I remember the first time I came across the idea of living with style, of making yourself a character in the novel of your life, of transforming your life into a form of expression and pushing it to the wildest edge of edges until it enters the realm of magic.

It was back in my skateboarding days, high school. Ah, that wonderful time that only comes once in life, when your body is a different size and shape every day (in my case mostly just farther from the ground each day), when your skin is basically just a few small patches between pimples. Anyway, skateboarding was the thing that got me through those days. When I wasn’t skating I was watching skate videos, playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, or reading issues of Transworld and Thrasher from cover to cover over and over again.

It was in the January 2002 issue of Transworld that I first came upon the idea of PFO, in an article by Ron Whaley. I’ve been thinking about the article for years, but only just today was able to find it through EBSCOhost. I know, I’m a nerd. I never thought I’d see this article again but I found it!

Anyway, here’s the excerpt from the article about PFO:

“It’s an important aspect of everyday life. It’s an individual style preference. It reflects who and how you are. It’s what you sport, what you rock, and what you floss. It’s the personal flair option (PFO).

In America, the PFO can be a Tasmanian Devil tattoo, a mullet, or a Ford Taurus with a spoiler, whereas Euro flair might involve espresso, cigarettes, and a scooter. No matter what your flair may be, if you’re feelin’ it, stick with it–even if they laugh at you.”

I had a few PFO attempts in those days… Remember those pants that zip off at the knee to become shorts? I had a khaki pair, a green pair, and an orange pair. Well, one time I zipped them all apart and made a pair of orange pants that had one green leg and one khaki. They were hideous. My mom was proud of me and took a picture. No one will ever see it.

Then there was the period where I wore one red Chuck Taylor and one green. I think a lot about colors and what they represent and the opposing colors were symbolic for me at the time. I was known on my college campus as “the kid with Christmas shoes.” I didn’t think it made me cool or special, I just felt like it made me, me. It gave me some piece of myself to cling to in a time in my life when I felt like I was being trained to get a job, go to school, get a better job, plan for retirement and then retire only to run out of retirement money, and all of that ultimately just to die. That’s life, even young skater me knew that, but he wasn’t going down without as much PFO as possible.

Whatever PFO is, it’s a way of defining yourself, of making yourself into both your ultimate-self and more than yourself. A canvas for expression and some small part of the Universe that stands out in our corner of strip malls and McMansions. PFO is a PFU to consumerism and conformity. Maybe that’s why the article resonated so much with young skater me…


Go Americanada!

I’m not a big sports fan, but I always get swept up in the excitement of the olympics! It’s nice to see the world gathering together for something other than global war. It’s a great chance for the countries of the world to get together and show their national pride.

This year’s olympics are special for me because these will be the first olympic games I haven’t watched from the US. Who do I root for? Go Canadamerica! Go North America!

It’s facinating to see people training their bodies to the point where they become a machine designed for a purpose: to jump off of a diving board, to balance on a beam, to run really really fast. I suppose that’s really true of any professional athelete, but these are the world’s best. They have to control what comes into their body, what happens to their body every moment, and then the real training begins. This means they have to control with precision how they eat, how they sleep, how they train, and every other little detail that most of us don’t even think about. Every waking moment is focused on one task. On one hand it’s beautiful and awe inspiring. Isn’t this level of dedication and all-consuming love for something what pushes life to the wildest edge of edges? Isn’t that what pushes it to the realm of art? What makes life beautiful and amazing and worth living?

Yes, but I also can’t help but feel sorry for these people. They are comodities, everything they do is structured and scheduled. They are meant to perform a task, to represent a sport and a country, to be a poster child for success in the face of adversity and poverty, not to enjoy each day or relax and enjoy a quiet moment as the sun illuminates a butterfly’s wings. Billions of people around the world watch these people perform on their TVs, wonder what it’s like to be them, wishing to be them. But I’m sure these atheletes look at the cameras and wish they were at home with their loved ones, relaxing, enjoying watching the events, and then going on with their lives.

Most people see this:

And think: “Wow, he’s such an awesome swimmer!” or  “With The American Dream you can achieve anything!”

I see it and think: “It’s so sad that Michael Phelps is a robot instead of a person.”

Well, In any case, I admire the atheletes as much as the next guy or gal. It’s amazing what the human body is capable when pushed to the wildest edge of edges. And the most amazing part is that people push themselves to discover the limits of the human body, and then someone else pushes farther, and someone esle comes along and pushes it even farther time and time again! Amazing!

Remember: No matter how close to the edge you get, you can always push just a little farther without falling.

And those are my opening thoughts on the summer games.

Go Canadamerica!

The Wildest Edges

I’ve been trying to figure out a background that works with this blog, and in doing so have found a lot of great pictures of some of the “Wildest Edges” I’ve been to. I thought it would be cool to post some of them here. And if you have pictures of some of the “Wildest Edges” you’ve been to, feel free to send them and I’ll put them up as well!


I’m a bit of a coffee snob, I’ll admit it. I’ll drink most any coffee, but after working as a barista a couple years ago, I learned what fresh coffee tastes like and that most coffee you buy in a coffee shop is not so fresh. So when I moved to Winnipeg, the first thing I did was look for coffee shops to write in. I was a little wary because there are a lot of nasty coffee shops in the DC area, my least favorite being Caribou Coffee. Their coffee is like dirt with water on it. Not even smooth like mud. Just dirt with water. And sometimes the dirt-like coffee grounds float up to the surface…I can’t talk about it anymore.

I was wary of finding another Caribou, and finding really quality coffee up north, but I’ve been really impressed. Canadians like good coffee it seems, and I haven’t had anything nearly as bad as Caribou. In fact, the worst I’ve had is Starbucks, which is at least consistent. My favorite shops so far are Urban Forest in the historic Exchange District, and The Fyxx in the newer downtown area. Both have good coffee, free wifi, and a good atmosphere for writing (tables, coffee, chairs).

When I started researching coffee shops in Winnipeg (that’s right researching – I told you I’m serious about coffee) I kept hearing about a place called The Parlour. Every website, magazine and person said it was the best coffee in Winnipeg. I knew I had to go there on my search for the perfect coffee hangout in Winnipeg, but for some reason I didn’t go until today.

When I got to The Parlour I couldn’t really see what was awaiting me because there was a glare on the window. I didn’t really have expectations other than good coffee, but I was surprised to see how small the space was once I got inside. There was a coffee bar just big enough for three baristas to stand behind, and then a bar area by the window and another along the wall. But what really struck me was that the menu painted on the wall only contained 7 items. Just your basic coffee drinks and tea. I respect places with small menus, it means they are focused on what they do and want to do it well. It was what was written under the menu that surprised me:

No wifi. Talk to you neighbor. (or something like that)

I shrugged and ordered an espresso, which I was told could not be served “to go”. I didn’t ask for it to go, but ok, I understand it’s meant to be sipped quickly. No wifi seemed a bit odd in the modern day, but I can work without wifi, as long as I have my laptop, or even a notebook. But as I looked around I realized that even if a seat was available (which it wasn’t. The place was packed with people “talking to their neighbors”) There wasn’t much space for a laptop and the setting was much too fast paced to write in anyway. It has the feeling of one of those New York style hot dog joints where you grab your food and go.

So I ruled out The Parlour as a writing location as I waited for my espresso. As I watched the baristas pulling shots of espresso, I thought about the no wifi thing. Internet is a distraction from writing anyway what with facebook updates, email, and the temptation to fact check every little detail. I sipped the espresso (a bit bright for my taste, but still very good, and above all, fresh) and walked to Urban Forest, pulled out my laptop (after ordering a drink of course), turned off my wifi, and started revising that pesky story-within-a-story.

I know that turning off my wifi isn’t some big revelation in discipline and fighting off the inevitable robot army of the future that is modern technology, but it was a nice little reminder for me today to stay focused on my work and to stop and take time to smell the coffee beans.

Catching the Express Train from Point A to Point B

My sister has a really cool blog called Writer.Mom where she writes about motherhood and writing and the many connections she finds between the two. I haven’t been inspired to blog in forever, and her blog got me thinking that I should do sort of an homage post to get back into it. I’m not a mother, but I think day to day life has connections to writing no matter your place in life.

I’ve been thinking about this because writing is always sort of a cathartic, fulflilling act for me. It always makes me feel productive, excited, and relaxed.

Today it didn’t. I’m working on a novel that is to be my thesis for a master’s degree. I got through the first draft ok and have been spending the summer doing research and figuring out how I want to shape the novel in the second draft. I’ve gotten started on the prologue, which includes a story within a story.

The first few pages went well, but today I was working on the story within the story and nothing was working. I moved parts, I cut parts, I added parts and it just seemed to get more and more cluttered no matter what I did. I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t stop because I can never stop until I figure out how to smooth things out. But nothing was working and there was no fix in sight.

Normally when something doesn’t work I try something completely different. But I’ve tried many approaches and now I know that this is the beginning of the novel. The novel depends on this story to set the tone, the world of the novel, the characters, everything. I couldn’t give up on it because everything that comes after it depends upon it.

And then I realized that the reason the story felt cluttered no matter what I did was because, guess what? It was cluttered with too much information. Surprise! I struggle with short stories and always tend to give my plots too much room to breathe, and I was doing it again. That’s why I’m working on a novel now. I never expected to struggle with keeping things brief in a novel, but that is exactly what I realized I needed to do.

When I began rewriting I was excited to include all of my research, but it just felt clunky. So I realized that the story within the story needed to lead from point A to point B quickly to advance the overall plot of the novel. I love to make things complicated, and I was doing that with the two page story within the story. It had subplots, the subplots had subplots, and the central conflict was the result of multiple dilemmas. It was just too complicated.

So I cut out the complications, figured out how A led to B, and then tied it all up. It’s not perfect, but it’s something I feel comfortable enough with now to revise tomorrow and then move on from there.

And how does art imitate life in this situtation? Well, it’s simple: Keep it simple. Keep it concise and clear.

I’ve always been more thoughtful than emotional and I’ve been trying to learn to follow my heart over the past few years. Recently my heart led me to quit my job and move to Canada. Now my life is split between countries, I’m looking for a job, and my future seems both limitless and impossible. I need to learn from my writing frustration which is probably mirroring my real life frustration of being unemployed and making a new beginning from scratch. I need to keep things simple. To focus on one thing at a time and be at peace with the fact that sometimes it’s better if point A goes directly to point B with no deviations in between.