Monday, November 15, 2010

Do Over

When reflecting on where you are in life, it's possible you may look back on the events that transpired and think to yourself, "I wish I'd done that differently." I'm not talking about the ugliest person you dated, buying a lemon of a vehicle, or actually paying to see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in the theatre. I'm talking about the huge life events. Something that inevitably changed the outcome of your life to date. I was recently reminded of my 'do over'. In the mid-90s I was in my mid-20s and had it pretty sweet. I had a nice apartment within walking distance of my two good jobs. I made decent money and drove a really cool Jeep. On the surface, it was truly ideal. But I was in my 20s and 'ideal' wasn't good enough. So when my culinary Yoda called me and wanted me to move 2,000-plus miles to become his sous chef in Oregon, my mind was made up before I hung up the phone. Unfortunately for me, I wasn't the most confident young man back then and didn't have the stones to move cross-country all by myself so I brought along my on again/off again girlfriend of the past eight years. After the first day on the road, I knew I had made a mistake, but I was a man true to my word so we got married and I put my best foot forward. Our lives quickly fell into a pattern. Our days off together were so routine that we didn't even have to discuss what we were going to do. I guess that did save time. She had got a husband, which is what she wanted. I got someone who willing to follow me anywhere and pay her half of our bills. I think we both secretly hoped for more, but it never came to the surface. On the professional front, my life was a whirlwind. New positions, new restaurants, new cities, new challenges came at me at blinding speed. Near the end of my time in Oregon, I crossed path with a woman who owned a vineyard in the Willamette Valley. The word around town was that she was contemplating opening a restaurant at her vineyard so I called to offer my services. We talked for a while and she explained that a full-blown restaurant was a few years off and right now the operation didn't require someone of my experience. We agreed to stay in touch, and that was that. I hadn't given that conversation another thought until a few days ago when I was reading an article about Pinot Noir in a trade magazine. The backdrop of the article was the bistro at the Ponzi Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. The lustrous photos of the dining room and surrounding Oregon countryside brought back feeling of regret and resentment. A longing to have done something differently plagued me for days.

When you're standing at the cross-roads and have to make those big decisions, all you have to base that decision on is the information and experiences you have before you. It's easy to beat yourself up over the 'should've, could've, would'ves' of your life when you can look back at them in the distance. And even when you look and those defining moments of better or worse, would you really change them? To change a moment in your past, you must also realize how everything in your life would be different now. The people you wouldn't have met, the experiences you would have missed, and places you may never have seen. This is why Hollywood can't do justice to a time travel movie, there are just too many variables. Are any of these variables worth giving up? Again it's easy to make the calls in retrospect. Even if you can choose the things you'd do and places you go, you'd still be cheating yourself out of the spontaneity of the experiences.

Before you go down that road of self-pity, thinking 'if only I'd done this...', look around you now. I'd be willing to bet that right here and right now isn't worth losing a single second of. Especially to another set of blind circumstances.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

If The Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra GTX Trail Running Shoe Fits...

Sometime during the era of me moving to a big city and the emergence of the grunge scene, it became impossible to '...gage a man by the cut of his suit.' The obscenely wealthy rock stars were growing their hair long, not shaving, and wearing thrift store flannels. Roughly the same get up as the average homeless man. This coming in the wake of the 80's decade of excess where clean-cut, but usually broke college graduates showed up en mass to Wall Street dressed to the nines in a mortgaged three-piece suit to become the next Donald Trump. There had seemingly been a wardrobe paradigm shift. But through it all, I observed there was a foolproof way of identifying the posers from the real deal: their feet. No matter what you choose to wear; no matter what genre you align yourself with; your choice of footwear will always reveal your true identity. Whether you're a rock star wearing $200 Doc Martins with your $5 flannel shirt or the wet behind the ears college kid in an Armani suit and the same penny loafers he graduated high school in -- the shoes never lie. This being said, what to your shoes say about you? Are your shoes expensive and stylish, but barely comfortable enough to wear sitting behind a desk all day? Are you still wearing the same Birkenstocks you wore following The Dead? Either of these scenarios paint a pretty vivid picture, don't they: A corporate stuffed shirt and a idealistic hippy. I confess that all too often I let my somewhat distorted self-image sway my shoe purchases. "These are perfect! I can wear them hiking around here. And if this is the year I make it to Tibet, I'll be set there too." Image plays a big role in one's personal choice of footwear. Its not always so much what we need as what we want to need. For example; if you notice a guy in a nice pair of New Balance running shoes and he happens to be standing behind you in line at the grocery store buying a TV Guide and cat food, he probably wishes he was that guy stretching his legs at a picnic table in the park. His well-worn New Balances barely discernible through the mud and wear of a marathon seasons' beating. I bought a pair of $110 high tech water shoes that would much rather be portaging a kayak though the Boundary Waters then strolling on the shore looking for beach glass, but someday when I head back up to Ely to see my cousin and his family, I've already got the shoes. Or at least that's what I tell myself. Sometimes though, function compromises with function. Even if its not by design. I have a nice pair of cross-trainers and they really work well for my particular brand of cross training: running my Blue Heeler, and.......well, running my Blue Heeler. That's likely where most of us land. Somewhere between qualifying for the Boston Marathon and putting our feet up on the ottoman. Mom buys expensive running shoes because maybe she'll start running every day again. But the shoes will come in handy chasing around her kids all day. Dad buys a $200 pair of Air Jordans not because he's going to try out for the Lakers, but so his knees don't ache after basketball league night at the YMCA. I'm sure if you look down at your feet now you could think back at why you bought the shoes you're wearing and what you've actually worn them for up to this point. Since you probably didn't buy 'reading shoes,' you'll find your mind wandering. Were they for a job interview? To go with a pair of jeans that are completely worn out by now? For a trip you did (or didn't) take? I'm sure that the ten minutes you spent reading this is the longest you've spent thinking about shoes since you pondered buying a new pair. But now the next time you go to your closet to pick a pair of shoes, you may pause for a second to think about what image you're conveying by choosing the pair of you're about to reach for. Or maybe I'm blowing this completely out of proportion. I can tell you this though, if I met you tomorrow I'd look at you to greet you, maybe shake your hand, and then I'd glance casually down to see if you were wearing wing-tips or Keen sandals just to see if you're someone I'd be interested in knowing. It still may be true that clothes define the man. But its the shoes that show who we really are and who we really want to be. Perhaps that's why its called the sole(soul)?