Sunday, August 17, 2014

That Was It: On Uncertainty and Unfinished Posts

Now that I've resuscitated this blog and discovered that it actually has - or, at least, once had - an audience, I've been doing a little behind-the-scenes housekeeping: adjusting the layout, fixing dead links, rereading drafts of posts I started but never got around to finishing. Most of those unfinished posts are little more than a sentence or two: an idea I once had but never elaborated on or maybe a link to something I'd found interesting (but, apparently, not interesting enough). So you can imagine my surprise when I came across a lengthy, unpublished and nearly-complete post I'd forgotten I'd written in 2011, on the night before my road trip.

Considering what an effort it can be for me to write, it's rare I'll take the time to pen an entire post and not publish it but that's exactly what happened. Reading it now from the safe vantage point of the future, I can see why I chose not to share it. It's deeply personal and its tone is a departure from the purposeful bravado of the confident-sounding posts that would've surrounded it. I mean, if you read my blog the way it originally ended, I seem pretty fearless:


It was so convincing that I acted without hesitation, I eventually ended up believing it myself. But, as you will soon read, the truth was a different story.

In reality, I was terrified that I may have just wasted 4 years of my life and that I might now be rushing in to waste the next few. On top of that, I'd just gone through a bad breakup - my first in an era of social networking - and wasn't handling it well. In an world of Twitter and Foursquare, it's a lot harder to just throw some memories in a shoe box and move on. (It's also a lot harder to be honest in a blog when one's ex might still be reading.) I was so full of doubt and sadness that I felt compelled to write about it but just didn't have the courage to publish it.  Until now.

What follows is the original, unaltered post: Kenny Loggins' video and all. If you're going through struggles in your life, I hope it helps to know that you're not alone and, as I now deal with trying to be a writer/performer in Los Angeles, I'm grateful to be reminded that I've survived uncertainty before.

This Is It

(originally written 7/2/11)


Chikkita pa, chikkita pa...

Here it is, the night before my big road trip. I'm hoping to leave first thing in the morning and I'm about as packed as I'm going to be.

Had my pre-employment physical for Carnival this morning. It went well, I guess. Here's hoping that they didn't forget anything and that my being on a Paleo-style diet the past few months hasn't made my blood one step above bacon fat, rendering me incapable of working on a ship. ("Rendering"! "Fat"! I made a funny.) Last thing I want to do a few days into my cross-country drive is turn around for more testing.

Went to REI after the physical and got my National Parks Pass. Really looking forward to spending some time deep in nature and away from a cell phone signal.

Packing went alright, I guess. I somehow managed to sell all the major items (bed, bike, bookcases, other things that don't begin with B) but, when my attempt on Wednesday to pack the rest of my belongings in the car ended up not being the resounding success I'd hoped it would be, I had to give a lot of stuff away. Luckily, I've got a job waiting for me on the other side of the country so that helps ease the loss. A bit.

The fact that I'm actually done the evening before my departure and not packing straight through 'til dawn is pretty amazing for me. The last time I had a panic-fueled "oh-shit-I-have-to-fit-all-of-my-stuff-into-HOW-much-space-and-by-WHEN??" packing session was in Japan at the end of 2006. I packed the entire night, had to ship several boxes at great expense and then, not only did the poor taxi driver have to wait a half-hour for me to come downstairs but, on the way to the airport, I made him stop by Tsutaya (think Japan's version of Blockbuster) so I could drop off some DVDs I'd forgotten to return. It's always been a source of great embarrassment to me how poorly I'd left Japan and I promised I would never leave a place so terribly again.

Thankfully, my getting ready for this trip - while incredibly stressful - went a lot better than my leaving Japan did. Of course, like so many things in my life now, I wish I were handling it better but, in the grand scheme of things, I guess I've done OK.

I'm thankful for all the extra time afforded to me by the Carnival audition and a gracious landlord (who continues to thank me for speaking English and for not being a drug dealer, which should tell you something about my neighbors) but this last week or so has felt less like waiting in anticipation for my Next Big Step and more like dwelling; moping around as I watched the life I built the last 4 years get stripped away one Craigslisted or hastily donated item at a time. And it doesn't help that my longest and most intimate relationship to date – one which had ended in a sad yet rather amicable and adult way a month ago - had a delayed-action fuse that detonated spectacularly in a booth at a restaurant a few hours after I got the news that Carnival had hired me.

May as well be honest, handling all this at the same time has been damn tough. The bare walls of my nearly-empty apartment have acted like an echo-chamber, amplifying the stresses in my life. Too much time alone, too much time having to let go of things I'm not ready to be without. And seriously, after my 4 years in Seattle, you'd think I'd have more of a support structure out here to get me through all this but, you'd only think that if you haven't lived in Seattle. It truly is a terrible, terrible place to meet people.

Seattle's always been a mixed bag for me. Hell, it was only supposed to be a stopover! Sure, it's a great city but the winters are too dark and the summer days much too long for this Florida boy. Seattle's full of open-minded, fashionable, liberal-minded people who don't want to make eye contact with you, much less build a friendship. I've spent the last four years trying to earn an exit pass out of the Emerald City and, now that I've got it, this melancholy little town is not letting go without a fight.

Don't get me wrong, I will miss Seattle. I'll miss Alki Beach. I'll miss my favorite coffee shops (including the one where my now ex-girlfriend did the very un-Seattle-like act of introducing herself to me). I'll miss the concerts and the book signings. I'll miss jogging around Green Lake and through Discovery Park. I'll miss the hell out of having my brother Ken living just up the road. I'll miss those few weeks of perfect weather in the summertime that make everyone forget the months of gloom. I'll miss being Molecular Matt and being that B&N bookseller that none of my co-workers could figure out why was so happy all the time despite working retail in his 30's. I'll miss those days that Mount Rainier makes a surprise cameo appearance. And I'll miss a city built around a Space Needle and framed with snow-capped mountains. Part of me is confident that I'll be back here in some capacity one day but, I'm also fully aware that it'll never be the same. It's time to move on.

For some people it's easy. They can just let go and embrace whatever's next without a second thought (or at least give a damn good impression that's what they're doing). I swear to god I don't know how they do it.

Then, there's me... silly, emotional sap I am. My extreme emotions make me nice, fuel my writing, give me creativity, make my highs really high and my lows crazy low (usually at the same time) and they make it tough as hell for me to just. Let. Go.

But I'm doing my best.

Before I close, big thanks to Ken for always being there for me and for letting me use his truck; to Casey and Tracy for the support, the drinks and the hangover; to Kelly for his humor and genuine enthusiasm; to Kate for the jazz and the ego-boost; to Sean for being so flexible with my apartment; to Lisa for her remarkable ear and passionate concern; to all my coworkers for putting up with my damn chipperness all the time; to my neighbor for unwittingly letting me us his internet connection right now; to Rachel for the mixed blessing of so many great memories and to Seattle for giving me the honor of calling it "home" for a while. Thank you.

Anyway, time for sleep.

I've got a new life to start tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Power of Blogging

'I HAVE THE BLOGGGGGGGER!"
Two days into 2014, in the midst of very busy final week of Grinchmas at Universal Studios Hollywood, I got a Facebook "friend request" from some guy in Seattle named Victor.
Hmm... Victor. Do I know any Victors?
I clicked through to his profile. I didn't recognize the face. We didn't have any mutual friends. We didn't work at any of the same places.
"Babe, we know anyone from Seattle named Victor?"
The name didn't ring any bells with my girlfriend either.
"Hmm. Spam, I guess."
[Delete.]

CUT TO: 2 months later.

I notice I have a message in the "Other" part of my Facebook messages. Now, for those of you who don't know - which, I'm guessing, is pretty much 98% of the population - there is an "Other" tab in your Facebook messages where any correspondence from a non-Facebook friend gets buried... erm, "filtered".

Seriously. Go look. I'll wait.


Surprise! Can you believe that's been there all along?

David Pogue from the New York Times did a blog post about the "Other" folder last year and a lot of his readers replied to say that, thanks to his post, they'd found long lost friends and wallets or, sadly, discovered they'd missed a job opportunity or, worse, a funeral.

Anyway, the message in my "Other" folder was from that Victor guy. It read:
Hi there big fan here. I'm not sure how but I stumbled across your blog somehow awhile back out of nowhere and read it in its entirety. It sounded like one big adventure.
Holy cow! Somebody actually read my blog!!

I repeat: SOMEBODY READ MY BLOG!!

And not just parts of it, no... THE ENTIRE FLIBBITY FLAGGITY BLOG!!

I immediately replied to his message to confirm that:
  1. he was a living, breathing person.
  2. he wasn't a "Nigerian Prince" informing me about some "unclaimed funds".
  3. he was actually talking about THIS "Black Coffee and Green Tea" and not a similarly named yet far more entertaining blog that somehow managed to be updated in the past 3 years.
He was, he wasn't and he was.

This was huge! I couldn't wrap my head around it. While I'd enjoyed doing this blog, the main reason I didn't even attempt to maintain it once I left Seattle was because I didn't think anybody was reading it.

Worse, since I'd started this blog to find "my audience" only to discover they were more elusive than Facebook's "Other Messages" folder, I'd considered the whole endeavor a failure; not the "I shouldn't have wasted my time" kind of failure but the "learning from our mistakes" kind. I concluded that my blog had been about too broad a range of topics ("Back to the Future"! Japan! Caffeine!) to ever build a core audience. No wonder nobody ever read it.

And then some guy named "Victor" messaged to say that, yes, somebody HAD been reading. And he was a fan! Of my writing. That's like dedicating your life to looking for yetis, finding no evidence, giving up, and then randomly getting an email from Bigfoot.

"Hey Matt, love your work."
Hoping to show some gratitude as well as gain a little insight, I replied:
Thank you again, Victor! I'm genuinely flattered! You are, quite possibly, the only non-family member to read my entire blog! (Oh, who am I kidding? I don't even think they read it...) I really enjoyed doing that blog but I guess it just wasn't specific enough to really attract an audience. If you don't mind me asking, is there anything you specifically really enjoyed about it? I'm just curious. It's, unfortunately, very rare I get a chance to get feedback about my writing!
I seriously didn't expect much of a response, if any. But here's his reply:
I think our similarities and your whole outlook on life portrayed through your writings of your adventures is what sucked me in. I am obsessed with coffee, Back to the Future, all things 80's and a lot of other similar things which is how I think I first stumbled upon your blog. I like your spontaneity, your openness and your whole sense of adventure and doing what you want and not conforming to social norms because you chose to live your life how you want. It was a very good read and it is good to know that there are others out there like me. I randomly moved to Seattle from NY in 2004. By 2009, I wasn't happy with my life and felt pigeonholed into living a stereotypical life that didn't seem to be going anywhere. There were always things I had wanted to do but never did for one reason or another. In January of 2009, I discovered your blog and was truly inspired by your carefree adventurer attitude. I was inspired to make positive changes and live life how I wanted. So with that, I quit my job, quit my cover band I had been playing with 2-4 times a week since 2004, dumped my negative girlfriend of five years, threw away literally all of my stuff, moved from a large house into a 400sq ft studio in downtown Seattle and started over completely. It was the best choice I have ever made. I made great new friends, lost 60lbs and got in amazing shape, went on random adventures, got a new job that I truly loved and most importantly, met an amazing woman who is now my wife. So for all of that I thank you.
Wow.

You're welcome, Victor. And thank YOU.

In other news, I HAVE AN AUDIENCE!! (Hi, Victor!)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Meanwhile, Three Years Later...

2011 Matt: No! It can't be! I just finished this blog!
2014 Matt: I know. You DID finish this blog, but I'm back. I'm back to the blogging.
2011 Matt: Great Scott! [faints]

Well lookie what we have here...

S'up, everybody! It's Matt! Didn't think you'd ever see another post from me, huh?

Oh, who am I kidding, me neither.

Seriously! When I wrote that "Time to Smile" post 3 years ago today (crikey!) and hit "Publish", that was supposed to be it. Done. Finished. Thanks for playing.

(The Barnes & Noble post was a bit of an anomaly. Non-canonical but necessary.)

I mean, what else was I supposed to write about here? Read the tagline: "Living in Seattle. Writing about Japan." and I'd officially just stopped doing both. If you recall, when we last left our hero(ld), the first draft of my book about Japan was complete and I was using that as the perfect excuse to finally leave the Pacific Northwest.

It was time for my Great American Road Trip™!
I was east-coast-bound!
A cruise ship docked on the horizon!

Well, I'm happy to report that my cross-country drive ended up being amazing.

My time on cruise ships, not so much.

[If you're curious, I successfully completed two contracts with Carnival. The first was to see if I was cut out for ship life, the second was to confirm that I wasn't. I'm sure I'll delve deeper into the waking nightmare that was working as an entertainment host but, until then, the following video pretty much sums it up.]


And now, here it is, precisely 3 years later (fittingly, on the 29th anniversary of the opening of "Back to the Future") and I'm back sitting in a coffee shop - right leg jittery from too much caffeine - spending way too much time composing a blog post. The view out the window, however, is quite different. I've traded the claustrophobic gloom of Seattle for the Instagram-filter-like haze of Los Angeles, my new home. Crazy, right?? But there's still some familiar territory:

I'm back at Mad Science.
I'm back in theme parks.
I'm even back capital-W-writing so it only seems fitting that I be back here too.

Sadly no, that doesn't mean I've started revising my book (hopefully soon GAWD DON'T PRESSURE ME) but I have started working on a screenplay - it's required within the first 6 months of residency in LA - and it seems to have awoken the somewhat atrophied part of my brain that liked blogging.

So weird, I thought writing on this thing was just a huge distraction but it inadvertently ended up producing a ton of actual content, some of it pretty decent. I also didn't think anyone was reading this stuff. Turns out I was wrong. (More on that soon.)

As for the blog's somewhat outdated "theme", I'm sure I'll figure something out. My brother once commented that "Black Coffee and Green Tea" was more than a blog title, it was a way of life, an apt description of me. I still take my coffee black, I still love my green tea, I still drink too much caffeine.

So, here I am! Not sure how frequently I'll be posting. Or for how long. Or if I'll even ever post again but I'm back. (To that same ol' place that I laughed about...)


Welcome back, welcome back, welcome baaaaack everyone! Missed you.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

B&End

To all my friends at the soon-to-be-closed U-Village Barnes and Noble,

Hey gang! It's your old pal, former bookseller and recovering nookspert, Matt! Wow, last day, huh? You guys doing OK?

Man, I can't believe this is actually it! It kills me that I'll never be able to pop in to our store next time I'm in Seattle for a chat and a black coffee (with no room) nor will I ever get the chance to do an author event on your Spotlight Stage. I can only imagine how hard it must be to you all still on the front lines.

But, despite all that, let me also say how excited I am for all of you! Seriously. I used my leaving B&N as a catalyst to start taking my life in a whole new direction. It was part of the collective kick-in-the-ass I needed to finally start taking some chances again. And, since then, I've driven cross-country twice, got a job on a cruise ship, traversed the Panama Canal and now, here I am, ringing in the New Year off the coast of Mexico. Just imagine what you can do.

Don't miss this chance, you guys. (Or, at the very least, tell your last few customers where they can stick their Kindles.)

Please, keep in touch and keep me updated on your adventures.

All the best!

- Matt