Most people that know me well would say that I am a nerd, geek, or some other word associated with that kind of culture.  And they would be spot on.  Not only do I collect comic books, play tons of video games, and have a geeky tattoo, but I also absolutely love outer space.  I use the word stellar as a regular adjective.  I can go stare at the stars for hours on end and be inspired to have the most heart staggering conversations.  I read books by Stephen Hawking for the fun of it.

However, I can’t remember the last time I looked through a telescope.

My father has a telescope, and I’m told that when I was younger, we would look through it together.  But these memories are sadly lost to me.  However, as I’ve discovered countless numbers of times over the years, the impression of these events with my father has stuck with me.  So for my adventure, I decided to observe the Transit of Venus through one the largest telescopes available to the public in the Twin Cities, which was at the University of Minnesota.

I was somehow able to convince three people to join me by saying that looking at a shadow of a planet as it crosses the sun is a fun thing to do (thanks for humoring me).  And I’m glad they came along, because the event was attended by far more people than I was expecting.  The line was over an hour long, and the event itself was only visible for close to three hours from our location.  I won’t lie, I was kind of worried that we wouldn’t make it to the telescope in time.  We were inching forward and racing the sunset.

But we made it!

We were able to see the transit maybe twenty minutes before sunset.  And though I was only able to view it for ten seconds, I was absolutely floored.

My mind has a difficult time grasping such vast notions as space.  The distance between our planet and Venus is staggering, and yet I was able to see it.  And it was only a small dot compared to the vastness of the star that helps to sustain life here on Earth.  And our star is only one of an infinitely large number of stars in this universe

When I look towards the heavens, I am so humbled.  I am literally able to look back in time just by looking up.  I am able to realize how I am such an infinitesimal cog in the gears of the universe.  Yet, I’d like to think that I have the ability to make large, positive, and shattering contributions to my friends, my family, and the world at large.

This contrast makes me feel nothing shy of giddy.

For the past few weeks, I have missed adventuring.  That isn’t to say that I have been sedentary.  Actually, far from it!  Since my last posts, I have done quite a few things.  I gave up soda for Lent; I went to my first baby shower; I began working out five days a week; I drove to Chicago to help a friend move to Minneapolis.

However, these were all things that sort of happened naturally.  Yes, they were amazing and enjoyable and I had put forth a great spirit and vibrancy to them.  But the lone fact that I didn’t consider them to be a part of my “Year of 52 Adventures” just didn’t make them feel quite as alive for some reason.

I am sure this is all a psychological freak out in my head, but it made me want to adventure again.  So here I am!  Attempting to finish what I started just over five months ago.

I have a lot of catching up to do.  Therefore, this may be the busiest, craziest summer ever.  But I think I can cope with that idea.

In order to make up for the lost ground, I will have to do multiple adventures during many weeks.  Therefore, from now on, instead of marking my posts based on the week they took place, they will be titled based on which Adventure Number they represent.  Not that you care; just a matter of housekeeping.

So look forward to Adventure #8, coming soon!

I am a fan of pop punk music; I can’t lie.  It is my fun, angsty pleasure.  And there is one line that I’ve always loved in the song, “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” by the band All Time Low.  The line is, “There’s a story at the bottom of this bottle, and I’m the pen.”  For those paying attention, you’ll notice that is also the name of this post.  So wow, I’ll be basing this adventure on that quote!  Good power of deduction!

Now, I’m not one to condone drinking excessively, or requiring it to have a good time.  I’ve seen how destructive it can be to people’s lives.  That said…getting drunk can be fun as hell!

So when I heard that line a few weeks ago, I happened to also be trying to think of new adventures to have, and boom!  What if I drank a bottle of wine as I started writing a story?  Just sort of see what happens?  Yeah!  Do it!

This adventure will be good for me for two reasons.  The first is that I’m not a fan of wine.  I have tried countless glasses with friends over the years, and I have never found a wine that I would enjoy drinking, like, at all.  So, by making myself taste an entire bottle, I hopefully will be one small step closer to acquiring a taste for wine.  And if not, maybe the more drunk I get, the less I will care about how disgusting it tastes.

The second thing is that oftentimes I can come up with great story ideas, great plots, but I never actually sit down and put the pen to paper and write.  But a good friend of mine from college taught me a way to get through writing difficult analytical papers…you take a shot of liquor, then drink beer as you write the paper.  Make sure you do this a day or two before the paper is due so that you have time to edit out possible drunk ramblings, and the many misspellings or dangling modifiers.    So maybe drinking while trying to at least start a story, or create a new one, would be beneficial?  We shall see.

Now, I am writing this Saturday night (February 18th, 2012).  But I will most likely edit it tomorrow afternoon, throw in the random pictures I may take, and then post it tomorrow night.

So, without further ado, here we go.

A sultry smoke fills the air, cascading down the walls as it surrounds the booth.  It’s patrons wave it aside, annoyed by the smell of cheap cigarettes from the teenagers sitting behind them.  The smoke can be tolerated, can be ignored.  What can’t be ignored is who these kids are.  All of them never worked a day in their life; just road the wave of daddy’s pocketbook.

Berton Campbell, age 18.  Son of the largest owner of Lexus dealerships in the metro area.

Thomas Kennedy, age 17.  His father ran the books for Campbell’s dealerships, making adjustments here or there across all aspects of their files.

And last, Patrick Burns, age 19.  His dad was the one who actually ran the whole business.  He’s the one who connected the underbelly of society to Campbells dealership.  And of course, his son assumed that meant he ran the two kids sitting across from him.

Burns was telling another story, laughing about some girl he met, fucked, and then walked away from at a party last night.  Kennedy and Campbell laughed at all the right parts, asked the right questions about how much she moaned during the sex or despaired when he left her.  They were good soldiers; they already had learned how to keep their boss happy.  They already learned that they had to protect him not only from toughs but also from a belief that he is like mortal men.  Kennedy and Campbell were the ones that the gentlemen sitting at table 42 had to worry about. Young as they were, if they knew their role, they wouldn’t go down without some form of bloodshed.

But for as good of soldiers as they were, it was all over in a flash, just as it should be.  They are followed outside.  Number 1 asks for a light.  When casually reaching in his pockets,  Burns is thrown to the ground by Number 4.  Number 3 punches Kennedy in the throat as Number 2 hits Campbell on the kidney, then temple.  He goes down quickly as Kennedy tries to scream out but can’t.  Number 1 walks up to him and gives him the envelope as the rest of them carry Burns away.

The only surprise is that Kennedy still reaches for his gun.  Even though he is gasping, can’t breathe, wheezing nothing into his lungs, he still reaches for his gun and tries to shoot at these people that are taking away the only thing that protects his existence.  Number 1 has to knife Kennedy’s trigger finger off, quickly and with precision, before walking along with the rest.

In the van, the Numbers don’t speak.  There’s no need to; it has been accomplished with success.  There may have been blood shed, which is to be avoided.  But that isn’t the worst outcome.  Zero will be happy; he has his ransom without harm.  He can stop this syndicate and worry about the next.  He can move onto Phase Nine of the Tenth Plan.  Number 1 didn’t know much about Zero, but he knew that Phase Ten was the ultimate goal, what Zero had been waiting years to achieve.

And that is where I stopped writing.  I may have drank it too quickly.  I think I finished the bottle in about an hour and a half, and I started drinking around 3:30am.  So I was tired and very quickly drunk.  But I’m fairly pleased with the short few paragraphs I created.  And I’m curious where it will lead.  I think I will have to continue this tradition to continue this story.

And side note, but does the wine cork remover look like Johnny 5 to anyone else?

Week 6 – Fasika

Posted: February 19, 2012 in 2012, 2012 - 02 - February

One of my goals for this year has been to try new food and hit up restaurants that are off of the beaten path.  Well, thanks to an awesome tip from a friend (thanks again, Whitters!) Jamison and I were able to accomplish both last Saturday!  We went to an Ethiopian restaurant named Fasika near Hamline University’s campus.

I have never had Ethiopian food.  Hell, I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen seen ANY kind of African cuisine.  Do they base their meals on rice, similar to Asian cultures?  Do they have bread?  Something like the Indian dish naan?  Do they use lots of meats, veggies, spices?  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.  And to be honest, the outside of the store didn’t make it look terribly impressive…

Now, the above picture is the street view of Fasika (it is the establishment on the corner if you can’t see the sign well).  What you don’t see is that around the corner (where we parked) is an empty lot full of dead grass and broken bottles.  Not exactly the kind of place you want next door to a raved about food joint.  But once we got inside, my opinion changed IMMEDIATELY

It smelt so good!  Like…wow.  The air was just full of spices and freshness.  I don’t know any other way to describe it.  It just smelled like an amazing kitchen.

It wasn’t an overly large restaurant, but there was ample space.  So after we were led to our table, we looked at the menu.  And sure enough, I had no idea what any of the things were based on their names.  They had a few small descriptions, but even in them, they used foods with names I didn’t recognize.  So first we ordered some Ethiopian tea to mull over our decision.

If anything, the tea fit right in with the atmosphere.  It tasted very similar to a chai but with even more of a spice flavor to it.  It made me ready to dive into the menu.

The only common word used throughout the menu options was “injera” which I took to be the sort of base for all of their meals.  I looked around at what people at other tables were eating to figure out if injera was a kind of rice, bread, or what.  It looked similar to naan, but very large and somewhat spongey.  Interesting.

Since I had no idea what I would be ordering, I thought I would just go all out crazy and order whatever would be the most difficult to pronounce.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Well, when I tried to order the Qunta Firfir, the waitress just gave me a shocked stare.  She asked, “Have you had that before?”

“No, I’ve never actually had any Ethiopian food before,” I admitted, somewhat bashfully.

“Well, do you like spicey foods?  Like hot things?”

“No, actually, I don’t handle hot spices that well.”

She gave me a stern look, which kind of surprised me.  “Well, then you aren’t going to order that.  You want the Tibs.  If you haven’t had Tibs, order the Tibs.  You’ll love it.”

“Um…ok.  Can I please have the Tibs?”

“Yes, you’ll love it.”

Apparently I wouldn’t be ordering the most challenging thing to pronounce.  Oh well.

After Jamison ordered some kind of chicken entree, we sipped our tea and conversed about times past and hopeful future adventures (we both realized we were interested in acupuncture but had no idea where to go.  Anyone know a place in the TC?).

After only like five minutes, our food arrived.  Speedy service at a sit down place is always nice!  And man…the plates were HUGE!

It was just…so big!  (that’s what she said).

What we were treated to was an amazing lunch.  The food was as delicious as it was large. Tibs is apparently cooked beef with peppers and onions in a delicious broth.  It also came with a small salad with a dressing similar to Italian, and of course injera.  Jamison’s was something like a chicken mix, paste, curry type thing with a hard boiled egg, some kind of a thick cottage cheese, injera, and a salad.

Jamison and I both barely ate half of our meals, which meant some amazing left overs for later in the week!  I for sure would recommend Fasika as a place for trying new food, or for great food in general!  I can’t wait for my next new food adventure!

The reason why I didn’t post this past week was due to a personal issue.  I lost my job.  Very unforeseen.  It was one of those situations where I wasn’t fired; I was just let go because of financial reasons of the family I worked for.  And they didn’t really forewarn me that it could possibly be coming.  So totally caught me off guard.

But life is an adventure, right?  That is what I’ve been telling myself so that I don’t overly stress out about it, at any rate.

So my adventure for this week was been to begin the job hunt.  Not an exciting adventure, or one that I enjoy being on, but it is surely one that I am dedicating all of my time and energy towards.  In the past week, I’ve applied to around twenty-three jobs at colleges alone.  This week I plan to hit the school districts hardcore.  Then will be state / county / city jobs, and if nothing happens after that, go back to the service industry.

Not a surprise to people who know me, but I haven’t ever really grown up.  I am still a child at heart, big time.  Though I can be mature and serious, I love having silly moments of fun.  I still try to do things that entertained me when I was in elementary school, because to be honest, they are still WAY fun!  One of the things that I do, along these lines, is read comics.

Now, I’m not referring to comic books.  I mean, I do still read those.  I have a fairly large comic book collection.  Peter Parker is my best bud.  I am going to name many of my children after X-Men characters.  But no, I am currently referring to comic strips.  Like Dilbert or Calvin and Hobbes.

Now, fun fact: Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts strip, was born and raised in the Twin Cities.  So to honor him, the city of St. Paul hosted something called “Peanuts on Parade” in 2000.  Originally, a total of 101 statues of Peanuts characters were strewn throughout the city.  However, after 2004, the city auctioned many of them off to support local artistic charities, as well as to commission several permanent bronze statues that would be in St. Paul city parks.  Some of the originals are still around the city.  But because they are now privately owned, there isn’t an official map of their locations anymore, nor a well known number of how many.  So for this adventure, a good friend of mine and I went out to look for the non-bronze ones!

It was quite the random trip.  We weren’t sure where many were.  We had a few hints from friends, but not many.  So here was our plan of action: we printed off the original map with the statues locations as of 2000 (12 years ago…).  We then went to the local businesses near the original locations and asked if they knew where any had ended up.  Needless to say, many random conversations were had (and almost all of them were awkward too).  But we found a total of eight statues in one Saturday afternoon, which I think was quite the success!  So here is some photo evidence of the achievements and a small description of how we found it:

The first two statues we tried to find were misses!  There were supposed to be two near the Ford Plant, but alas, none to be found!  However, as we were driving to our next location, we see a Snoopy doghouse on the side of the street next to a bookstore!  Random and awesome!

Our map indicates that there should be one at St. Catherine’s University.  As we check it out, we can’t find anything!  But a campus security guard, who at first looks at us strangely, calls over to her base for help once we explain our plight!  She directed us to the student union.  Inside, we asked the front desk where we could find one, and of course at an all girls university, we find Lucy!

We next head to a bar.  Yup, a bar!  There is supposed to be one at St. Paul’s famous O’Gara’s.  Inside, we ask the bartender if he knows where it ended up.  He directs us across the street to the lobby of a bank, where we found the jackpot!  Four total statues!

We then were close to one that two friends (Whitney and Trevor) had first hand knowledge of: one on the Hamline University campus.  This one was earier to find.

Our last statue was probably my favorite one.  The map said there would be on at the Saint Paul Saints Midway Stadium, and it was still there!  Baseball and comics; two of my favorite things!

Overall, a great Saturday afternoon.  But now that the hunt is on, I need to find more!

Something that I feel that I don’t do enough of us community outreach.  I’m fortunate enough to have come from a middle-class family.  Both of my parents have graduate degree, and I’m lucky enough to be in a graduate program now.  I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where I was taught acceptance, trust, and compassion.  I really feel like I could be doing more to help the world around me.  So for this adventure, I decided to walk the walk.

I am currently working part-time as a barista at Starbucks.  It’s a pretty sweet job for a full-time graduate school student.  I usually work only five hours a day, and get done by 10am.  I can take a nap in the afternoons, then do homework all before my wife gets home from work!    Bonus!

The Starbucks store that I work for does community work maybe once a month.  This month, some of my co-workers and I worked with Habitat for Humanity for a day.  And it was so awesome!

We, for the most part, were just painting the interior of a group of town homes that were being built in Northeast Minneapolis.  And the group of people that I was working with was awesome.  I only knew the three people in the picture above with me, but there were maybe 50 people there.  Everyone was very joyous, constantly joking, smiling, chatting.  And all while doing this great thing to help those less fortunate.

I think I’m going to do more community outreach with my Starbucks.  I’m not sure when, but I think next month or the month after, we are going to be working at a Feed My Starving Children event.  I hopefully can make it!  But since all three of my graduate classes have started, I may be pretty busy.  That won’t stop me from adventuring!  I just hope that the timing and scheduling works out.

*Fun fact: did you know that every house that Habitat for Humanity builds across the world is all painted the same color on the inside?  Every single house, the same color.  That’s so cool!  Kinda boring, but cool!  It’s mostly because the paint is, for the most part, all donated to them.  And you can’t complain about the color when it’s free!

If anyone meets me for five minutes, they will for sure learn that I am a gigantic geek.  And I’m not afraid to admit this.  I will talk about my favorite TV show (Firefly), favorite book (Wizard’s First Rule), favorite movie (Lord of the Rings Trilogy)…basically any kind of favorite has to do with something nerdy.  I even went so far as to get a geek related tattoo.

For those of you who don’t know what the tattoo is, it is called The Triforce.  The Triforce is a symbol and holy relic in the video game franchise The Legend of Zelda (my favorite one).  Originally when I got this tattoo, I just wanted something that I thought looked sweet.  I told people that it had some meaning behind it, but that wasn’t entirely true.  At least, not at first.

Now, as I looked back at my first batch of adventures, I was trying to see which ones I attempted and failed, if any.  One that I feel I didn’t fully commit to was my week four adventure, Lifestyle . During that week, I did a lot of self-analysis on how I could improve my life moving forward.  And I feel I did put a lot of thought and effort into it.  But I didn’t have an exact plan, and as such, it wasn’t executed very well.  I didn’t have written, obtainable goals, or the steps I could take to achieve them.

Which brings me back to my tattoo.

As I take an honest look at myself, I can’t help but be drawn to my tattoo, to this thing that was meant to stamp myself as a geek.  But now, as I look at it, I realize how I can use this as a constant reminder to better myself.  I can use this metaphor from a video game to inspire and change my life.

Power

I need to become stronger and healthier, both my my self-confidence and for my heart’s health.  I’ve been a subscriber to Men’s Health for almost two years now.  It is time I stick to a workout routine and diet plan.  I need to stick to one plan for it’s length then find a new plan to expand on what I’ve accomplished.  It is time I work out regularly and with passion.  Where I go into every workout with a drive and determination to succeed, and not foreboding that I will eventually fail.  I need to OWN this, to destroy it.

Coming to this realization made me understand that physical power isn’t the only thing that I need to cultivate.  I also need to foster a mental strength that will allow me to continue when times are tough, when things aren’t going well, or when I hit a plateau in my life.  I need to have a mental strength to match this desire so that it can last longer than a few short weeks.

My workout plan is set for two months.  I won’t type out all of the details of it here, cause it is boring to read work out plans, but I will say I’m going to work out three days a week, with both cardio and circuit training done in my apartment.  I’ve weighed myself and taken “before” photos, and I’m excited to compare them to the “after” photos which will come in two months.

Wisdom

Now, I’m a procrastinator.  Big surprise, I’m sure.  However, this in and of itself isn’t a bad thing.  I am the kind of person who thrives under pressure.  When my back is pushed to the wall, I’m able to focus.  When I know I have time, I just can’t concentrate adequately enough to do a good job.  I am too easily distracted.

But I can be better.  This trimester, in my graduate program, I’m taking three classes.  The last time I did this, I ended up dropping one of the classes half way through because I was too stressed.  I didn’t adequately manage my time; I didn’t look ahead to know what was coming.  I wasn’t able to just go with it.  Knowing this now, though, makes me realize that in order to succeed, if I know I have three papers due during one week, I just need to “plan out” my procrastinating.  I need to schedule my time, and I know that if I schedule myself a short window of time for each assignment, I can feel pressured and focus enough to finish them.

Courage

This one, for me, should be easy.  For this yearly goal, I just want to have the courage to continue to adventure.  No matter what, have fun.

Well, that’s it for this week.  A boring one to read about, but one that I feel should be done right away in the year to allow myself the best chance to make this year amazing for me and those around me.

Previously, I started adventuring by eating at Matt’s Bar, the Minneapolis landmark, to try their famous Jucy Lucy.  So this year, I began by going to the Dinkytown neighborhood in the University of Minnesota to, for the first time, eat at Al’s Breakfast.

I started my adventure by arriving here at 6:05 a.m.  For those that don’t know, Al’s Breakfast, which was featured on the Diners Drive-Ins and Dives TV show on the Food Network, is notorious for long lines.  The reason why is that they only are open for breakfast..and there are only fourteen stools in the entire restaurant.  It is one counter top.

I arrived five minutes after they opened, but the fourteen seats were already taken and there were seven people in line ahead of me.  Oh, and by line, I mean standing against the wall which is about a foot and a half behind the stools.  Personal space isn’t allowed in here.

Though there were only twenty or so people in this tiny restaurant, there was a great mix of the young and old.  It made for an interesting vibe to see them were bumping elbows with each other, quite literally at times.  The cramped nature also allowed for great eavesdropping.  I was able to find out that one of the employees was having their house inspected, but a different employee’s uncle was the inspector.  Being able to hear the conversations made this place seem very homey, very much like a small town diner, not a place you’d find in a major metropolitan city.  The casual way in which people were talking with one another was also a nice change of pace.  You weren’t allowed to have your own bubble; your own place to turn the rest of the world off and focus only on yourself.  You are forced to interact with people next to you.  If you aren’t okay with that, you aren’t going to come back here.

As time went on, a line began to form behind me.  There was a couple waiting in line together ahead of me, and as a stools opened up, people that were already sitting were told to move over to allow the waiting couple to sit next to one another.  The people already eating were not asked to move stools; no no.  They were told.  But given the limited space, it just seems like the right thing to do.  Why can’t someone move down a stool or two so that these people can sit next to one another?  The waitress was just basically being the voice of reason.

After about a half hour of waiting, I was told to sit down on a stool that opened up.  I look through the menu, which I’m sure hasn’t changed in years, and ordered a bacon and cheese omelet with toast and hash browns, plus OJ and coffee.

After ordering, I had time to look at the opposite wall.  They had plenty of cartoons, pictures, and other random crap hanging up on it.  Most noticeable, though, was two rows full of yellow booklets with names on them.  Apparently, when the restaurant first opened over 60 years ago or so, the owner would let people buy meals in advance on these kinds of booklets.  They still allow people to do that to this day (oh yeah, no credit cards here; just cash or check).  This is also something that makes Al’s feel very homey, very welcoming and trusting, the kind of place you would want to buy meals in advance at because you know you want to come back.  Often.  You want to be a regular at a place like this.

My food arrived about twenty minutes after ordering.  And it was delicious.  The omelet was huge, the hashbrowns crispy and hot, the coffee cup always full.  It was a great kind of meal; the kind you’d expect at an aunt’s house, or a diner from the 50’s that you see on the side of an old highway.

Overall, Al’s Breakfast rightly deserves it’s reputation as a Minneapolis and University of Minnesota staple.  It brings a sense of no-nonsense food service to a culture that needs more of it.  It is perfect for someone looking for a romanticized notion of nostalgia; a place that is divey and kind of grungy.  But those aren’t faults; they are the charm.  A place where grease on your food adds to the taste.

When I was finished with my meal around 7:20 a.m., I paid and tipped the waitress, put my coat on, and squeezed by the new line of people waiting right behind me.  New people sitting down, new people waiting in line, and more coming in as I was leaving.  I for sure will be coming back to wait against the wall for a coveted space at Al’s Breakfast.

Alright party people; I know what my first three adventures are going to be…but you won’t find out until I post about them :)

However, I want some help choosing my fourth adventure!  This is something I thought I would do to help keep things more random and, well, adventurous!  I will let you decide what I’m going.  Here is a poll of four possible things that I could do.  For the most part, I will follow whatever gets the most votes.  But if someone can leave a very convincing comment as to why I should do one or the other, I may listen…

Not all of the possible answers are terribly exciting.  But I am currently poor and need to save money for adventures, bills, possible road trip, and trying to be my lady’s sugar daddy.  I am failing at that last one.