Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks

And so begins the winter holiday season. And this year I have so very much for which to be thankful.

First and above all other I want to thank all my friends and family who have been there for me in the last 18 months or so. It's been an incredibly long and hard road to get to where I am now, to find the path to success that I have found. And I would not have been able to do so without all of you lifting me up and encouraging me in my struggle. Because of you, I have the strength I have now. Because of your support and encouragement, I can stand as well as I can.

Secondly and specifically, I am thankful for my mother and Randy. You have sacrificed (however great or small) to ensure that I have a place to live and call home, that my cats can stay with me and together. I know do not show my gratitude enough around the house, but I'm trying to be better at it. But I AM extremely grateful for you both.

I am thankful for the Renaissance Festival and all my rennie friends. This season was a damn sight better than last season, for many reasons. But I feel like I got to step out a little more this year. And I had a lot of fun. Thank you Russell, Steve, and Chandler for working your asses off and I look forward to working with you guys next season. And thank you, Bettina, for all the little bits this season. A score and seventeen times blessed.

I am thankful for St. James Lutheran church and her choir. I get a chance to sing and having a church to call home has helped me in a million tiny ways.

I have to thank Terri for pointing out the job opportunity. I have employment for the first time since March of '09. I could have been looking harder than I have (and probably SHOULD have) but for a time my financial aid was enough to cover what little expenses I had. But now that I have my license back, I am reminded that just driving a car is a significant enough expense.

Thank you, David Cook. Without your generosity, I wouldn't be ABLE to drive just yet. Having the ability to drive greatly extended my reach for things like employment.

And not least, I give my thanks to God. Without His grace in my life, I would not have such excellent friends, such loving family, and such timely luck as I have. I have had to go up against adversity, but not near as much as some. I have stumbled and fallen, but I have been made resilient (physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally) to resist and recover from such trials.

I love you all, and I thank you all.

veni, veni, emmanuel

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October Entry

Man. I want to write about so much stuff. But it's all diaphanous and wispy. I don't want to mention something in a tenuous state and risk altering it by calling attention to it. Damn you, Heisenberg!

Faire season is in full swing and going well. My new doublet is awesome, and I've had many compliments on it. Ill have some pics up once it's really finished. So, y'know, closing weekend. I kid. Angel has done an amazing job, and she has been very patient with me, and dedicated to making it fit right and look awesome. She's also done the new Guard tabards, which look fantastic. The only real downside I'm seeing is that the soles in my boots are SHOT. Even with two insoles, I'm still feeling everything I'm walking on. If I didn't have the inch of wooden heel, it wouldn't be so bad. But as it is, the balance is a little odd. And the leather sole has bulged out a bit (on top of wearing thin and falling apart) meaning that the boots are loose, making my foot slip around when I walk. More strain and stress as I adjust to the deficiency. Alas, I have to put up with it for now. But the new guards have jumped right in and despite a painful lack of practice, are doing a good job. The weather has been nice, if a bit warm. I'm looking forward to the cool temperatures this and the coming weekends.

I am ready, however, to have RCCC in my rear-view mirror. I have said this before. No doubt, I will say this again.

And now that I have my license back (HELLZ. YEAH.) I'm looking for some part-time work. For serious now that I don't have to worry about how I'm going to get there.

Also: I am so very happy to have my Aegis back. She's such a good car, and I have missed piloting her.

So many paths are laid out before me. And so many of those paths hold great and positive possibilities. The downside? It's hard to make a choice on which path to take. I guess I'll just have to feel out my favorites and see if any highlight themselves.

you may be right. i may be crazy

Monday, September 27, 2010

No Real Reason

Yay, I tweaked some colors. I might have to tweak the margins before it's all said and done. Whoo. I mean, to be fair, I've had this template since (looks up the template in the editor) I started this blog in 2004. And I like it. But monitors are a little wider in their resolution in the last six years.

Edit: Tweaked the margins a little, as well as the font-size.

stand me up at the gates of hell but i won't back down

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Unexpected Outcomes

As most of you know, I have a laundry list of issues revolving around a suspended driver's license. Today I went to court to clear up the penultimate charge, leaving me with only the charge in Guilford County between me and driving privileges.

If you ever get an itch to see what misdemeanor court looks like, don't scratch it.


Don't do it.

It's a long process. You'll be surrounded by people that will baffle and boggle you. I was the only defendant in a tie. The. Only. One. Most people had jeans and t-shirts on. In a courtroom. A. COURTROOM. WHAT THE HECK. And some of the attitudes that some of these people had blew my mind. Back-talking the judge, or refusing to speak in a voice above a mumble. I don't understand people. Or the girl who had three DUIs in the space of a few months. I get that a courthouse might not be the best place to see the best society has to offer, but not just the dregs get involved in things like the charges some of these people were up for. I'm not a dreg of society. I just didn't make very wise decisions for a few years. I shake my head.

But despite a very...stressful start to my morning and a three hour wait, I got my charge resolved. With a Prayer for Judgement Continued. For those not in the know, that's as close to a dismissal as you can get without, y'know, getting the case dismissed. Granted, if I get into any more legal trouble, I get slapped with the charge and following sentence. But if I stay clean? It's a lack of conviction. Awesome. I hadn't even considered a PJC as a possibility.

Here is where I need to talk up my lawyer, Mr. Todd Paris. He managed to get me in as a write in on the docket today. When the initial feeling I was given was an October or November court date. When we went up to the tables before the judge, he explained that I was working to resolve these old issues, how I was working up through them in order and the DA, without prompting or request, offered the Prayer for Judgement Continued. We were thinking it would end up being plead out to Failure to Notify DMV of an Address Change. Which is a non-moving violation and okay in my book. A PJC, though, is far better than I had hoped.

And despite RCCC grasping my check like a wizened old miser, I'll be able to hire an attorney in Guilford County and maybe get this all behind me very soon. At least, I hope so.

goodbye, ruby tuesday

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fall, Official

Happy Birthday to my brother, Jerod! How's that "responsible adult" thing going so far? Heh.

Classes plod along. I continue to be frustrated by the general tendency of Lowest Common Denominator found at RCCC. It's awful and elitist of me, I know. And there are bright students to be found. But they are not my intellectual peers. Mostly because most of the bright kids here are, well, kids. Sadly, that's mostly my fault. If I'd have stuck in school, I'd have had more people my own age that can keep up with me intellectually. But I do well enough. I never thought I'd miss the "halcyon" days of East Rowan High School. Feh. Old man is old.

My Eldar Army, it is built and painted. It looks pretty good! But I'm not sure what color or style I want to use for the bases. They're currently painted green, awaiting green flock. But I've been pondering a wasteland or snow/frostscape. I'll flip a coin or something later. John's getting a Tau army! Soon, I'll have an army to face up against! A new army! Eldar v. Tau. Squishy v. Squishy. Unless I want to break out spess mahreens v. Tau. Hammer v. Squishy!!!

I've finally gotten off my lazy ass and started exercising again. Man. I got out of shape bad. I was crazy heavy and sluggish. Gotta fix that. Once again I face the paradox of my left (read: NOT busted) leg being the one that cramps up on the tibial anterior, not my busted-to-hell right leg. It boggles the mind! But it feels good to get out there. I hope I have enough money in my financial aid refund to rejoin the YMCA or another gym with a better price. But the Y is closer. We shall see. I'll be exercising no matter what, but the elliptical machine is easier on my knee.

And good things coming next week. Although I want to punch the anthropomorphic representation of RCCC in the face until dollar coins pop out of its nose. Holding my financial aid ransom until next week! When they will MAIL it!!! ARGH!!!

boy, you're gonna carry that weight

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Summer? Where?

Holy crap. It's September. What. The heck. Well, one more semester, and it's a busy one. And it's almost done with the summer, though in practice, my summer is done. And I'm trying an affectation of wardrobe. Because I'm getting old. At home, t-shirts are fine, but I noticed in one of my classes last week that I felt...kinda like I was running around in undies by being in class in just shorts and a t-shirt. So I'm making an effort to use my button-up shirts and polo shirts if I'm going to be going out. Relaxing or doing any work at home, or on weekends, t-shirts are still fine to use. I have some awesome, geeky t-shirts! But my public image is one I'm trying to adultify a bit. I'm still running around untucked these days, but I blame the heat. And my gut. Ha. Most of my polos are just a smidge short for my torso, but I'm shifting from youth-casual to adult-casual.

I like the Art of Manliness and a lot of what it advises (I have a straight razor. It is awesome.), but shirt and tie every day? Yeah. No. I've never been a fan of ties (little nooses!). And if my plan stays on track, I'll be in a suit and tie most days a week anyway (Funeral Honors teams wear dress blues and Class A greens. That's a suit and tie. And hat. All of which have to look immaculate. Argh.) So I'm enjoying the freedom to look a little like a slacker while I still can. Besides, jeans, boots, and an untucked button-up shirt is a good look on me.

In less adult news, my Eldar are just about done. I have one last squad to paint and all the minis I have will be done. And they look pretty good! Not 'Eavy Metal team good, but a lot better than a lot of miniatures I've seen in the last 10 years. My technique has improved a whole lot. And as soon as these space elves are finished, I've got to finish up the changes I've made to my Dark Angels following my acquisition of their latest codex. And I'm already planning other, future armies. I really want the Dark Eldar to get a new codex and figs. They've been using the same models and rules since 1998! But I need to get some playing time in with the armies I have first. Heh.

Also: When will the Final Fantasy XIV Open Beta be back up! DO WANT!!!

summer, summer, summer-time!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Whoa, hey. Where was I?

Dangit. I was almost doing good about regular updates. Ah well, no time like the present.

I went to my first Con last week and had a blast! It was Origins Game Fair on Columbus, Ohio. Columbus? Yes. Columbus. In the far off north where they have neither Cheerwine nor free refills. It was a barbaric place, truly. But the Con was awesome. Geek Chic was there with their AMAZING assortment of gaming furniture. I'd never seen their wares up close. It's one thing to imagine it, it's another to actually sit down at one and run your hands over the finished wood. Oh, how we wants it, precious. I didn't get to see as much of the con as I would have liked, but I was working. It was a trade-off, but not a poor one. I got to meet some really cool people. Without trying, even, I got to know a few nice girls. It's been a really long time since anyone, much less random, if cute, stranger girl commented on and played with my hair. It's an off-switch for me. Ha. Aside from that, I spent many an hour at the Beer Haus in the Convention Center talking about all manner of things with the guys and gals I met there. I have been bit by the Con bug. I must attend more. Must!

I heard back from NCSU (finally) yesterday. And not in a positive. They evaluated my application without my AP credits. Something's up there. And my GPA wasn't what it should have been, either. I guess they were counting non-transferring credits, which makes even less sense. I'm going to call them up bright and early Tuesday, see what's what. If need be, I can scrape up another semester of credits from RCCC, but it's going to be a stretch to get full-time. And I'd rather not do that if I can help it. We'll see.

I'll also be hearing back from a lawyer on Tuesday. I called the DMV this past week and according to them, I need to take care of a thing in Guilford County, pay my restoration fee and boom, I'm driving again. Driving, man. God-willing, it will be a straight-forward issue. Expensive, I can deal with, somehow. Being able to drive will make it a lot easier to get a job/school/life. Way easier. And I have missed my car!

My summer coursework plods along as it will. It's a little bit of a struggle to stay on top of the work, but the more I do now, the less I have to do later. Who knows, maybe I'll bump forward my enlistment plan to this winter instead of the summer upcoming. We'll have to see.

It also seems like this is the year for breakups. Or at least a season for it. Wes and Jenny, Tig and Whatshisface. Mr. and Ms. Cook, friends of the family. I've been helping him out around his place getting some things packed up. I wish I had more to say to him, but I just have my actions. God nudged me to help him, so I am. Even if I can't find the words, I know just my being there has helped. While I wish there was more I could do, I'll do what I can.

Besides, everyone else is just following a trend. I was going through awful break ups before it was cool. So nyeh. ;)

I think I can afford a YMCA membership, again. Hmm....

the rising of the milky way

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Still a More Glorious Dawn Awaits...

It's been an educational year. Most of which I've gone into. But I'm a couple of weeks into the summer semester. I'm taking three classes to clear out some more of the general education requirements. And while I miss the interactions offered by a physical classroom setting, the online classes offer a lot of freedom to work ahead. And I like being able to do classwork whenever I want.

I had another good weekend (and change) in Raleigh. Got Amaris and Nicole moved out and in with relative easy and lack of headache. But that was what I was going for. Strong like ox, smart like cart. Moving is much more enjoyable when you turn your brain off. I had a couple of moments, though, that further emphasized the fact that Raleigh is really where I ought to be. Not everything there is comfortable. And that's something I need, I think. It's too easy to be complacent in the comfortable (and bad) habits I developed here in Salisbury. This is not the fault of where I grew up, far from it. But this room, this place carries the shades of my past mistakes.

I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about Vintage21. It's the church Jerod and Daniela attend, along with several new friends I've made. It's a very...contemporary service. Some things I like, some things I don't. But God doesn't fail to speak to me, regardless. Every time I've gone there's been one song that spoke to my current mindset, stirred me. I don't raise my hands to heaven in praise very often. And yet...

I miss stained glass. I miss the feeling of Sanctuary that I feel in old churches. Some of those old chapels are painted with the flavor and security of decades and generations of praise and devotion to God. That's something Vintage hasn't had the chance to develop. But perhaps I've spent too much time in that safety. I think there are things I can do there to help bring that feeling to generations to come. Even if they are very much Baptist flavored. I'm kidding! Christians are Christians, denominations are just different flavors of the same body of Christ.

I had more than one "Ah-ha. So that's what's going on." moments while I was up there. Rarely are such moments pleasant, but they always teach. Hints, observations, intimations primarily. I've had no chance to verify, but ultimately, I don't need to. Normally, I hate not knowing for sure. I'd rather face pain for the surety of knowledge than live in a sort of Schrodinger's social situation, being and not being what it appears to be, both at the same time.

But this time, I'm stepping back from the situation. It's not my usual preference or tactic. I'd much rather, these days, confront the situation, face it. Too much energy was wasted in the past few years in avoiding confrontations. But I'm trying to relearn patience. Patience with others, sure, but more importantly, patience with myself. I know that I have the potential for great patience and understanding, but not always when I'm waiting for something to start. There are some things I don't comprehend why I have to wait in many circumstances. I am advised to wait, yes, but no one can provide any real logical reasons. It's something I struggle with. I can understand how the martyrs in Revelations feel when they are told "It is not your time." I want it to be my time.

I want to do so much more self-improvement this summer. I'm looking forward to the fall, especially the next season of CRF. I keep saying that this year or that year will be my breakout season. This one likely won't be "break out" but it'll be vastly different from last year. I'm far stronger than I was before.

Another "Ah-ha." was related to how much I eat. My hosts eat a lot less than I do. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Steve, Jerod, Daniela, these are smaller people. I imagine with enough time, I could eventually get used to the, for me, drastically reduced caloric intake. But I did feel hungry much of my trip. However, it did make me re-examine how much I eat when I'm at home. I eat waaaaay too much. Not that I didn't know my tendency to overeat, but the comparison was a little stark. The range of comparison went from just a smidge shy of enough in Raleigh to almost twice what I need here. So I've been consciously shifting the amount I eat. And plugging as much leafy/fresh veggies and such in my diet as I can. I was told it looked like I was losing weight last night at a friend's party. I can really only attribute that to eating as little as I did while I was out of town. I need to keep up that trend.

I wish I knew some of what lay ahead of me. I know that God has good things planned for me in Raleigh. What those good things will turn out to be, I don't know. In some ways I don't want to know, at least not entirely. But some of the general ideas would be nice. I like to be prepared. That Boy Scout training doesn't die easy. I try not to think too much. Jonah thought too much. He knew the dangers that lay ahead for him. He was afraid. The potential to be called to martyrdom exists for any of us who follow Christ. And that's a scary fucking thought. It's not that I think I wouldn't be able to face it. I have strength. I have it because God gave it to me. But, seriously, who wants to be a martyr? Who wants to face that trial? Fanatics, zealots, madmen. I digress, though. I don't believe for a second that's what's ahead of me in Raleigh. But it's a measure of how much too much I think. My God given intellect is often at odds with Faith. My mind, curious, powerful, analyzing, logical, and creative as it can be is hard to quiet in the face of the unknown. I want to learn, discover, analyze and break down the unknown until it is known. But data is withheld. So I must await whatever will come.

So I try to find peace in the emptiness of the unknown. There's a lot of quiet in the lack of data. I will try to find the means of making the uncomfortable my own. It is a skin that is a size too small. I must shed the excesses of myself to fit it.

It should be an interesting summer.

not a sunrise, but a galaxy-rise

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ironic Posting is Ironic.

It's ironic because this will be the 411th post on this blog and it's inspired by communication and information. Oh, my life is so deep.

This won't be long. It's 3AM and I have a Spanish exam in eight hours. It shouldn't amaze me as much as it does that my spirit, my mood is lifted so much just from hearing from a friend or loved one that I haven't talked to in a while. It's not like this is a new phenomenon for me. But I always manage to forget. At least this way it's always a pleasant surprise when it happens, yes?

My baby sister (I shouldn't think of her that way anymore, but bear with this old[ish] man for a bit) graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill this weekend. John Grisham gave the commencement address and did a right good job of it. Chase and I came to Raleigh the day before (Saturday), caught Iron Man 2 with Jerod (it was wicked awesome) and then grilled some very tasty burgers. Every time I come up/out/east, it gets a little harder to come back to Salisbury. I love my hometown, but there's a lot of potential for a lot of awesome in [Insert Local Colloquialism for Raleigh here]. To conclude, I'm very proud of my sister. Go, Jenna, go!

Exams are almost done. You have no idea how much this pleases me. But of course, Spanish would be hanging around to be the last to leave. Like that annoying party guest you don't remember inviting that tries to hijack the event and then lingers around trying to corner you about one thing or another. Oh well.

My iPod is borked but good. This is an irritant. I don't have portable music. Further evidence of a need for income. But I've been putting applications out there. My fingers are crossed.

I think I'm supposed to be angry and venty about something else, right? Hmm. Nah. My ADD kicked in. I'm bored with angry. I think I'll just go read some Dresden files instead of studying.

Screw the snippet. Just listen to this song.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Is It Over Yet?

So it turns out that while a significant improvement overall has been achieved, 2010 has not (yet) turned into the super banner year I was hoping for. Too many meh or utter crap years for me.

I am ready for this semester to be over and done with. One more class of Spanish, then exams. And, just as last semester, my exams on the last possible days and times for them to be held. I understand there's a whole week set aside for exams, at least academically. This whole week's worth of days to be examined just doesn't seem to apply to me. At least the classes haven't been difficult. I think that, again, I'll make Dean's List. But, perhaps tellingly, I'm not as concerned or excited at the prospect this semester like I was last semester.

My applications and paperwork are in for NCSU and UNCG. Both options even out on the pros/cons scale, really, so if I get accepted to both, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Flip a coin? In any case, I'm ready to not be at RCCC and in Mom's basement anymore. I've peaked here. I had to, essentially, start back from the beginning in a lot of ways over the course of the past year or so, and I've built back up to near where I left off. And what I need to continue forward, versus pushing against the wall, is to get up and out of here and somewhere else.

I can recognize symptoms that looks suspiciously like depression of one kind or another settling in. I have not been diagnosed with clinical or manic depression. I don't claim it or wield it as an excuse. But I do acknowledge the symptoms and the familial and genetic predisposition. I know that if it weren't for the good things I have, little or big, I'd be in worse shape. I'm actually going to finish two semesters in a row. That's, sadly, something of an accomplishment for me. My Wednesdays have been pretty consistently good: dinner with my Grandmommie Poole, choir practice, game night. I've gotten back into Warhammer 40K, which has creative and artistic elements. It's been especially helpful that a train to Raleigh is pretty inexpensive and I can go up, hang out with Jerod and get some games in. His bugs have been winning consistently, but I'm learning new rules. Oh, how I miss Stubborn. I have felt God around. I can't think of a time when I haven't, mind, but I know He's trying to encourage patience in me. And I'm trying, I really am, to be patient, to Listen.

But waiting for something to start is not something I do very well. I hate sitting and doing nothing, just spinning my wheels. Once I'm involved in something, I have a seemingly endless supply of patience and understanding. I feel like I've been spinning my wheels for near a year in some regards. I think I'm ready for what's out there, but what's out there, it seems, isn't ready for me. There's information out there that I should know. But it's withheld from me, intentionally or accidentally. Communication failures, lack of trust. Too many replays of the same scene with varying degrees of intensity, but the same essential script, even if some of the players change. It's frustrating. Damn the material, damn the corporeal.

I'm a good guy. I've got flaws, but I try to be upfront about them. I refuse to act like I don't want what I want because someone, somewhere decided that was the way to get what you want. And I refuse to not go after what I want out of life to fit some stupid, arbitrary, and painfully mutable rules. I sort of understand why the rules get changed out from under my feet. If you need something, tell me what it is you need, plainly. Don't get mad if what you said to me was open to interpretation. Subtle clues will be willfully ignored. I don't give a rat's ass about airs of mystery. I'm not going to lose interest or attraction just because I've cracked the mystery. There's a lifetime's worth of discovery two people can share without "mystery" between them. Mystery is way too close to misery. Don't coddle my ego, tell me plainly. Simple, clear honesty is going to hurt me far, far less than attempting to spare my feelings.

And for the love of God, when did "let's just be friends" turn into not talking to someone at all?

It's been a year or more since I've known what a good night's rest felt like and I'm kinda tired of it. I don't think the situation is going to change any time soon, frustratingly enough, but I'm more than a little ready for it to, in my mind, in my heart, and in my soul. I'm dreaming more in the last few months than I have in the entire decade before. It's throwing me off, making my sleep even less restful. It keeps my up because I'm dreaming about someone I don't want to dream about. I don't want to think about her. It hurts to watch her life spiral more and more out of control, to see her push people away, consciously or unconsciously. I know it's not my place any more to be there. But despite everything, I haven't stopped caring. I haven't stopped wanting good things for her. She's got to be hurting hard and deep somewhere. I can only imagine that it might have been something like how she or others felt about me last summer. My recovery was slower, perhaps, but it was, it is real.

I've spent way too much time and effort in the last year rebuilding who I am from the ground up to tolerate the low moods and impatience and ennui I'm struggling with now. It's doubly frustrating because I should be in better spirits, and I know it. I have too much that is good in my life to be this down, but I am nonetheless. And I certainly don't want to seem ungrateful to anyone.

Mom, Randy, Grandmommie, John, Hugh, KC, Chris, all of you who have helped hold me up. I am thankful. I will remember the kindnesses you have shown me and some day I will pay back or pay forward.

In twelve days, the Ides of May will be upon us, and I will be 28. Ten years ago, I was getting ready to graduate from high school, and I was working hard to push my grades up enough to be an Honors Graduate, despite being, well, me. I was looking forward to prom with a bunch of great friends. I couldn't imagine what ten years in the future would look like. There was so much I didn't know and, looking back, I was much, much happier not knowing. I wonder what Justin-That-Was would think of Justin-That-Is. Likely not much. I didn't think much of a lot of people older than me, but there were a few. Justin-That-Was couldn't even fathom the concept of dropping out or doing poorly at college, that much I remember. The very idea that I would be back in my mom's basement trying to finish up my sophomore year at college ten years after graduating high school would have been laughable. And it's still something I feel at least a little bit of shame over. Despite a seeming wealth of experience with it, failure isn't something I've ever really been able to take well.

But you know what? My people are a long-lived people. We are healthy, we are strong, we are smart, and we are, eventually, wise. If I were to meet Justin-That-Was, I'd have sat his ass right down in his place, with fists if necessary. For my people are a stubborn people, too. It's pointless to speculate on what might have been. The world has been kicking my ass for the last ten years, and no small part of that was because I let it. Sometimes because I just didn't want to fight, whether from pacifism or apathy or whatever. Sometimes I fought harder than I should have been able to and still lost. Sometimes I just walked away from the fight and gave up before it started. Ten years of losing, ten years of failures, ten years of little to show for my journey, these things have taught me many hard lessons. They have strengthened me in ways that success never can. We are a stubborn people. I reject many of the "rules." Pointless, obfuscating, obstructive, and unproductive are these that I deny.

I will not act like I do not want what I want.
I will pursue that which I want.
I will do so with honesty and without apology.
I will be as direct as I can as often as I can.
I will say what I mean and I will mean what I say.

In two years' time, these are the goals I am striving to accomplish: I will graduate with a BA in History. If this means I have to load up on summer classes or get approval for over-booked semesters, then I will do so. Next summer, I will be in the legal and physical condition required to enlist in the Army National Guard. I will graduate, I will get my commission. In another ten years time I want to look back with my officer's rank and pay, with my PhD and say to myself "Well played, Justin. Well played."

And God help anyone who gets in my way.

damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spanish II Project, Part II

To conclude the project, I write this entry.

Since the last time I wrote I've had occasion to spend some more time with Dunkan and at his shop. While there, I also got to know some of the friends and family that help out around his store. In one visit that sticks out in particular, I learned the Cuban way to play dominoes with Frankie. Frankie makes the most fantastic Cuban coffee I have ever tasted. And on top of that, I got to a little more practice in with some basic Spanish, numbers mostly, but it was fun.

I am further impressed by Dunkan's devotion to his family, be they close, extended, or unofficial. His cousin introduced him to Salisbury and has been helping him remodel his new storefront. He dreams of being successful enough to move his mother up this way and provide a large enough house for her, himself, and all his family. He has spent time helping tutor Latin-Americans in English, helping them acclimate to the culture here in the States and here in Salisbury.

All told, I think Dunkan is living the classic American dream. Being successful, experiencing and embracing new cultures while maintaining a love and devotion to your roots and your family. He is a gregarious host and optimistic businessman. He blends the charm and hospitality of his roots with the drive and ambition of American entrepreneurial spirit. So much so that it's been difficult to catch him for more interviews! He's been very busy preparing his new location, which opens on the 25th.

It's been fun getting to know Dunkan and I look forward to hanging out with him again soon at the new store.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Echevarria Interviews (Part 1)

So there's this project in my Elementary Spanish II class. We're supposed to visit and interview a native Spanish speaker. We're supposed to talk to them about many a wide variety of topics. I'm pretty sure I picked a good choice. This is just the first entry, but it should be a substantial one.

Dunkan Echavarria owns and runs a cigar bar in downtown Salisbury called Havana Knights. This is where I first met him. I enjoy the occasional cigar, and I was excited to see a place open up locally that sold them. As soon as I walked into the door, I was met and welcomed. The place is overflowing with enthusiasm and hospitality. But I'm not here to review the store.

Dunkan's parents came to America in the late 1960's as part of the Freedom Flights. He was born in Miami in 1971 and was raised in Little Havana. Most of his life was spent in Miami and for many years he owned an interior design company specializing is top to bottom refinishing of houses to be resold in a short period of time. As the coming collapse of the housing market reared its ugly head, he started looking for a new line of work. He had family in this area and came to visit a cousin over New Year's in 2008/2009. He felt that Salisbury had a lot of potential and saw an opportunity to take advantage of the central location in the state. He opened up Havana Knights in 2009. In talking with him, he never fails to mention his family. He is enthusiastic about hard work and hospitality. He interacts with his customers, befriends them. He has very successfully created an atmosphere where people from all walks of live can come in, enjoy a smoke and talk. In the times I've come in I've gotten to know some of his regulars: an attorney, a college professor or two, a bartender, a housewife, students. Much has been made of Hispanic hospitality (there's that word again) and if there was anything in my experience that has proved it, Dunkan's shop is it. And it must be working, since he is planning to move to a much larger location and foresees the opportunity to open up more locations in the near future.

I've tried to speak a little Spanish with him from time to time, but my aural skills aren't fully up to speed. But he's a pretty understanding guy. He recommends lifestyle magazines to anyone trying to learn a foreign language. He highlighted the relatively simple language and the inclusion of slang and turns of phrase as key reasons to use them to help fully comprehend a language. Made sense to me.

This is just a brief summation of several hours of conversation. I'll have plenty more to talk about next time.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


It's that time of year again. When the vast most of us make a list of things to do we'll keep up with for a month or two then abandon. It is my hope to maintain or achieve most of these resolutions. As such, I ask all of my friends to help me, and I will help as I can.

Health and Fitness.
Drop to 225 or lose the belly fat, whichever comes first.
Continue to eat more salads, fruits, and vegetables.
Improve my cardiovascular fitness and see about entering the Bear.

Style and Appearance.
Get a three piece suit.
Get a good hat.
Get a vest or three I can wear with anything.
Grow my hair out long enough to pull back.
Attempt a respectable beard.
Get a safety razor and kit, if not a straight razor.

Work, School, Play.
Get my driving situation fixed.
Maintain a 3.5 GPA or better.
Transfer to UNCG.
Move back to Greensboro, in a dorm if need be.
Get a good TV and an Xbox360.
Find work on campus, if possible.
Write more letters.
Draw more sketches.
Sing every day.
Live, love, dare.
Help others improve as I improve.

Not a bad list, I think. Some I can work and check off, the others are lifelong ideas. I want to be able to look back at this post in May and check a lot of those off. I want to look back in December and say that I did all those twice over and more.

dare! dare to keep all your dreams alive

Sunday, January 03, 2010


So already this year has beaten last year in per capita awesome. But my net awesome for last year was way, way low. Gross Awesome was actually looking really damn strong in the first half of the year, but, well, not so much in the 3rd and 4th quarters 2009.

2009 in Review (abridged):
Had a decent job, then lost it.
Joined the choir at St. James Lutheran.
One good Carnevale (and really good night before).
Several good trips to Boone.
Butt-ass ugly breakup taking most of the year to die. Not a little bit my own fault.
One suck-ass birthday.
Joined the congregation of St. Jame Lutheran (I'm awesome and backwards like that).
One suck-ass Carnevale.
One middling CRF season.
I made Dean's List! Shy of President's List (4.0) by one class (3 A's, 1 B).
One interesting lesson in quiet victory at an AKA gig.
Got voted on to St. James' Congregation Council.
One awesome Christmas.

2010 so far:
No bonfire.
Firefly and Serenity!
Adventure! the roleplaying game!

All in the space of two days, even! And there's much more potential for awesome. But these things I dare not speak of too much. Not yet. But my semester upcoming is looking good. I have the last two classes I need to retake scheduled and ready. When I transfer in the fall, I will be doing so with what should be a really good GPA. I'm excited! And I get to attend my first meeting as an active member of the Congregation Council next Sunday. 2010 is looking good for me. Really good.

So f*#$ you, 2009.

i want to exorcise the demons of your past