Year of Firsts.

January 1, 2014

2014 has arrived and I’m thrilled to say that I’ve “murdered” twelve of my little stick figures so far. That’s twelve pounds down. Juicing works wonders, folks. While I took a break for the past few days in order to prepare for New Years Eve festivities, I’m happy to say that I’ll be starting up my juicing once again tomorrow.

My juicer is kind of a badass. There’s nothing she won’t destroy. She. I guess my juicer is female… Since I have a childish desire to name every inanimate object I establish a connection with (my car’s name is Boone), I guess I’ll have to give her a name as well.

And that name is going to be Lyudmila. Since this is “war”, I figured I would name my most valuable soldier after the badass Russian sniper Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko, a WW2 hero with a record of 309 kills. Watch out little stick figures…

The resemblance is uncanny.

The resemblance is uncanny.

I have a habit of creating resolutions (and a surprising habit of keeping most of them), so I’m going to label 2014 as my official “Year of Firsts”. There’s so much that I’d like to try and accomplish and I’m going to really push myself and make this a year to remember. I can already feel it in my Viking bones (disclaimer: I have little to no Nordic blood in my lineage).  Below is my realistic list of firsts I am hell-bent on completing in the next 364 days.

1.)  Weigh less than 200 pounds (for the first time since middle school)
2.)  Publish my first novel
3.)  Learn how to kayak
4.)  Go on a multiple-day backpacking trip
5.)  Visit New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles
6.)  Acquaint myself with a classic novel every month

I think these 6 tenants will definitely make this year one to remember, and I think that should always be everyone’s intention. We place a lot of value in the idea of restarting and goal-setting when we enter a new year, but we tend to forget that desire within the first weeks of January. When was the last time someone told you in October, or, hell, even April, “I just crossed off another New Year’s Resolution” ? It doesn’t happen!

So this year, I’m aiming to do just that. With the support of my awesome friends and readers, I’d like to approach this year with confidence and a drive that stands unparalleled to previous attempts.

To the Year of Firsts. And good riddance to all my lasts.

Munz.

A Declaration of War.

December 15, 2013

At 9:30am on this day, December 15, 2013, I received a troubling message from my bathroom scale. 

It seems that as a result of eating excessively and a vehement lack of exercise, I am overweight. After a quick Google search, I learned I am nearly twice the recommended  weight of a 26-year-old male of my 6’0″ stature. This is not a shock to me. I am well aware of my own self destruction. I have a clear addiction to processed, fat-filled foods. McDonald’s employees are starting to recognize me. A majority of the clothes in my closet hang unworn as I am unable to stretch them across my wide frame. Ultimately, I am constantly fatigued, overtly lazy, unmotivated, self deprecating and, well, fat. While I kindly accept (and shrug off) my friends’ compliments (“You’re not huge; you look great!”), it’s clear that drastic action must be taken. 

I am officially declaring war on my weight. 

My aforementioned scale blared a deafening number up at me: 295.4 (but let’s go ahead and ignore that 0.4…). It’s the heaviest I’ve ever weighed and I can’t tell you how huge of a blow that is to my soul. I’ve struggled with my weight ever since I was a kid and I’ve carried the burden with me for years. I’ve never sought professional help nor have I ever formally asked my friends and family for help and support. It’s time that I actually consider doing so. 

Thinking of the 295 individual pounds that make up my body, I decided to draw those pounds as small little soldiers. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with drawing stick figure battlefields, complete with tanks, explosions and dotted-line bullets firing from one soldier to another.

Image

        295 soldiers. More or less… 

With a variety of highly advanced weapons (juicing, vegan nutrition, vitamin supplements, basic yoga, occasional exercise [maybe]), I hope to begin depleting the enemy forces through the winter. It’s difficult to have an end-date in sight in a war this unpredictable. However, I don’t want to back down from this fight. Each pound lost means that I get to “kill” one of those little stick figures. 

So what constitutes a victory? 

Obviously, every little dude I scrub out means I am winning the fight. However, I’m not going to create an ideal weight this early in the war. Once I regain my confidence and start x-ing out my pounds, I’ll keep going and update my blog. It’s going to be a long, frustrating journey, but there’s no way I can win this war alone. That’s where my Allies come in.

Allies: friends, family, coworkers, etc. The more people that can help me support a healthy lifestyle, the better chance I have of succeeding. And while things like juicing and veganism can be polarizing topics among the horde of nutrition experts that make up my group of acquaintances (*eye roll*), know that I’m doing quite a bit of nutritional research and most definitely will:

  • Get enough protein (kale, tempeh, spinach, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Take vitamin supplements (Vitamin b-12, Vitamin D(3), plant-based Omega-3s-DHA + EPA, etc.)
  • Drink enough water (Liquid steam, H2O, melted snow)
  • Consume whole grains and gluten (let’s not get crazy)

I’d really like to take this battle as seriously as possible and would very much prefer to win. The less tempting fatty foods you place in front of me, the greater my chance of success! I can’t tell you the last time I felt comfortable in my own skin, and really want to kick this weight to the curb and become a brand new person, brimming with confidence. It’s been a long time coming. 

So let’s do this. Starting today, the battle begins. First step: healthy cleansing & juicing. My official juicer comes in the mail on Wednesday (December 18th). Until then, I’ll be eating vegan soups and working towards a temporary liquid diet. I’ll update this blog once a week. 

Heavy sigh. You guys ready? Here we go.

Image

           Ready! … I think.

Munz.

Munz Awards of 2011: Part I.

December 28, 2011

Last year, I compiled a list of the top five things in movies, books and music, chronicling my favorite things of 2010, and I think it’s time to start handing out some awards, Munz-style. Mmm hmm. I’m currently sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight from Jackson to Phoenix for New Years, so this is a perfect time to reflect on the awesome of 2011 and clear the slate for the upcoming epicness that is 2012. Ba BOOM!

Since this is the first annual Munz Awards, I should probably give you an introduction to my criteria and what actually constitutes as an award. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m notoriously curious, and everything interests me. It’s hard for me to really pinpoint my likes and dislikes because they change sporadically. So, in order to receive a Munz award you have to corral my wandering mind and really make me pay attention to what’s in front of me. And this year I fell in love with quite a few things that made me say “HEY! That’s preddy coool!”

No two Munzys are the same; nominees need not be present to win.

Best “Move to Chicago” Album
Winner:The Head and the Heart”, by The Head and the Heart
Runner Up: “Safari Disco Club”, by Yelle

Head&Heart 
I wasn’t expecting to be so swept up by The Head and the Heart. When Rachel “wullhay” S. and I were doing our radio show, this was one of those albums that plopped into the new arrivals rack that burrowed its way into our souls. It’s hard not to love this band’s catchy lyrics, their killer harmonies and very attractive faces… The lyrics “Merrin moved all of her shit to Chicago/her mother made sure that she left with her bible/but you won’t find her face on Sunday” on the song “Ghosts” really stuck with me, but the song that makes me tear up EVERY time I hear it (yes, every) is on the song “Rivers and Roads”, when the band builds this lyric: “Been talkin’ ‘bout the way things changed,” then belts: “AND MY FAMILY LIVES IN A DIFFERENT STATE!” Powerful stuff. Then I saw them on June 6th opening for Iron and Wine and since then I’ve fallen in deep, unrequited, devotional love.

Best Jackson Hole Connection in Chicago
Winner: Randomly meeting Chris Z. on the Redline Train
Runner Up: Swing dancing to Head for the Hills bluegrass at Martyr’s

chicago-car-2751 
To me Chicago felt, and still feels incredibly far from everything that I know. It’s nice having Emma P. around, but I feel quite disconnected, despite being in the center of everything. So imagine my surprise when I boarded the Red Line CTA back in August and vaguely recognized a guy wearing a Wyoming 22 cap (22 being the county code for Teton County where Jackson resides). Upon saying hello he immediately recognized me from being in my hometown improv group, The Laff Staff. It was the most bizarre colliding of worlds. Since that interaction we’ve run into each other randomly TWICE. Again on the Red Line, and once more at Target just last week. Truly crazy. Here I live in a city of 9.2 million, and somehow the one other guy from Jackson and I keep bumping into one another. On top of that, Nadja R. (from high school) and I have seen each other twice. Small world.

Best New Obsession Involving A Foreign Country
Winner: Iceland, Iceland, Iceland, All Things Iceland
Runner Up: Reading the Harry Potter books in German

view-of-hvalfjordur 
Iceland has always been in the back of my mind as a country I’ve wanted to visit, and in 2012 I’m going to make that desire a reality. I’m not sure what exactly ignited my recent obsession. Perhaps it was the unyielding, unstoppable repetition of Sigur Ros in my headphones since June or the pictures Todd and Kate K. posted from their trip a year ago. All I know is that it’s rural, it’s cold, it’s full of interesting people, and there are mountains, geysers, glaciers, sheep, sweaters and icebergs. It’s practically Wyoming without pine trees. Plus my favorite band of 2011 (just beating out The Head and the Heart) is Of Monsters & Men, which brings me to my next Munzy.

Best Holy-Shit-Where-Have-You-Been-All-My-Life Band
Winner: Of Monsters & Men
Runner Up: Devotchka

of-monsters-and-men 
Out of nowhere, Of Monsters and Men fell into my lap. I purchase (yes, purchase) music from a Russian-based website. The albums listed are not classified by genre so it’s a bit like window-shopping in the sense that I really only have the album covers to entice me to sample the music. Lucky me for stumbling into the musical arms of these six pop-folk geniuses. From the sing-along-able lyrics to the steering-wheel-tapping rhythms and (my personal favorite) the WHOO-HOOs, I eased into this band like a warm bath.  They were just right; everything fit well in my ears and I learned the lyrics faster than I did any band before. I like to be a little selfish about these things, and would LOVE to just steal these Icelanders, lock them in my house, and have them play for me every day…but I guess you can listen to them too.

Most Effective Storytelling in a Film
Winner: Shame, dir. Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen)
Second Winner: Midnight in Paris, dir. Woody Allen (yep, that Woody Allen)

Shame 
This is difficult as the two films I’ve awarded are about love and relationships, but express two incredibly different moods. Shame succeeds in portraying the story of a man (Michael Fassbender) whose sex addiction has poisoned every aspect of his life, including his dwindling relationship with his sister (Carey Mulligan). The film ensures that there’s enough sex to warrant its NC-17 rating, but the overexposure to nudity and sex throughout its two hours suddenly alters your initial qualms with this gross, pervvy man who can’t keep his pants on even at work. Midnight in Paris takes the fluffy road into a troubled relationship between Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams as they make their way to Paris. Wilson’s character escapes into the romantic urbanity of 1920s Montmartre leaving the real world behind. Through a series of hilarious, wily adventures he discovers who he really is and what he wants. In a similar way, Fassbender’s character goes through a variety of obstacles that alter his habits greatly. I’m totally stretching it comparing these two movies, but let’s just say I was equally effected in very different ways. In closing, I’d much rather go traveling in Paris than jerk off at work. So that’s good! Nice work, you good films, you.

That concludes Part I of the Munz Awards. I’m gonna jump on this plane and hopefully post Part II by the time the new year hits. Plus, I have loads to share about my Jackson trip. More to come, readers. Happy Wednesday!

Munz.

Love to a Novel.

December 7, 2011

We had a lot of sex. It was a relationship that was practically built on sex: the raw, unhinged, exposed rough ‘n tumble of bare skin, crumpled sheets, unabashed secrets (“I’ve never told anyone this before…”) and premature, unhatched I Love You’s. We’d think about each other constantly during the day and spend our many nights together. I would tell people about our infallible infatuation, braying on and on about how there was no doubt we were meant to be together. There was no one else out there for me.

“Yes,” I’d say, “I have found my one true love.”

Those more experienced encouraged our relationship with sincerity. My friends and family were in full support (Mom more so than Dad, of course). Everything was clicking, falling into place and, damn, was I happy.

Like in any relationship, after a few months we began to drift apart. I tried my best to spice things up, attempting new, exciting things and playing out fantasies where we would trade off taking on the dominant role. There were times I was taken advantage of in unexpected ways, but I was always ready to return the favor. Sometimes a little too aggressively. Whatever love we had initially established was became nothing more than an immature desire not to end up alone and never share one another with anyone else. Invincible satisfaction was the cup we drank from. Jealousy, our poison

unmade bed

We’d go to bed looking at (not in) each other’s eyes, questioning each other. And soon answers would come from the most unlikely places. My wandering eye would hone in on a new prospect, and I would pounce and attack. I slept around with no consideration for who I was hurting or why I was letting it happen. I was selfish and became my own protagonist and antagonist. I couldn’t find the connection I was looking for, despite encountering the promising fling here and there. And my cell phone rang and rang and rang until it hit voicemail, but a message was never left and I wasn’t ready to call back.

What would I say? Sorry? Would I really take the high road and apologize for something I had no control over? And I knew would stay true to that statement: I had no control. It wasn’t me. I don’t know who I had become, but it wasn’t me. There was nothing more I could say.

A good year and a half passed with no communication, no wonderings, no memories at all. We’d forgotten and moved on.

On a recent windy, wet December night, I sat at a German bar with an old friend. We drank beer and smoked cigarettes and spoke of our current and past loves. And then it came up. The history of the novel I so shamelessly abandoned. The friend with benefits of my past still waiting for me, naked and unshowered, in the wrinkled sheets of the My Documents folder. I had forgotten completely until that very moment. And yet with ease I spilled out all the good memories we shared, the laughs we had and the troubles we went through together. I remembered it all, everything. Even the things I swore I had erased entirely. My friend finished his beer and told me that I was stupid to let go of all of that, and that the connection I’d made meant more than I would ever know.

So, a few days later, I decided we should meet at nearby Starbucks. We were awkward at first, but we put everything out on the table. All the half-finished tales, the jokes without punch lines, the long-dried tears, the cheap wine we snobbishly said tasted more expensive than it was. It was all there, and we looked upon it and smiled goofy, uneven smiles.

“Should we start over?” I eventually asked.

I was met with more than silence and rather a feeling. A warm, familiar feeling of what we once had, and all that came before. I realized how much I’d grown since we first met, and how ready I was to partake in something that was more than just a flighty fuck here and there.

“Yes,” came a reply. And I began again.

And right now my novel is there, propped up against a pillow waiting for me to join it under the covers. And soon we’ll hold each other and fall asleep knowing that neither one of us will disappear until we live this thing out, stupid or not. I can’t say for certain that what we have will be sung about or told to the small, inquisitive children of the future. What I can say is that I’m ready to commit to something I haven’t been able to commit to before. And I’m indefinably happy, jolted, terrified.

Munz.

Whimsy and the Looming Winter

November 27, 2011

Before writing this entry, I went back and reread my previous entries from September detailing my decision to move back to Jackson. My confidence is pretty apparent and I think I exhibit my feelings at the time surprisingly well. However, I resorted to e-mailing people close to me to read the blog, because, I believe, part of me was ashamed of the decision and I didn’t want all of my loyal facebook followers to combust in a comment frenzy. Plus, a big part of it was that I didn’t want my coworkers to know that I was leaving so suddenly.

There was a great moment at work when one of my bosses took me aside and told me he’d randomly come across those entries. He then confronted me with my decision to leave. Though there was no gunpoint involved, I definitely had my metaphorical hands in the air and was metaphorically pissing my pants. But I think what stopped me from bursting into tears, falling to my knees and apologizing profusely was that I had already come to a different confident decision: the decision to stay in Chicago.

Record scratch!
Breaks screeching!
Dog cocking his head askew going “Hrmm?”

Let me rewind a bit. (In the ideal setting I would showcase a moving montage of pictures documenting my Chicago frivolities to this song, but my budget is limited, and it’ll work better in my future Hollywood biopic.)

Last round, I talked a lot about “The Hero’s Journey”, a path many main characters take in fiction and in life, that ultimately, fate permitting, brings the adventurer back to where he or she started. I had decided that my personal Hero’s Journey was coming to an end, and that Chicago no longer held the appeal that initially brought me here, concluding that I would be better suited back amongst my friends, my mountains, my memories. I’m sure anyone could understand my position and what I was feeling at the time. Transitions are hard, the city is a fucked-up place, and little Austrian/American boys do have trouble fitting in. At least at first.

Irving Park Kid

My argument for moving back was weak, despite what two lengthy blogs portray. Sometimes I feel that I’m a better writer than I am a speaker, and it was on full frontal display as I made my case for moving back home to those I knew. Those blogs were a MILLION times more confident than I was in real life. I was tempted to just put off the conversation and send them a link to this site.

What it came down to was the understanding that I would move away from Chicago, arrive back in Jackson, and have an amazing time. I would see friends again, visit my favorite restaurants and bars, and slide comfortably into the slow pace of a Wyoming winter. And then those two outrageously fun weeks would pass, and I would be in the same rut, likely regretting giving up everything I’d worked towards in Chicago and eventually regress back into the life I left for a reason.

And then my boss confronted me, and I suddenly realized how easy it was for me to list the reasons why I was staying rather than leaving. Chicago’s pros list could be pages and pages long. Jackson has its many many pros as well, but I’ve seen how much I’ve grown since being here, and those pros don’t really fit right into my current state of being.

I’ll admit it. My decision to move home was whimsical, completely poisoned by my homesickness and fear of change. I’m heading back on 12/22 for Christmas, but will return to the windy, wintery city on 1/2/2012. A new year, a new life. In regards to that photo montage I mentioned, there’s been a whole lot of happiness that I’ve overlooked here, and part of that is my unwillingness to record. I’ve said it so many times before and let you all down, but this time definitely expect more blogs. I’m going to need some self-reflection, especially if this Chicago winter is as hellish as they say…

Munz.

The Hero’s Journey. Part II.

September 25, 2011

(This post is continued from “The Hero’s Journey. Part I” and is substantially longer…)

Before I left Jackson, my friend Emma P. and I put on a Jackson first—a full-length improv/sketch comedy show that poked fun at, and lovingly embraced Jackson culture.  It was called “Still Single: Lessons on Love with Emma and Andy”, and it’s my proudest accomplishment. The show was a hit, and at the end of the show, I remember looking at Emma with our hands clasped for the bow, and thinking “Damn.  We did it.”  We received standing ovations both nights and got great compliments from people in the community.  Of all the plays I’ve done in the past, I’ve never felt such a strong connection between myself and the audience.  It was surreal.

Five days later, I moved to Chicago, and the loving people of Jackson waved me farewell.

StillSingleposters

Having been in Chicago now for nearly half a year (time crawls when you’re feelin’ glum) I’ve thought a lot about what brought me here and why oh why I’ve been in such a rut.  Please follow along as I offer up an abridged account of the past year.  The Hero’s Journey:

Late June 2010  Andrew goes to Chicago to participate in the Summer Intensive, a five-week workshop with the iO (formally improvOlympic) Theater.  He spends an incredible month and a half in a brand new city, meeting a slew of incredible people and having one hell of a time.  Fellow classmates: “So, are you gonna move to Chicago?”  Andrew: “Nah I couldn’t handle it.  I’m a country kid.  I need my trees and open space.”

Mid August 2010  Andrew returns to Jackson (while driving passed the Dairy Queen, he grumbles Oh god… I’m back), equipped with a slew of new improv knowledge and a refreshing look into the real world beyond the mountains.  With all the incredible friends he made and the new experiences, he looks at his town with new eyes and sees how small it really is.  When he speaks about his Chicago adventure, he has nothing bad to say.  In short, the trip was incredible.

Fall 2010  More shows with local improv group The Laff Staff.  While he loves the improv scene in Jackson, it’s nothing like he experienced in Chicago and the bond he made with those classmates lingers in his mind.  The off-season trickles by and Andrew is back to the same grind and has moved back in with his mom.  Sigh.

December 2010  Andrew rethinks his move back to Jackson and realizes that maybe improv is where it’s at. Perhaps this is his calling.  He impulsively buys a one-way ticket to Chicago, IL for April 21st, 2011.

January—April 2010  Poisoned by the knowledge that he’ll be finally moving out of his mom’s house and on to brighter, better things, he develops an unwelcome cynicism for Jackson Hole.  In a series of dickish, arrogant interactions (with some unnecessary low-blows), he completely puts up a wall to all the things Jackson does offer, insults the people who love the town, and just wants MORE.  “I need more life,” he says, “more opportunity, more people, more improv, just more.”

April 21st, 2011  After a sorrowful mom-hug, Andrew lands in Chicago and rolls out a sleeping bag on the floor of his friend Josh B.’s house.  Unforgivably intoxicated and full of terrible Chinese food, he passes out on a slanted floor.  He has two suitcases no car, no apartment, no job.  He couch surfs until he’s too much a nuisance.

May 2011  Unemployed and unhappy, Andrew settles in an apartment Lincoln Square and spends his weeks meandering from cafe to cafe doing a lot of journaling.  Improv class is once a week, and the experience is nothing like last summer.

June 2011 Andrew is hired as a food runner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and overworks himself to a point of mental breakdown.  He ends up quitting at the end of the month.  Improv classes continue.  3-hours a week.

July—September 2011  Andrew gets a job at a webhosting company, the most prestigious and well-paying position he’s ever held.  Improv classes continue. Once a week.

Alright, I understand every transition is difficult, but I realize that I specifically moved to Chicago for improv, and I’ve only been hitting that goal for 3-hours every week.  Everything else is just filler (no disrespect to some of the amazing friends I’ve made here), because other than those three hours, I don’t really know what I’m doing here.  And I realize that if I didn’t have those three hours a week, I have a full week of nothing.

Many others have moved to Chicago with the same goal in my mind: become successful in the improv world and make a living doing what you love.  I believe a lot of them had a crush on the city (or at least city living) before they moved, and I’m a bit envious of that.  When I left I was yearning for more, more, MORE, and now that this idea of more surrounds me—I’m practically drowning in more—I realized how much happier I was having less.

In Jackson, I only had two-hours of improv a week, but I also had a jobs that I loved, the opportunity to create my own art (“Still Single”; my one-acts “Those Days” and “Second Guesses”) and be around the people I loved and who loved me.  Even if I didn’t have improv, I had other things to keep me happy.  I saw an incredible improv show here a few weeks ago where the monologist said, “We’re always striving for more, but when do we stop and realize that what we have is enough?  This is enough.”

Tetons

In Jackson I was riding out an incredible wave of self-made success and I tossed it to the wind because I followed an impulse.  Do I regret moving to Chicago?  Absolutely not.  I guarantee I will not come home bitching about how much Chicago betrayed me.  Truthfully, without this move I would not have realized that improv isn’t my one true passion, and (I should have known) writing makes me happiest.  And, while I can pursue writing anywhere, I should pursue it in a place that I love. Jackson does not have to be permanent, and I can always springboard to another place if I feel that urge again (though this time around, I’ll think it through a bit better). 

I have a lot in my mind as to what I would like to accomplish when I come home, and that includes writing and directing more plays and even possibly a full-length narrative play based on “Still Single”.  Not to mention finally dedicating some focus to finishing my novel in hopes of a future publication.  When I return, I won’t be reverting back to the life I left; my mom has moved to Arizona, my car is in the hands of a new family, and I have a brand new outlook on life and love.

I know who I am, and I know what I want.  Two questions that I’ve had trouble answering are now solidified in my mind.  And unfortunately neither of those answers involve the word Chicago. 

I really wanted to love it here.  I wanted to enjoy my new life and embrace everything around me.  But something kept holding me back, something prevented me from enjoying myself here, and I understand that it’s the loving, supportive, amazing people that I’ve had in my life. With my personality, I will always, always push myself to new horizons and new accomplishments. But I think it’s time that I stop asking for more and more, and realize that this amazing little life that I’ve made for myself is indeed enough. 

My current Hero’s Journey will come to a close on December 22nd, 2011.  Whenever the next journey decides to present itself, I’ll be ready for it.

Munz.

The Hero’s Journey. Part I.

September 22, 2011

Joseph Campbell was an American mythologist (yep, that job exists) who is known for looking at all the epic myths and fables of the years gone by and compiling them into an archetype called the Monomyth, essentially what we know today as “The Hero’s Journey.”  An incredible amount of stories fit this term—more than you can even dream of—because it is not just a genre of story, but a direct interpretation of human experience and history, as well as our desire to make a difference by following our hearts.  Campbell writes:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

(Boons.  Hilarious word.)

You can attribute this particular journey to just about every hero in both our classic and popular cultures, as the principle applies to young men and women like Oliver Twist to Princess Leia Organa to Harry Potter—our de facto heroes.  Not every journey needs to end where it began (and most don’t), but the reality is that often times these heroes are thrust out of their mundane day-to-day and thrust into an adventure that tests everything they once knew.

Now, am I comparing myself to one of these heroes?  Absolutely not (although Leia and I are both gifted with incredible accuracy with firearms—nerd joke!).  But I find myself falling into Campbell’s archetype quite seamlessly.  Allow me to explain.

Heroesjourney

Andrew Munz, 23, moved from his hometown of Jackson, Wyoming to explore a whole new life in Chicago, Illinois, the city of improv, deep dish pizza, and incredible public transportation.  The big bad skyscrapers loomed to the East, and I was ready to leave my sheltered existence and learn what real life was all about.  I had a goal in mind—fuel my improv passion—and I sold everything to prepare for my new venture into city life.  And then I hopped on a one-way flight without an apartment, a job, or a solid plan to welcome me.  It was the ultimate journey and I was ready.

Five months later, Andrew Munz, 24, writes from a Starbucks in quaint Lincoln Square, quite possibly the most neighborhoodly of all the Chicago neighborhoods.  Families, dogs on leashes, and smiles travel down the clean sidewalks and pass the local restaurants and mom & pop shoppes.  Sirens aren’t common and taxis are hard to come by (which is totally fine if you’re terrified of taxis, still, after five months).  In Campbell terms, I’m currently experiencing my own version of “supernatural wonders”, and there couldn’t be a better way to describe my experiences because, compared to how I grew up, the adjustment has been bizarre.  Not bizarre in the way that an African excursion would be bizarre for an Alaskan, but in the way a young man from Tattooine would feel on Coruscant (oh my heck, Star Wars joke #2!).

But what of the “decisive victory” that Campbell writes about?

For even the strongest of warriors or heroes, no battle is more difficult than that of self discovery.  The common questions of “Who Am I?” and “What Do I Want?” come up in everyone’s life, and they’re admittedly the hardest to answer.  If we look back on my heroic examples, even those in your head that I didn’t mention, each one emerges from their journey with “the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (hahaha…boons! Never gets old!).  In this instance *deep breath* boons are figurative gifts, and sometimes literal gifts.  In my interpretation, they’ve acquired a good dose of knowledge that they are now able to share with others, and I feel like I’m ready to do that.

In my next blog (The Hero’s Journey. Part II.) I will talk about how moving to Chicago has allowed me to achieve my own decisive victory and answer those two self-defining questions.  I will also write about how I believe my Monomyth is ready to come to an end and will lead me back home.

Yes.  Back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming…

Munz.

Despite my location change, I can’t say my life has changed.  You know, I’d always heard about how your first move is the first major turn your life takes (I think peeing standing up, and going to college are also crowned with this award).  But my argument is this.  Even though we encounter huge changes in our lives, I wouldn’t say each one changes the way we act.  It’s not like my entire personality or habits change now that I’m a Chicagoan.  [Note: Here I use the term Chicagoan loosely, because I have yet to favor the Cubs, White Sox, Bears or Bulls, and doubt I ever will.]  Apparently, thanks to a Google-search, it was Abbie Hoffman who said “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” and, while Ms. Hoffman isn’t Socrates or Plato, I would say that her words are worth living by.  She did not say, and I don’t believe anyone ever will say, “The events that happen today will undoubtedly change your life in incredible, unrecognizable ways and you will be a brand new person by tomorrow!”

If they do say that, don’t listen.  Take a piece of Chicago advice from me, and pretend they’re not there, glance at your iPhone like something interesting is happening, and saunter away in a different direction.

What I’m getting to is that even though I’ve had to sell my shit, buy a mattress, apply anti-humidity milk into my hair on a daily basis and accept the fact that I’ll have to sit next to the occasional stinky stranger on the Brown Line, I’m still the same person.  I haven’t stopped biting my nails when I’m nervous.  I haven’t completely abandoned my Oreo addiction, though I have lost some weight, miraculously.  I still have a billion ideas for stories, and only actually work on 12% of them.  And I rarely, if ever, smooth out my bedsheets in a presentable manner.  As seen in my previous blog post, old habits die hard.

And even if I was supposed to change, and become a whole new person, I’m not sure what would need to change.  I guess the opposite of what I mentioned?  Fully grown nails.  An Oreo allergy.  Writing 5K words a day.  Making my bed with military precision.  Sounds dull.  But I would become more of an adult if I did so, right?

Perhaps that’s what adulthood is: smothering your old habits and carrying out your life the way society would prefer you to.

Sounds terrible.  I’d much rather be my own person, thank you very much, and if that means I never make my bed, or give up delicious cream-filled chocolate cookies, or shave every day, then screw that.  I’ve already had enough adulthood to stand with all the bills I’ve had to pay.  From purchasing a couple-hundred-dollar mattress, to ripping out another rent check, to paying off my credit cards and phone bills, I’ve gritted my teeth and accepted that these things must be done.  So I guess you can say I’m crawling my way towards adulthood, gripping at the dirt and fighting every second of it.  Blech.

In other news, I’ve been reading quite a lot and listening to some fantastic music.  Because I haven’t done a Triple Shot entry in a while, here’s a quick rundown of three things I loved in the past week.

1.) Brandi Carlile’s “Live at Benaroya Hall…”
I’ve seen Brandi twice, and both concerts list in the top five best concert-going experiences I’ve ever had.  It’s nice to have this phenomenal folk rock artist pump out a gorgeous album like this one which includes a great rendition of “Pride and Joy” and a cover of “The Sound of Silence” sung by the twins, Phil and Tim.  Even if you’re new to Brandi’s music, do yourself a favor and pick this album up.

2.)  A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz
This is my second foray into this hilarious novel, and I’m loving it even more this time around.  Centering on the multiple mysteries surrounding his estranged father, Martin, Jasper Dean sets out to answer the billion questions he has about his orphan father, his murderous uncle and his dead mother, whose corpse happens to be missing from her grave.  Set in Australia, Paris and Thailand, it’s a rollicking adventure full of wit, dirty humor and heart.  One of my favorites.

3.) Midnight in Paris, a film by Woody Allen
We all have a fantasy that we should have been born in an earlier time.  “I’m an old soul,” you may have said once or twice.  In this film, Woody Allen shows us what would happen if we got our wish.  In it, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) and his fiancée go to Paris to prepare for their upcoming Malibu wedding.  However, Gil, a writer who wishes he lived in the 1920s, falls in love with the city and begins going on evening strolls.  When the clock strikes midnight, he is whisked away into a world where Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemmingway and the Fitzgeralds thrive and the live music of Cole Porter echoes through the dance halls.  The movie was hysterical, witty and so much fun.  Make sure you catch it, because it’s definitely one of Allen’s best.

So that’s all for this fine Wednesday.  Off to grudgingly pay the rent check…

Munz.

Small Town Habits.

May 28, 2011

What’s it like moving from a town of 10,000 people, where I’m confident that I’d recognize a good fourth of the population, to a city of 2.6 million, where I know just about ten or so?  Well.  It gets a little dicey, especially when it comes down to all of those warm, friendly habits I learned while living in Wyoming.  I’ve had to flip my head around here, because this ain’t the old west, partner.

After being asked about where I grew up, I get a lot of blank, puzzled stares when I say that I went on a lot of hikes, rode the occasional horse, shot clays with a shotgun, went snowboarding, worked for a meat processing plant, floated the river, helped bale hay a couple of times, and cleared a potato field.  I also went camping (summer and winter) and could identify scat left behind from most mammals.

“Yeah, but, like, did you do normal stuff too?” a coworker asked me.

“Nope,” I said.  I hocked back and spat onto the floor.  (Okay, I didn’t do that, but I should have.)

While I was never the cowboy-like adolescent that our fine state of Wyoming breeds, I definitely had a soft spot for nature and love for a simpler way of living.  I never realized how many outdoorsy skills I had until I realized how badly I needed them out here.  My sense of direction, while flipped on its head when surrounded by skyscrapers, is surprisingly intact as I emerge from the underground Red Line train into the bright lights of the city.  My balance aboard a train is near flawless; as I bend my knees and treat the moving car like a snowboard, I have no need to hold onto the rail.  And my sense of smell, though raped by the daily foul stench of sewage, fuel and mildew, can lead me to fresher air and delicious foods.

Yes, it seems that a country boy can indeed live in the city.  However, as my biology adjusts, my head cannot swing the fact that I am not home.  Here are a few small town habits I can’t seem to shake, and their big cities realities that put me in my place.  I have encountered all of these things.

  1. A Honking Car
    Small Town:  Someone you know is trying to get your attention!  Turn and wave!
    Big City:  You are about to die.  Be alert, and move.
  2.  A Big Black Shadow
    Small Town: Probably a moose or other large mammal.  Change your path.
    Big City:  A harmless Sedan. Keep walking.
  3.  Someone is Lying on the Sidewalk
    Small Town:  Possibly injured citizen.  Observe and assist if necessary.
    Big City:  Possibly dead citizen.  Keep walking.
  4.   A Yellow Lab Takes an Interest In You
    Small Town:  “Hello pup!  Hi, is this your dog?”  “Sure is!”   “Aw, what’s his name?”  “Dingo!”
    Big City:  “Hello pup!  Hi, is this your dog?”  Owner yanks him away and keeps walking.
  5. Filling up Your Water Bottle from the Tap in Front of Strangers
    Small Town:  No reaction.
    Big City:  “What are you doing?!  You drink that?!”  (Seriously.)
  6. A Strange Man Asks You ‘A Quick Question’
    Small Town:  Politely listen and assist if possible.
    Big City:  He wants money, so ignore everything said until you say “no” to make him go away.
  7.  “Would You Like Topping on Your Popcorn?”
    Small Town:  “It’s real butter?  Heck yes!”
    Big City:  Always, always, always, for the sake of your bowels, “No.”
  8.  Manners
    Small Town:  In abundance.
    Big City:  Impossible to find.
Jackson Red Line Stop < Jackson, Wyoming
There is a Jackson stop on the Red Line and it drop you off down by Millennium Park.  I’ve gotten off there quite a few times (there’s also a Wilson stop way north of there).  The first few times, I hardly made the connection because the two Jacksons were so asymmetric.  But now every time I see the name I wish that the underground station was a little bit more like home.I don’t want to shit all over Chicago, because it’s not a horrible place by any means.  Everyone tells me that New York is much worse, and that Chicago is overwhelmingly a nicer city.  That makes me laugh (which, I only do in private, because apparently laughing in public makes you look crazy), because in my experiences so far, from people at work to random strangers, I haven’t encountered too many people possessing that oft-quoted “midwestern charm”.  Everyone is too scared of each other to be nice.
So above all things of Jackson that I do miss (and I won’t lie and say I don’t miss it), I miss the people.  The sense of community and the familiar faces.  It’s hard living in a city of a couple million people and feeling lonely because there’s no one you recognize.  My worst habit of all is seeing a stranger and initially thinking that it’s someone I know.  It happens a whole lot, but, it’s proven that all these little habits will dissolve over time.
Soon I’ll stop glancing towards honking cars and petting strange dogs, I’ll ignore more homeless people and develop a resistance to bad smells.  I’ll walk home with a little more and a less fear as the days trudge on.  In Wyoming I was sensitive to my surroundings.  Ultimately, as I continue living in Chicago, I’ll become more and more desensitized.  Because that’s what the city wants.  To it, I’m just another number.  Another tally in the population.  Another person to pull taxes from.  Another person taking the train.  Another person walking down Michigan Avenue pretending that the buildings don’t blow my mind every time I walk passed them.  The moment I start acting differently, the moment I decide that I’m going to continue living out the small town attitude I have grown accustomed to, the city will turn on me and I’ll be either robbed, or thought insane, or worse.
But I’m not willing to fall prey just yet.  I may still be new here, but I’m not just another number.  Just you wait, Chicago.  I still have some tricks up these flannel sleeves.
Munz.

The Chicago Recap.

May 25, 2011

We’re going to ignore the fact that I haven’t updated this blog, and I am most certainly going to ignore any form of apology because I offer them too often in regards to “90% Munz”.  That being said, I’m back and we’re going to get started.  (I think this is the part where you take a shot.)

Thunderstorms and wet clothes.  That’s my Wednesday evening!  I also have a bit of a cold that I can’t seem to shake, despite the heavy amounts of Theraflu I’m drinking.  I blame my weird diet, my tap water supply and the fact that I can’t tell whether or not I should wear shorts or not.  All you folks who said Chicago’s weather is super weird were incredibly right.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this confused on what to wear in my whole life.  To those of you who haven’t been following along, I moved to Chicago April 21st with the intention of immersing myself in the improv world and trying out a whole new way of life.  In doing so I actually tried a different take on a blog, which ended up being too much work and quite pathetic (though, special thanks to Rachel S. for making a killer header for me!).  So, back to the original blog!

The Bean at Millennium Park. Poor replacement for the Teton range...

I’ve been keeping a bit of a journal here, and wanted to showcase some excerpts so you get an idea of how the transition from a small Wyoming town to the big city has toyed with my head.

  • “I feel like I should take up smoking or something.  That way I have something to do other than see depressing movies (The Beaver) and eat.”
  • “God, look at me.  Smiling, friendless, wandering around aimlessly looking for some semblance of purpose.”
  • “I miss touch.  That’s weird.  But I miss touching people.  It’s the city…  I’m not depressed.  I won’t allow it.  I won’t allow it.  It’s a sad life, but goddamn it, I’m too optimistic to be sad.”
  • “I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss the quiet simplicity of Jackson Hole.  The smiling faces.  The love.  The scenery.  How am I going to live here?  What am I doing here?”

Those were excerpts from a few weeks ago.  The first weeks were hard here, there’s no doubt about it.  But I feel much better now, and things have been shaping up.  As seen in the following excerpts:

  • “Saw some terrible improv shows yesterday, so I feel like I could push myself to a point of success.  It’s all a matter of commitment.  I can’t give up and don’t want to.”
  • “I came to Chicago for a reason.  Not because I’m willing to wait for things to fall into my lap, but because I want to achieve my fucking goals, man.  This is my life and I’m done dicking around.”
  • “I don’t have any restraints except my own lack of willpower.  Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.  Always.  Smile, think positive and move forward.  Don’t just move on.  Move forward.”
In other words, I’ve been spending a lot of time in my head and forcing myself to adjust to this city.  It’s a pretty ballsy move to relocate somewhere so far away from home on your own, but the deed is done and now I have to work with what I have.
So here’s what I do have.
I’m working as a food runner at graham elliot restaurant, and am enjoying myself immensely.  It’s hard work, very fast-paced and I have to be extremely focused on what I’m doing.  I’m not entirely sure how much money I’ll be making each paycheck (because I’m not sure how much money in taxes the state of Illinois will rape me of), but I’m confident I’ll be able to pay rent and my bills every month.  I’m nearing the last few weeks of my Level 3 training at iO (improv Olympic), anxious to continue onto Level 4 in June.  I’m living in Lincoln Square, a northern neighborhood of Chicago that is quiet and less condensed than the neighborhoods closer to the Loop.
I’ve read some great books (Moonwalking with Einstein; Savages; Shantaram; Number9Dream), seen some okay films (Win Win, The Beaver, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) and have fallen in love with a new band (The Head and the Heart).
And, the best part of all, I’ll be updating this blog more often now.
Munz.
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