I’m writing in 75-degree Prague weather in our co-working space’s manicured-grass garden, looking at the villa with food, beer, espresso, desks, and awesome people inside.
I grew up in suburban New York to two loving parents who are still healthy. If I had money troubles, my parents would buy me a plane ticket tomorrow, make my bed and feed me until I burst Matzah ball soup.
I’m white. I’m convinced I am the luckiest person/most-spoiled piece-of-shit in world history.
My parents could have been super-rich. I’d probably be an entitled douche. I could have been taller or better looking. I’d probably be an entitled douche. I could have the world’s largest penis. I’d probably be a celibate douche.
I had just enough not going for me that I didn’t become an entitled douche. (I don’t think.) Yet I can’t think of anything I would have changed if I were trying to set someone up for a happy life.
So when I sit in manicured foreign grass writing words because I like to, I start to feel like an entitled douche. But I didn’t choose to be born, or how.
All I did was emerge from a vagina.
Would you emerge beneath a Victorian queen, a mother with Zika, or Genghis Khan’s baby-momma number 476?
I won the vaginal lottery. Who bought me a ticket? Gross.
Muhammad Ali lost the lottery, though he didn’t buy a ticket either. And he died yesterday.
“The Greatest” once said, “The Service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
Us white dudes inherited a Greenwich village penthouse stocked with decades of free food. We should pay hefty rent.
I want to contribute more rent. But most Americans think rent is paid in hours suffering, usually sitting at a desk, producing little, hating life.
When I lived in Copenhagen, people would take off work to drink beer with friends by the bridge most days the weather was nice. Guilt-free. Their median income is higher than the US’s, and they’re consistently rated the happiest country on Earth.
Whatever. I’m not talking politics.
My point is, you can make an impact without tethering yourself to a desk 24-hours a day. Hence why I don’t feel guilty joining Remote Year.
Ali was born with a mountain to climb. He had to suffer to get to the peak, where he could contribute.
I was born atop the mountain. You were probably born close. I’m lucky and grateful.
Ali’s suffering was noble and magnified his impact.
A white dude’s struggle is useless. Unnecessary suffering, like staying in a dead-end job, isn’t noble or inspiring. All it does is kill you so you can’t contribute and pay your rent.
If you ever see me complain, punch me in the penis. This took me hours and you’ll forget it tomorrow. Fuck my life!
It breaks my heart when I see lottery winners unhappy. They’ve been bred since birth to be cogs in a machine. It’s unnecessary bullshit. Work hard and you’ll be successful. Sure. But real work isn’t measured in hours suffering. It’s measured in output that has an impact on people.
But that doesn’t mean everyone has to be Gandhi.
I have a friend in Africa right now helping people get clean water. She’s paying more rent than me and it’s inspiring. Maybe I’ll do something like that one day.
But it’s not for me right now. I’m weak. But right this moment, this self-indulgent blog post is my rent. It will make me a better writer, and less weak, and one day my words might help people. Or at least make them chuckle. What if I just wrote the word … pickletits?
I’m trying. Trajectory matters.
I’m not getting drunk by the bridge all day, or most days. But I am some days.
We can’t all move to Africa or be Muhammad Ali. But we can realize we’re at the top of the mountain and smile at each other.
Smiling at someone on the street is equivalent rent to smiling at someone on the street with an 80-pound vest on your back. Take a load off. You’re luckier than almost anyone ever born.
Or maybe I’m just trying to feel less guilty. It’s good to feel guilty. It makes me want to make a dent. I’m 24 and dumb.
Barack Obama says, “The rest of my time will be more productive if you give me my workout time.” Productive struggle is good. So is getting drunk by the bridge. You don’t have to earn the right to having a clear head.
If you won the lottery like me, you don’t have to struggle like Muhammad Ali. If you’re a lucky white dude like me, do things you want that don’t hurt people. Otherwise it’s like spending your lottery winnings on Jets season tickets.
I was born a Jets fan.
On night one of Remote Year, four dudes whose new accommodation was a bit far from the rest claimed they had a pool. Word spread fast. Pool party next week, they said.
The Czech Republic doesn’t do air conditioning, dryers, or limiting secondhand smoke to less than a carton a day. Pool? Unlikely.
There’s actually no Czech word for “amenities.”
We walked into a random courtyard that looked like a parking lot.
There were two unfiltered Czech pilsner kegs. Champagne, liquor, and full DJ equipment they rented.
…and two inflatable kiddie pools with Disney characters on them.
Odds are, in a group of 75 people who want to travel the world while working, there will be two of everything. We have two INSANE DJs.
A car parked in the courtyard. Turns out, it was a parking lot. For the Czech Republic’s Apple Headquarters (Steve Jobs, not Granny Smith).
We danced like we were on a boat and after three hours the Czech police came. We had a translator, fortunately. The dudes gave a Czech couple champagne when they passed through, and they stayed and gave us beer and translated and saved us from the cops.
“Keep it down.” We did. Until one final banger.
The pool had been a lie. Yet the parking-lot Disney-kiddie-pool party was easily the best dance party in Prague this year.
I met a hilarious Brazilian guy at a hostel in Frankfurt. At a table of eight strangers, his ridiculous jokes brought us from awkward to bonding.
A girl asked him, “how do you come up with this shit?” as we riffed on nipple-twisting and Brazil-nut puns. Brazil nuts are the biggest of the tasty nuts.
“I just say stuff and figure out if it makes sense later,” he laughed.
There is a Czech word for amenities. It’s vybavení.
Say and do things without knowing where they’ll go. Needing certainty leads to a linear, boring, dead life.
Say you’re having a pool party and figure out the pool later.
I’m on Remote Year, where 75 remote workers and I will live and work in 12 cities in 12 months around the world.
Friends and family keep saying I’m “brave” for going to strange cities with strangers.
I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m not “brave.”
I was afraid of ketchup when I was a kid. I would literally convulse when a Heinz bottle was within a few inches of me. I didn’t travel abroad until I was 20, and I had nightmares about how I’d get murdered by drug-dealing, ax-wielding, sexual-healing Danish mafiamen, or something. I didn’t know. I was just convinced I’d die because I was going to the big, bad, “abroad.” Not-America will kill you, TV had taught me.
I was going to Copenhagen, one of the world’s happiest, friendliest, cleanest cities, where everyone speaks English.
Danish people are too happy to kill you, it turned out. It was safer than home.
I’ve always been scared of everything. But at some point in my life, I realized:
1) If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
2) You can’t grow without a stimulus.
Ergo ipso facto untoheretoforthwith, you’ll start dying if you don’t seek out stimuli. If you’re not changing something in your life, you’re dying.
The specific effect of the stimulus is always unknown. All you know is that you’ll grow. You don’t know how. But that’s all you need.
People think traveling with strangers is “brave” because the specifics are unknown. Who exactly will I be friends with? How many people will I like? Etc. etc. etc.
But what’s the alternative?
I don’t know much, but it seems irrational to choose death.
I’m not brave. I’m rational.
You don’t have to travel to grow. You just have to change something. Job. Hobby. Relationship.
When you start working out and put five more pounds on the bench press every week, is that “brave?”
No, it’s logical so you can grow big pecs, bro.
When you graduate college and fill out your first job application, is that “brave?”
No, it’s logical so you can make dem bills, yo.
When you tell your ex to go fuck herself because she cheated on you, is that “brave?”
No, it’s logical so you can stop having a shitty girlfriend.
You don’t know exactly how any of those things will turn out. You might not lift the weight, get the job, or your ex might stab you.
I’m going to grow personally and professionally and have fun. How is that “brave?” “Brave” is risking your life to help people. I’m just trying to live a good life.
I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s just a mindset. Convince yourself you have to grow or you’ll die, and people will call you “brave.”
I’m not “brave” for going on Remote Year. I just don’t want to revert back to being a person who’s convinced he’ll die if he touches ketchup.
I was taking an Uber to a place called Mr. Hot Dog in Prague, and as I forecasted farts, the driver pointed to the right as he waited to turn.
I didn’t see a bar. There was an older woman smoking a cigarette. 50-ish blonde.
He was smiling and pointing at this lady. Is this lady made of alcohol? I bet she’d be good with tonic. That doesn’t make sense.
I hate when someone is trying to connect with you, yet you can’t understand. Smiling and nodding defeats the point of communication. And doesn’t work.
I smiled and nodded. He waved his hands, smiling, frustrated. “ALCOHOL! ALCOHOL!” He pointed and pointed at Czech Street Lady.
“ALCOHOL … IC!” The driver lost his shit, laughing.
I noticed the woman was stumbling. She did, I supposed, look like an alcoholic.
Ah, Driverbro Marek was trying to bond by making fun of this poor, possibly alcoholic woman! He was late-60s-ish.
I gave him five fake laughs. And five real stars.
I’m not sure what the point of this story is. Let old(er) people have their laughs.
At Passover dinner this year, my normally sweet Great Aunt and Uncle, 90-ish years old, surprised me.
Unprompted: “You know, this is the worst year to apply for college if you’re white.”
You know, this is the worst year to say dumb things if you’re a racist at Passover. Because now I have a blog.
Re: Decreased police presence in NYC, or something. “The minorities, that’s what they want. Their views are taking over.”
Like when that darn Jewish minority’s view of stopping genocide took over.
“WHO WAS THE FAGGOT IN THE FAMILY? THE FAGGOT! THE FAGGOT! YOU KNOW, THE FUCKING FAGGOT!”
I texted my sister and told her next year I’d have a girlfriend so I could swap with her boyfriend and we could proclaim, smiling, that we were both the faggots.
When the Trump praise started flowing, my Uncle, fuming, expressed the obvious fact that “BERNIE SANDERS IS MORE ANTI-SEMITIC THAN ADOLF HITLER!”
I love old people. Sometimes I will just let them be. Some opinions are best left alone. Arguing is futile.
You can’t teach an old Jewish dog he’s a minority too.
I had been deathly sick for the first three days of my six-day trip to Iceland, so I sat in my stiff hostel bed, shivering in 70-degree weather, unable to sleep. JUST SHUT OFF, BRAIN, YOU INCOMPETENT FUCK! It must have been too smart to listen.
Then I woke up to an obnoxious scream. A 40-ish-year-old bald, rugged hiker-looking man (why are you in an 8-bed hostel room?) craned his head from the top bunk to get in my trembling face.
“YOU’RE SO LOUD! FUCK YOU! STOP!” Ironic volume.
I was so stuffed I couldn’t breathe through my nose, so I imagine I was snoring like tits.
I guess I had fallen asleep.
I had never punched anyone before. I had never wanted to punch a bald cocksucker before.
I think I didn’t do it because my brain was working too slowly to process. I took a breath. “Sorry.” I got up, took the book next to me, and went to the lobby couch to stare at the same page for an hour, “reading.”
I wondered if I should have punched the bald cocksucker. Did he know how shitty I felt? I had finally fallen asleep. Fuck him! Being in Iceland for fun sucks!
A nice female roommate walked out and assured me I wasn’t going insane. “That guy was fucking insane.”
I love everyone. Most people are nice. I feel bad for the mean ones. That scream seemed to deplete the poor man.
The next day I could breathe a sliver through my nose and dragged myself, alone, to Þingvellir National park. It was pretty and fun.
That guy was probably angry and sad. Who cares. I found out he was from New York. Of course he was from New York. I’m from New York. Of course I’m from New York?
We were playing a game in improv class, and I drew the card, “70s British punk.” I was a 24-year old American who isn’t very knowledgeable about music nor very confident in improv.
Do I even know what punk is? I thought, as I realized 12 people and my two intimidating instructors were staring at me. It was my line. Now.
Once you think in improv, it’s too late. I blurted out, correctly, whatever popped into my head. “We haven’t sold out a show in years,” I said in a fake-British-accent that was so godawful it sounded more like “Ve achint sold out show in yeuz!” I went for accurate British, came out with very bad German.
It was actually a great initiating line, giving the scene lots of potential, and as long as you stick with your bad accent, it’s not a big deal. But people laughed, I panicked, and immediately retreated from my choice. The only rule is to not do that.
My partner went with it. I started freaking out. “Maybe we should try switching our accents in our concerts!” And then our scene devolved into me sweating and coming up with horrible band names in different accents, all horrible. “We could call selves Beatlesov.” I said in Russian accent. “And maybe we should play air guitar instead of real guitar!” I started playing air guitar as my partner reluctantly played air drums.
It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t funny.
“That was a train wreck,” my instructor said accurately.
And then we had class for another 1 hour, 45 minutes, and I did fairly well.
In improv, they teach you that scenes are like toilet paper. They’re immediately flushed down the toilet when used, and if you obsess over any particular one, you’re insane.
Most people don’t write often because they think anything imperfect is impublishable.
If you don’t use any toilet paper, you’ll stink (at writing).
This blog will be my toilet paper display art.