The Broken Shovel

Unkie Gomie and I broke a shovel transplanting a tree a few weeks ago, and I was going to throw the shovel out and buy a new one.

Then I changed my mind, manned up, and decided I’d fix it instead.

This involved doing a bunch of things I love doing, like cutting and carving:

And burning (to get the old handle out of the shovel blade):

And drilling and fitting and hammering (had to drill a narrow pilot hole to make sure the nail hit the pre-existing hole on the other side of the shovel collar):

And grinding and filing (so I didn’t have a nail sticking out, which looked awesome but would have posed a serious hand-stabbing problem):

Result: a badass fucking shovel that escaped the landfill and is ready for another decade of abuse! Same blade, same handle (6in shorter) + a nail to hold the blade in place. The nail was pulled out of the floor joists in my basement where the previous homeowner had been hanging tools (I hope).

Fixing this shovel was one of the funnest projects I’ve had in a long while. There’s something wrong with me because I don’t get an appetite for this type of work. I don’t know I miss it. Then I do it, and it’s like I’m a crack addict, totally focused and inspired. Fully in the zone. Hours melt away and I don’t notice. Then I’m finished and I feel like all is well with the world, and my life couldn’t get any better. Just from fixing a shovel.

I don’t get it. But I like it.

 

It’s Like Magic

I recently discovered all of my old journals and sketchbooks from my late teens and twenties, high school through college and into “real life.”

The spooky parts were the bits where I wrote about what I wanted, or where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do in the future. Most, maybe all, of those things have become reality. This isn’t unique to me. I just listened to Debbie Millman’s podcast with Tim Ferriss and she goes into way more detail about it than I do here, so if you’re curious you should listen to the full episode.

It’s as close to believing in baloney like The Secret as I’m willing to go, and the only reason I do believe that writing about your own future is an effective method in realizing your dreams is because that pattern has been revealing itself in my own life.

The exercise goes like this: write down what a typical day looks like for you 10 years from now. Go into crazy detail. Specify everything from what your spouse smells like to how many kids you have and what their hobbies are. Go from waking up to falling asleep at night, and everything in between. Again, as much detail as possible. I’ll do one now so you can read it and maybe do one of your own. I swear, so far whenever I’ve written these, they’ve done way more good than bad. For example, the first time I wrote about wanting to earn $10,000/month passive income I think I was earning $200-$400 passively. That number is now over $2000. Under $8000 to go!

OK here’s my dream day, January 30th 2027:

I wake up fully rested, early. Like, when the sun is just coming up early. The first birds are doing their thing, but not all of them.

My house is quiet. We have land, by the water. I can hear the waves against the shore. There are old trees on the property too, and I can hear the breeze in the branches just outside my bedroom window, which is on the second floor of the house.

Lia’s in bed with me. Maybe some of our kids come running in and jump on us. Maybe two are old enough to do that, and the other one is too small so they had to carry him/her in. The baby’s shat itself and Isla’s 10 so she can do a pretty good job of changing the diaper, which she does. The kids are happy. Lia and I are happy. We’re somewhere warm, or cold, it doesn’t really matter, but we’re together. Is it our house? I don’t know. Maybe it’s somewhere we’re staying for a while. It feels like home, wherever it is.

Anyway, we get up and shower. The bathroom is connected to the bedroom, I know that’s important to Lia and now that I think of it I like it too. The whole family doesn’t shower. Actually I don’t even think I shower. Nobody showers, we just get up and brush our teeth and do our thing, there’s a breeze coming in so it can’t be winter at this point, wherever we are.

Big breakfast gets made. Isla and her younger bro/sis help but mainly I do the cooking. Lia makes a smoothie or a salad or something. The food I make is fucking terrible for you but delicious. I’ve gotten pretty decent at cooking all kinds of things over the past 10 years. I’ve even figured out how the FUCK to make sourdough god damn bread. Fuck.

Isla says “FUCK” when she burns herself on something hot and nobody cares about the swearing.

Things feel easy, calm, peaceful. Real chilled out. There will be higher-energy stuff because that’s in our blood. But for the morning, things are calm.

Family breakfast, no fucking phones. There’s a mini gong and the baby smashes it with something hard and we all hold hands and feel gratitude for whatever until it finishes ringing. Might take a minute. This isn’t religious, it’s just presence and coming together in a token way as a family.

We eat. Food’s great. Kids pack it in like animals. Lia’s smoothie isn’t just greens and water, it tastes good. Dates or something. But we’ve hit that balance between my version of a smoothie (which would include ice cream) and hers (which often smells like a fresh cut lawn).

Off to activities. Do we exist in some kind of permanent vacation? Not in a conventional way. It’s like a ninja-in-the-mountains kind of training. Like when Bruce Wayne becomes a part of the League of Shadows before becoming Batman. We’re all studying different, or the same, things and that sometimes influences our location for a while. If we all want to learn to surf, as an obvious example, we would need to be in a place like Nosara Costa Rica for several months. Or roadtripping along a coast, preferably with waves that wouldn’t drown my god damn children (or me). Soooooo not Hawaii.

This sounds like we live in a trailer, which we very well may.

Late morning, the kids are studying something or another or we’re surfing or have just finished surfing or hiking or doing something we’ve never done before. Safe to say there’s a good deal of variety in our lives at this point. Lia’s a yoga pro by now, of course. Nobody doubted that for even a second.

I think I’m much better at web design than I currently am – like scary good, and “Full Stack” so capable of building full-on god damn anything I want. With databases and users and automatic two-step verification and payment processing. I know how to do all kinds of shit, and I have clients that love it and pay me to do it from wherever I am.

I am the ninja in the mountain.

What else….

Lunch time – again we maybe get food somewhere or eat something simple. I don’t want my family to get too extravagant. I’d like to be able to feed us but I’m also horny about efficiency. When I cook, there are leftovers (which taste damn good) and nobody complains about eating it for a day or three after the fact. I make good money but I don’t spend it like an asshole. In fact, a decent amount of it gets invested, donated, used for travel in a modest way.

The kids are awesome. I’m reminded of that every so often. Not every time I look at them or my brain would burn out, but a couple times a day let’s say. They piss me off too but I like that about them, they challenge things. They’re not pussies. They speak back and fight me the best they can and I usually win but sometimes they do and that’s the best moment of all, because it means they’re learning and they’re independent. They’re learning how to use their tools, and they’re pumped about it. Lia and I reward their efforts profusely. Our kids are really starting to turn into gritty little bastards, and it’s awesome. Sure, they’re weak sometimes too, and that’s OK – so am I and so is Lia and we show them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. These aren’t machines. They’re kids, but you get where I’m going with this.

Lunch is done and we’re driving, why not? I know I woke up in a house but I think I was confused. I’m probably in a kick ass trailer. We own a property or a couple properties but Lia AirBnBs them when we’re away.

I think we’re driving somewhere none of us have been before. It isn’t sketchy, it’s safe. There’s no real stress about this trip.

I don’t think we own the trailer. I think we’ve rented it, because we’re going to leave it in some town in Sweden and get in a rented sailboat and sail somewhere cool. Lia and I have heard about these islands where people sail and camp throughout them. Maybe we’re there. Maybe we know some Swedish and that’s what the kids were studying before lunch.

I check in with the office and things are normal, I have a bit of work to get through and it takes me an hour or so. Nothing crazy. All of my clients are very cool people, they know who I am and what my life is like. They’re cool with it.

We set sail, maybe we catch a fish or something and maybe by then I know how to clean and cook a fish. That’s dinner.

The kids are documenting these things. They already have developed little followings of their own. They get the value in connecting with their own online audiences and communities and they also earn modest incomes of their own and I probably don’t really understand it fully because I’m 41 and the social side of the internet has long left me behind. I just don’t have time for that shit.

Evening is closing in, the sun is setting. The water is glass. Maybe I do some sketching or watercolour painting or writing. Lia and I have some alone time. The kids have friends I guess, they’re hanging out with them for a bit. Things get steamy on our boat, BOW CHICKA WOW WOW.

Everyone is together before bed. We hang out on the boat and watch the stars. Lia still almost shits herself every time she sees a shooting star. The kids have inherited that from her so actually all of them almost or actually shit themselves as a result of shooting stars. We heat up some hot chocolate, Lia puts cheese in hers. Isla crushes cherry tomatoes into hers. The other kids are normal, they just drink it plain like I do.

We pack into our small sleeping quarters, chat a bit, then one by one we pass out. The kids talk in their sleep but I can’t hear it over Lia’s epic snoring.

Not Being A Professional

I caught myself not doing things because I wasn’t going to take it through to the point where I’d be able to make money doing it. The thought would be something like, “I feel like playing guitar right now” then another thought would say “Well, why? Are you going to play professionally? Are you going to be a musician?” and then I’d say “no” and not play.

The same thing was happening with art. I’d studied art in school in the belief that I’d end up creating art professionally. When that didn’t happen, I stopped making art. The “Why do this if it won’t pay me money?” question was silently cock-blocking my creativity.

But really, not getting paid for something is a very good thing. It means nobody gets to have any god damn say in what you’re doing. The moment you sell your shit, you are accountable to the person buying it. What lovely freedom resides in not having to give a fuck about anyone else but yourself when you do the things you love doing.

Here is a drawing that I loved doing:

life drawing 1

It’s good to be a professional when making money, building strong relationships, and delivering on whatever you said you’d do.

I think it’s bad to be a professional when exploring yourself creatively. I think creativity is a place for immaturity and childishness where no promises are made or kept, no consequences or expectations exist, and above all you get to do whatever the fuck you want to do.

Here’s another set of drawings that felt god damn awesome:

I don’t know about y’all – but I feel really good when I make stuff. Writing, snow forts, decks, bread, it doesn’t matter. The making seems to matter more than what I make. And by that logic, when I stop is irrelevant. I don’t have any pressure to finish what I’m doing. There’s no need to do a “good job”. There’s just the need to be “doing”.

I don’t know if creation is inherently important for all humans, but I suspect it is. Maybe it’s like eating and shitting. We take so much in, but what comes out?

I’ve deleted Clash of Clans and Pokemon and Chess from my phone. Those games were fun in the moment, but the moment they ended I had nothing to show for my time and energy. I’ve replaced time on my phone with time with dough or a pencil or a saw in my hand. The stuff I make accumulates. It’s real. It would be awesome to leave behind a lifetime of sketchbooks, pottery, songs, stories, photos. Every hour spend watching Netflix is an hour I could have also been painting. And ya, down time is important too. Shutting down the creative machine is, for me at least, necessary in order for the batteries to recharge. But it’s always harder to power it back up again, which is why it’s that much more necessary.

In the cardboardy wisdom of @dankosaurus:

The start of many things to #make. #cardboard #typography #sansserif #letter

A post shared by DANKO (@dankosaurus) on

 

Making Beer, Bread, Logs and Quarters

This week I made a few things, and it felt awesome. In keeping with my previous post Is Adulthood The Death Of Fun, I’ve been consciously having more fun during the week. Doing those things I’ve been meaning to do.

To kick it off, I finally got around to brewing beer. During the process, I was fairly certain I’d never do it again. Luke, a friend with brewing experience, says this is how most new brewers feel. It’s a lot of work. BUT, after the brewing is complete, you have this beautiful bubbling jug of (very nasty looking) India Pale Ale:

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I’m a big advocate of doing things that are intrinsically rewarding. Brewing beer wasn’t like that for me. But the payoff at the end of even just looking at it every day while it ferments is very rewarding. Enough so that I’d do it again, with better gear, and more people to share the work. I picture brewing a large batch with several buddies as being some real good fun.

Next, Bread

My friend Tyler knows how to make sourdough bread, so I asked him to teach me. I didn’t even care to know how to make sourdough specifically, I would have been happy with just mixing water and flour and baking it. But that’s not how Tyler does things so instead we tackled one of the most difficult breads, and it took several days. This is what resulted:

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Riding high having just baked that awesome loaf, I tried a solo bake at home and failed utterly. The dough was all soupy, it wasn’t even bakable. I had to chuck it.

Sourdough is a god damn tricky process. You’re working with water, flour, and yeast that just floats around in the air. That was a revelation for me, the fact that you don’t add yeast. It just kind of finds your mix and gets in there and starts colonizing. Awesome. You can’t even take yeast from one place and use it in another, long term. The local yeast will just take over, and your foreign yeast disappears. So the most important thing about French bread, it turns out, could be that it’s made in France where the yeast is apparently awesome. That’s how I interpret it anyway. That and they really know how to fucking bake in France.

Wood

This is the opposite of beer. I love everything about the early stages of getting wood ready for the winter. Hiking out and finding some decent lumber, hauling it home, cutting it into logs, stacking it inside. The whole thing feels amazing. This is how I imagine squirrels feel.

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Lia and I talk about “feeling rich” when we have certain things taken care of. Like groceries. A full fridge makes us feel rich. A stocked wood cubby makes me feel rich too. It just looks abundant. I just sit there and stare at my wood sometimes. It’s almost a shame to burn some of these pieces, they’re gorgeous.

Art

I don’t draw anymore and it’s a fucking tragedy. I used to absolutely love to draw. But then I went to college and spent 4 years learning how to draw better, which was great, but I also learned how to look at art and mentally dissect every little thing about it. Being hyper-critical ruined the fun for me, and I stopped drawing because my mind wouldn’t get out of the way. I was pissing myself off. But now I’m finally getting my toes back in the water and it feels great. Lia was gum ball machine for halloween so I was a quarter.

Gumball machine and quarter couples costume

I drew it with sharpies.

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So that’s it! If you’ve been doing anything cool and new, throw it in the comments! Let’s dog-pile some fun shit!

Is Adulthood the Death of Fun?

Apparently I stopped having fun a long time ago, and became all serious and cunty. This process didn’t happen quickly – and it didn’t happen on purpose. Gradually I just stopped doing the fun things I grew up doing.

Here’s an example: my snowboard has been sitting in my basement gathering dust for probably 5 years now. My parents used to take me to the local resorts several times each winter when I was younger. We even did week-long ski trips! Then when I was in high school my friends and I still snowboarded a fair bit. One of us would borrow a car, and we’d all pile in and go. In college I went a handful of times, maybe once or twice a year. Post college I stopped altogether. Snowboarding became extinct in my world.

Here’s another example: skateboarding. I picked up skateboarding in grade 6ish and was avid for the next 8 years of my life. The skateboard became less about fun and more about transpo in college. Then I got a motorcycle and never skateboarded again. It was either the motorcycle or a car, and rarely a bicycle. But never a skateboard. I was mentally comparing the skateboard to the other vehicles from a transpo perspective, and naturally it lost every time. Fun wasn’t even a consideration. Until now, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how fucked that is… that I don’t think about having fun. I don’t try to have fun. I schedule in things that are probably going to be fun, like camping and parties and sports during the week. But day-to-day fun? No. Normal days are for work. I don’t expect to have any fun on a work day.

Super. Fucked. Up.

Rewind to when I was a kid, I made it my god damn business to have fun every day. Hockey, lego, building dirt huts for G.I. Joes, Shooting G.I. Joes with a pellet rifle, throwing a football, playing street hockey, throwing rocks at a telephone post. FUN SHIT WHENEVER POSSIBLE. EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT FAIL.

For adults, even at sports, come to think of it, fun is an afterthought. We play sports for “adult” reasons like the often cited “I need to stay in shape” or “it’s a good way to socialize.” What the fuck does any of that even mean? It means we’re all cunts. Boring, dusty, cunts. (Unless you’re the rare bird who plays sports for the fun of it, then you’re exempt from being a cunt.)

Adult sports teams mostly want to win. Adult athletes generally evaluate their level of enjoyment based on whether they’re winning or losing, making good plays or not. We analyze it and poke at it and inspect it. I think that’s OK now and then, but not as the norm. I think we should be playing sports with the primary reason of sports are fun as fuck to play. We don’t do sports. We play sports. We’re all playing together. That’s all it is. We should be aiming to have as much fun as we can, not arguing about calls or fouls or other bullshit. And hey, I’m like that too. I’m guilty! I get all angry and shitty when I’m playing sports. It’s no good! I need to fucking stop and slap myself and get back to the basic, simple fun of it.

Recently I did something new. I took my skateboard on the GO train because my bicycle wasn’t allowed during rush hour. It was busy in Toronto so I did a lot of weaving through crowds, at a good clip. The weaving was different than just going straight, from point A to point B. The weaving was fun. I was accidentally having fun again. I didn’t realize that I’d ever stopped having fun on a skateboard. I also didn’t keep it up. Months went by, and I still didn’t skateboard for fun.

Today I took Isla out for a rip in her stroller. I took my skateboard too. Pushing a stroller is a fuck of a lot more fun when you’re on a skateboard. The stroller wants to go the opposite way I lean on it, so if I lose my balance a little and push on the stroller things get interesting! It was fucking awesome. Isla loved it. I loved it. We covered like 4k. We went fast. I got stares from everyone. One guy yelled, “Yaaaa you’ve figured it out!” and I yelled “Quality parenting right here!”

Isla on my skateboard

I also play Pokemon Go, so I caught a bunch of Pokemons too.

We also somewhat bombed down a couple hills that we maybe shouldn’t have. That’s the only part that felt a little unsafe and we’ll definitely bring helmets for the next round because the hills were the best part.

Galavanting concluded as 6 o’clock rolled around, so to speak, and we headed home for Isla’s dinnerbathbedtime. Baby down, Lia hopped over to the other side of the house to get some painting done in the bathroom. I was left to my own devices and figured hey, fuck it, I’m going out to tear around a bit more.

I found a parking lot, freshly paved, and shredded the fuck out of it.

Kids yelled at me “HEY COOL TECHNIQUE!” because I was pumping the skateboard like a surfboard. And it was cool technique. Remember, I spent 8 years skateboarding. I’m pretty fucking good at it. And now I surf too, it’s a surefire combo for looking dope as fuck to a bunch of high schoolers.

For reference, this is how Kelly fucking Slater pumps a surfboard!

I found a couple hills and bombed down them (nearly wiped out on a wide turn at the bottom of the last hill, but held on)!

It’s the most fun I’ve had in months.

We don’t need to drink to have fun. We can do things we did as kids, that’s fun too. I’m not anti-drinking, but I am anti-not-doing-fun-shit-you-used-to-do-as-a-kid. If you wanna get drunk and play with lego, I’d be your first and biggest and possibly only fan. But I expect a lot of people would be jealous of your “childish” ass, deep down. So do it.

Fun and work can coexist in the same day. I think it needs to. Otherwise, the best we can hope for is a fun to boring ratio of 2:5. Not so hot.

I’m going to be trying harder not to be such a serious cunt and to just have fun again.

Adulthood is not the death of fun.

This is your invitation to play again.

Because, according to the immutable genius of Taylor Swift, you’ve got two choices:

The player’s gonna play and the hater’s gonna hate.