous.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

After What We Destroyed.

So you know what really grinds my gears? I was thinking about this the other day, and the irony burns. Ever notice that those stupid suburban developments that look like Playdough Cities are always named after what was destroyed in order to build them? Think about it. Their names are always like "Green Meadows" or "Forever Pastures". They thought up those names because of what had to be leveled in order to throw up their cookie cutter houses! Why would we want nature or beauty when we could have an identical copy of all of our neighbors' homes?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

America's Healthiest Cities.

"Healthy". That's generally the one-word definition of my dream city. Not necessarily as in fit or active, but overall healthy--culturally active, economically vibrant, bustling city-folk, high-quality of life, etc. That's why I'm obsessed with Minneapolis (and recently Seattle), since they both seem to be consummate examples of the kind of city I want to live in.

Well, Outside Magazine seems to agree with me. They've put together their annual list of the "Best Healthy Towns in 2009", and my favorite cities all seemed to make the list: Charlotte, Seattle, Minneapolis and even Cincinnati! (Don't mock me. I love it there.)

First, we started with the 100 most populated cities in America, using public data to rank them on factors like cost of living, unemployment, nightlife, commute time and access to green space. Then we took the 28 candidates with the highest overall averages and put them through a second round of number crunching, comparing things like the percentage of the population with college degrees, income level in relation to home prices, and weather. The wild card? Our own multisport factor, which rated each of our finalists on a scale of 1 to 5 for quality and proximity to biking, running, paddling, hiking, and skiing. After adding it all up, we had our top ten.

10. Charlotte, North Carolina
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
8. Minneapolis, Minnesota
7. Portland, Oregon
6. Albuquerque, New Mexico
5. Boston, Massachusetts
4. Austin, Texas
3. Atlanta, Georgia
2. Seattle, Washington
1. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Friday, July 31, 2009

Roughly One Year.

I just realized that it was about a year ago I started this lil' blog here. In the past year I have had 34,000 visits to this site. Sure, some blogs get that in a single day, but I still feel that's significant. It makes me feel like it's actually worth taking the time to write stories, thoughts and news about Urban Planning. Thank you blog readers :-)

Here's a map of you the today's visitors...

So thank you, all you blog readers, for coming to read my thoughts and stories. Hopefully the next year will be far more productive where I don't go missing for months at a time...ha!

Something Just Isn't Right...

Ouch! For more silly billboards, follow this link...

(Via Joe.My.God)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Little I Have in Common.

This country really gets to me. It really, really does.

It's one thing to not let gays get married. I'm still open to the conversation about defining it as "marriage". However, it adds insult to injury when citizens of The United States are working so actively to not even let gays and lesbians have equal rights under the law. I can put aside semantics--I cannot put aside injustice.

Then the government on top of this tells gays and lesbians they cannot serve their country in the military! We've thrown out 12,000 of our trained soldiers--many doctors, engineers, translators--all because of a preference. A fucking preference. How can this be the strongest military in the world?

Then I begin to think about the insane gun laws in this country. Or the abysmal outlook for our education system. From here I begin thinking about our putrid addiction to suburban sprawl or our awful urban planning practices and I just want to jump out a window!

But wait--there's more! Let's not forget the ridiculous devotion to a completely unproven scientific ideology known as Creationism. Oh, and religion in this country. (Don't even get me started on that one.) And, honestly, one of the worst things happening in our country--the epidemic that no one wants to admit: obesity! I'm sorry to say it, but fat people could very easily ruin this country.

So I behold this country of fat, stupid, science-denying, gun-clingin' religious nutjobs who can't even spell "calorie" and I want to throw my hands up in utter horror and disgust.

Or, just move to Canada.

I really think at some point in the next few years I will be leaving The United States for our colder, far-smarter Northern brothers. I've been saying it for years, but I've always been held back from pursuing the idea since I believed I had to go to grad school in the US. I was under the illusion that the best schools in the world were here, so if I got my degree from a US institution I'd be better fit for moving to another country.

Well I'm not buying it anymore. University of British Columbia is amazing. McGill is one of the finest institutions in the world. University of Toronto or Concordia make fine substitutions as well. And frankly, if I want a company in Canada to hire me, wouldn't it be better to study as an international student and try to make contacts while I have a student visa?

I wish the predicament this country is in wasn't so. But even with Obama in office I don't see this country's situation improving. It's too big (literally) to be fixed with 5, 10, or even 20 years. Of all the problems I mentioned--gays, guns, oil-dependent city systems, education, etc.--let's just focus on the one: obesity.

Did you know that being fat is far worse for you than smoking? Think about it. Someone can smoke for 40 or 50 years before they develop a fatal disease from it. Being overweight, however, can lead to a myriad of problems, most of which are fatal: heart failure, diabetes, tons of different forms of cancer, liver disease, heart disease...the list is ad nauseam.

And yet Americans don't care. It's not that they are ignorant or aren't aware--oh, believe me, they are quite aware of it. The weight-loss industry brings in more money than almost any other retail industry out there. But, you see, the American way of life is with patching things up and using quick-fix schemes. So instead of learning proper nutrition, readjusting their lifestyle to be more active or--gasp!--joining a gym, Americans go out and buy a magic stick hoping to quickly fix everything they’ve fucked up.

That magic stick was Dr. Atkins, the miracle diet where you can as much as you want. Disgusting.

So as our health care costs continue to soar, Americans turn to other magic-sticks, such as gastric bypass, ridiculous fad "I-only-eat-grapefruit" diets, exercise machines promising you'll lose 25 pounds a month on three minutes a's just sickening. This country thrives and survives on patching up wounds instead of fixing them.

We can't completely blame the fat people, to be honest. Our City Planners need to have plenty of vitriol thrown at them too. You see, our auto-dependent planners have been disgraceful by continuing to building cities farther and farther away from the central city, where everything is within a walking distance. Nope, instead most American cities have seen more growth 20-50 miles outside of the central business district then actually in the center city. What does this mean? More people driving instead of walking.

Now, I have to be honest. The reason why this is very important to me is because in High School I was quite on the larger side. It stemmed from being a closeted homosexual stuck in a Christian bubble terrified to come my response to my fear of my self was to eat. But once I came out, my outlook on life was so different--I didn't need to hide my problems in some quick-fix scheme. I was confident in who I was and where I was in life. And once that was attained, I was able to get myself to a place where I am quite comfortable and healthy. By this point in my life I have run three marathons and five half-marathons. It took years to get myself to that ability, but I only mention this because I want everyone to know it is possible to achieve health even if you've been unhealthy for years.

No matter how much I rant and rave Americans will still shovel in their McDonald's and not give a crap about the future of their lives, our society and this country. They’ll still bury their faces in sheetpans of Cinnabons until our health-care system cannot sustain the whirlwind of health problems. And that alone is enough reason for me to question my reasoning in staying in this country. But once you throw in the hatred of science, gays and atheists, and clump in the love of God, guns and cars...I just don't see the point. It only reminds how little I have in common with the people of this country.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mr. President Will Be Just Fine.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Everything happens for a reason”? Think about it for a second. What a blatantly vacuous and empty statement. Can you think of a grander non-sequitur? What an enormous effort to say absolutely nothing at all. The only emptier statement I have ever heard is, “It is what it is.” In both statements the orator is saying to essentially abdicate all rational thought and reaction to an event because one has no power over it. “It is what it is” essentially means to suck it up and stop thinking.

I’ll tell you something. Everything happens because you permit it to happen. It happens because you either make it happen or don’t allow it to happen. You get a job because you worked hard and have previous experience; you get a sweetheart because you went through the right channels to meet each other and you have the qualities that the other person is looking for you; you get in a car accident because you either weren’t paying attention or you were texting or you were driving too close or whatever the reason may be. However, all of these circumstances don’t just happen for some esoteric reason. They are the simply the product of existence.

So when I tell the story you’re about to read, the last thing I want to be told is that it happened for a reason. It did not. It happened because I refused to acknowledge the blatant red flags that waved in every direction. It happened because I wanted to believe I had hit the jackpot. In the end, it taught me to embrace the people I love and let them know how much I truly cherish their friendship. If that’s what I walked away with, that’s great. But the event did not occur simply for me to learn that. It happened because I allowed it to happen.

I was still living in Washington D.C. at the time. My friend Chris had just been hired to be the personal assistant of an executive at XM radio. His name was Zack Taylor, and he was the Director of Creative Media. Or something like that.

The three of us met up at JR’s, one of the bars along 17th street. Zack was not necessarily the most beautiful thing I had ever encountered, but he was charming and had a certain charisma about him that was appealing. He and I kept locking eyes, and there was a palpable attraction between the two of us.

Within a week we were dating.

It was fast, but he had shown such devotion to me. He had taken me to some of the finest restaurants in DC, which we had been escorted in a limo to every single one. He took considerable amount of liberty to fit me into his busy schedule. As an exec at XM, he was traveling all the time. Chris, his new personal assistant, and him were flying all over the country. They had been to New York, Miami, and Las Vegas yet I still felt as if I was the number one priority.

Our conversations weren’t always magical. He was somewhat awkward, pretty shy and very quiet about his family. But the life of dinner cruises and constant limousine service seemed to make me look over that.

He’d tell me about how he was planning a new radio show with Ellen. He’d share with me the stock information about his company. He’d let me sit on web conferences between him and the senior executive staff at XM. He’d get a phone call from Ryan Seacrest and this was a normal day. Sure, I didn’t really like him that much, but this kind of life sure beat every other guy I had dated.

It was a forgetful statement, but I had once mentioned to him that I had never been to Orlando Studios. Two days later we were there. He bought us first-class plane tickets and reserved the largest suite at the Portofino, a luxury hotel right beside the park. A 12-seat stretch hummer picked us up at the airport. Instead of driving to the Orlando Studios like commoners, we had a private boat take us through one of the canals. We dined at the best restaurants between riding roller coasters and playing games.

Strangely, even to this point there had been no intimacy between us. But as I thought about this, I just let the thought slip away as I sipped on Jordan Cabernet. It’s funny how much the mind can hide if you really want it to.

We returned to DC and it was my mother’s birthday. Zack wanted to come to dinner with the family. I was concerned since I didn’t like the idea of introducing my family to someone I had been seeing for maybe two weeks. But he insisted, and I allowed him to come along.

We ate at the Capital Grill, one of those swanky DC steakhouses. There were 12 of us. Zack shared his stories of dining with Madonna and flying to London to meet up with Elton John. He was entertaining, charismatic and he fit in with the family just fine. The bill came to $600 before gratuity. Zack stepped away to use the restroom, and moments later the waiter came to the table announcing that the bill had been taken care of. My mother was stunned and to this day she describes her 56th birthday as one of the most unforgettable dinners of her life.

The very next weekend he told me he wanted to take me somewhere. It was to be a surprise, but he told me to pack with summer clothes. We got to the airport and we suddenly were on our way to Miami. Everything was happening so fast and although there wasn’t an incredible connection between the two of us, I just let it keep going. Sitting under palm trees with someone you’re indifferent to seemed far better than laying next to a dumpster with someone you’re in love with.

We were picked up at the airport in a limo, as usual, but our driver greeted Zack as “Mr. President!”. Zack, who was hardly humble, thought he was called this because of his role with XM Radio. However, the man was referring to the 12th President of the United States, President Zachary Taylor.

I thought it was odd that a man with a name like that wouldn’t pick up the reference. In all of his 29 years of life he had never realized he had the same name as a former President?

By this time, I was beginning to question things. I was curious why in three weeks he was able to spend so much time with me. A day hadn’t gone by where we hadn’t seen each other. We had been to Florida twice and been to dinner probably 10 times. Zack blew through money like it wasn’t even his. But yet again I forced these thoughts to go away and I just tried to live in the moment.

Our limo driver took us to a restaurant in Miami called The Big Pink. Zack was talking about how the Grammy’s were coming up and how he wanted me to come along with him. He said we’d be sitting with either Pink or Christina Aguilera. But I wasn’t buying it. Although it was believable that Zack worked for XM, it was hard to fathom him actually being friends with celebrities. He looked like a paler, scrawnier, younger version of Steve Buscemi. All the money in the world couldn’t make him look good enough to sit at a table with two of the biggest names in music.

Zack was beginning to sense my disbelief. I hadn’t said anything, but it was just obvious that I did not believe we were going to the Grammy’s. So when our limo driver returned us to the hotel—the famous “W”, by the way—he told me he wanted to work in the business center of the hotel to show me the itinerary for the big awards show.

While he was down working on the computer, I was up in our hotel debating what to do. Suddenly my phone began to vibrate. It was my friend Chris, the personal assistant who introduced me to Zack. “Chris, what’s up?” I asked.
“Where are you?” He immediately asked me.
“I’m in Miami with Zack. Why?”
“You need to get out of there. Right now.”

I was silent.

“Zack Taylor is not who you think he is. I just stopped by one of XM’s office and they have no idea who he is. They have no record of my employment and there is no job title for Director of Creative Media.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to admit it, but I had my suspicions all along.
“Seriously, I have already talked to the police. There is absolutely nothing they can do for me. You need to get out of there, because you really don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

Suddenly Zack walked in the room. “I’ll call you back,” and then I hung up.
“Is everything ok?” He asked me. He stood by the door holding the papers confirming our trip to the Grammy’s.
“Yeah, everything is fine.” I said. I’m not a good liar, and he knew this.
“Who was that?”
“I just called my sister to say we checked in.” He didn’t buy it.
“Really? Didn’t you already call her?”
“Zack I have a question for you.”
“Umm, ok, what is it?”
I remembered he had once told me he had played piano for 15 years. Since I have played piano my whole life I knew exactly the right question to ask to see if he was telling the truth.
“What is the third note in an A-major scale?”
Zack just stared back at me dead-pan. “What kind of question is that?”
“It’s a simple question. What is the third note in an A-major scale?”
“Why are you asking me this?” He shot back.
“Why don’t you just answer it, Zack?”
“What a ridiculous question.”

I wasn’t going to let him off the hook.

“Fine. What are the three notes in a C chord?”
"Dude, you’re being absurd.”
“No, Zack, you are. How about you name ANY chord you’d like. I don’t care if it’s a major, minor, suspended, ninth, whatever. Just name three notes that make one chord. That’s all I want.”

He was silent.

“You don’t actually play piano, do you?”
“Of course I play piano, you’re—”
“You don’t work at XM Radio, do you?”
“What are you talking about?! That’s ridic—”
“You’re name isn’t even Zack Taylor, is it?” I yelled at him.

We both stood on opposite sides of the room staring right at each other’s eyes. It was completely silent. The tension was nearly scratching at our skin.

I reached for my luggage and began grabbing everything else I could. “Where are you going?” Zack demanded. “I’m leaving.”
“You can’t leave, this is our vacation!”
“Zack, I don’t even know who the hell you are.”
Zack looked back at me, searching within himself for any bit of believable compassion, and said, “Yes you do. You’re just confused. Everything I have told you is the truth. It just seems too good to be true, doesn’t it?”

I walked around him, and when I reached for the door I stopped to say one last thing to him. I turned around, my hand still on the door knob, and noticed I left a few crumpled dollars and some spare change on the nightstand. “You can keep that.” I said as I nodded towards the money. “For everything you’ve done for me.”

And with that I walked out the door, terrified to turn around and look over my shoulder. My heart was pounding against my chest in a way I have never experienced. I didn’t know if he was going to pull a gun on me or come chasing after me. He did neither.

I took the elevator down and found his chauffeur still out front. To a certain degree I didn’t even know whether to trust the limo driver. I hopped in and told him to take me to the airport. “Are you sure Mr. President is ok with this?” He asked me. “Oh, I’m sure Mr. President will be just fine with it.”

And then we pulled off. I sat alone in the back of 10-person limo contemplating the bizarre experience that the past three weeks had brought me. I rolled down one of the windows and had one of those serene indelible moments that will forever be imprinted in my memory. The sunny Miami evening sky rained down on my face and I just stared longingly at the buildings off in the distance. You could have been killed, went through my mind. He could have seriously done something to you. He knows where you live. He’s met your family.

We reached the airport. As the son of US Airways employee, I was able to fly free. It was only a few minutes before I was listed on the next flight headed towards DC. I made it through security and immediately pulled out my laptop to begin writing about everything that had happened. I wanted to ensure that this story never was forgotten.

Suddenly a man walked right up to me. It was Zack Taylor.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Why are you doing this to me? I thought you and I had something real?” He said to me.
“REAL?” I distinctly said. I will never forget he had the audacity to say real to me after all the lies he had told me.
“You are going to try and say we had something REAL when everything you had ever told to me was a lie?”
“Stop being dramatic. You didn’t even let me show you our reservations at The Grammy’s. And how could everything have been a lie? I’ve taken you all over the country and you respond by calling me a liar? Wasn’t Orlando Studios real? Wasn’t our dinner cruise real? We’re even in Miami for Christ’s sake!”

I specifically remember the lady sitting next to me. She was the stereotypical Midwestern woman—overweight, 80s hair and an outfit that she found in a clearance bin at TJ Maxx. Boy was that awkward. I’m not sure whether it was more awkward for her or for me, but regardless this scene could have been in a comedy. She was sitting reading her People Magazine, and yet right in front of her was more drama than she had ever experienced in her life.

The next few seconds we just looked into each other’s eyes. Strangely, I felt nothing. No emotion in any direction. I wasn’t angry, sad, nor did I feel betrayed. Maybe it’s a human reaction in a place of fear to circumvent emotion. Maybe it’s just a survival instinct. But all I knew was that I had to get on that plane and I had to get away.

“Zack, it’s over. Chris knows. I know. Now just walk away before it gets worse. Walk away while you can.”

That was the last thing I had ever said to Zack Taylor. He took a breathe after I spoke, then he turned and walked away. To this day I don’t know if he made it on the plane or not. The suspense of that evening still terrifies me when I think of it.

Weeks later the police came back to Chris with the real story. His name was Stephen Dillinger and he was a con artist who had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent credit card schemes. He had been all over the country, been through numerous court battles and even had a website for people to share there stories of how he had ruined them. I read account after account of both men and women that he had led into the same kind escapade with. Most of the stories were worse though—he had generally convinced his flings to sell them their car or join his “insurance plan”, from which he’d steal their identity and open tons of credit cards.

Somehow I had escaped that. I walked away from the ordeal with my credit untouched and only the three week memory of living the glamorous life. And you know what I learned? I learned that it takes ten seconds to get used to luxury, but it takes years to realize just how important friends and family are. I learned that riding in limousines and flying all over the country are such ephemeral experiences in the grand scheme of life. And, unfortunately, I also learned that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Things do not happen for a reason. This story was not crafted because some external observer was trying to use chicanery to teach me a valuable lesson. It simply was the product of my actions and decisions. Did good come from it? Of course. But it did not happen for a reason. It happened because I was too in love with materials and not in love with truth, value, reason or reality. And because of that, I walk away realizing the power of our decisions. Hopefully after reading this, you will too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts at 4 AM.

Right now I'm listening to that new Black Eyed Peas song, "I Gotta Feeling." It's pretty much the most repetitive, monotonous, uninspired piece of music I have ever heard.

And I love it.

I'm not too sure why. Maybe it's because it is repetitive and monotonous. Maybe because I realize they're making millions off a song that probably didn't require too much thought. Regardless, it's making me smiling. And right now I could use that.

Going on with that theme of putting my life on hold, I'm thinking about the next 318 days. That's how long I have until I officially leave Columbus for once and for all. (Sorry Columbusites). I went through my schedule with my mother today, and I essentially have every week until I graduate planned out. Seriously. Weddings, Marathons, Trips to Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco, classes, internship...I already have it all laid out until I leave in June.

This time needs to be maximized. I need to enjoy every last minute of my final days in Ohio. And yet all I do is stare at that enormous number and yearn for it to vanish. I just want to get the hell out of here. It's been that way for three years, and I know exactly what will happen when I finally peace-out and leave Ohio forever--I may actually miss it. I can honestly see myself in the future wishing that I had taken better advantage of this fine city here.

So the theme for the summer has been making the most of my time here. One day at a time. And a song like this really makes me think about that. (Probably the insistent "Tonight's gonna be a good night" might have something to do with it. I'm not sure.)

That's the plan. Tonight's gonna be a good night. I'm not thinking about 318 days from now or 5 months from now or next week. Just right now. In the moment. No matter what I do nor how much I complain, I'm here in Columbus for a bit more. So might as well make the most of it.