Building (and Burning) Bridges

Portland, Oregon, has a TON of bridges that span the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, unsurprisingly earning Portland the official nickname of “Bridgetown.” As the Willamette divides Portland down the middle, starting at the top, there’s the St. Johns Bridge, Fremont Bridge, Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Burnside Bridge, Morrison Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge, Marquam Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Ross Island Bridge, and the Sellwood Bridge way down at the bottom. So, with my car packed up full of my belongings (again), I departed Portland thinking about all bridges in my life…

The very first bridge in Portland was the original Morrison Bridge, built in 1887, also happened to be the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was an architectural marvel, finally allowing people and horse-drawn buggies alike to pass over the Willamette. It was originally a toll bridge, but the toll was dropped in 1895. The Morrison Bridge has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent redesign was in 1958.

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St. Johns Bridge, Portland, OR.

My favorite is the beautiful blue St. Johns Bridge, where you’re 205 feet off the water!

Bridges physically connect two locations that would otherwise be unconnected (or too cumbersome for success), bonding the “places” (not just the physical locations, but the inhabitants and spirit) together through building and exchange of a bridge. Goods, people, whatever. We all know this. Bridges are cool. But if you really dig down on the friendship-bridge metaphor, it is both inspiring and painfully honest.tumblr_nvrmk9sId81rt7qgbo1_500
It takes a lot of energy to build a bridge, and equal energy to maintain it. Both sides of the bridge benefit from the connection, some more than others at times.  If the tedious, general upkeep is not maintained (the check-ins and touch-ups), even a well-built, and well-traveled, bridge can break down over time. Here it comes… the same is true with our friendships.

I love Portland, and I had a great time living there. I made some amazing connections, friends I’ll keep for the rest of my life. But what about those people that didn’t become my best friends? What about the people that wronged me? And perhaps more introspectively, how do we address the relationships that have grown to become imbalanced? How do we build the right bridge?

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Tower Bridge, London. (Not in Portland)

There are so many quotes about burning bridges, I chose not to include one in this post, simply because we all get the metaphor by now. We like burning bridges because it’s an instant satisfaction, exciting, energy-filled exchange where you hope the end result will be complete and total destruction of your enemy and there’ll be exclamations in of worldwide vindication that in the end, they were wrong and you were right! And we all know, it rarely (if ever) ends like that. Instead, you’re emotionally drained, somewhat ashamed, slightly confused, and the ripples of your outburst will continue to echo outward, essentially ruining your reputation behind you (i.e. burning other bridges)… Not so cool now, huh?
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But old bridges aren’t actually burned. Not even old wood ones. Bridges, when they’re decommissioned, are for the most part disassembled. The bridges are stripped down to the bare bones before destruction. Many pieces will be salvaged, reused, repurposed, into other objects in our everyday lives. What if we applied that principle to “decommissioning” our bridges?

What if, rather than exploding at that friend that never returns your phone calls or text messages, you simply, gently, emotionally disassemble that bridge, piece by piece, and put that energy into other facets, other friendships, other bridges?tumblr_nnszn1e0ZY1rt7qgbo1_500
The need for connections is a symptom of the digital landscape we’re currently creating. The idea that things can be connected is being celebrated. The belief that everything should be connected is, in my opinion, sometimes needless and counterproductive. Some bridges just don’t need to exist, and that’s okay. We are not only defined by who we choose to associate with, but also who choose not to associate with.

Some bridges should not exist. You don’t need to be “friends” with that guy that never calls you back. You don’t need to be “friends” with the owner of the company that fired you. You don’t need to be “friends” with that roommate that you really didn’t like. The truth is, those were never large, sturdy bridges to begin with. They were footpaths. A dangling line across a chasm. It served it’s purpose when you needed it, but it isn’t intended to last the rest of your life. These bridges are okay to let go.

I’ll be honest, I wanted to burn bridges. SO BADLY. Ultimately, I just let them be. There’s was little fire. Maybe we’ll cross over them again sometime in the future, or maybe they will fall into the relentless river of time and life. I valued them, but I can’t look back at the bridge and wonder if it will make it, I’ve got to keep moving forward, over the bridge.IMG_1007The bridges that we should be spending most of our energy on are the bridges to the future. What are we doing today that will connect us, in a positive way, to where we want to be in the future? What kind of incremental bit of progress, which plank can I add today, to get me one step closer to the other side, where I ultimately want to be? And who can I connect with, work with, support, and partner with, where we can achieve our goals together?
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For me, that’s filmmaking, and that’s not going to happen in Portland, Oregon. And despite all the reasons to stay (Fall in Portland is the best, the solar eclipse, Crater Lake, etc.), I have to build on my 15 years of screenwriting and put it all into action, to finish building that bridge, with a complete move to Los Angeles.

So yesterday, I loaded up my car with every item I own (for the sixth time in just over two years), said goodbye to Portland, and I’m currently on my migration South.
(Bonus drive over the Bay Bridge!)tumblr_n25hg1eshy1rt7qgbo1_500

I’ll see you in Los Angeles!

CHE

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Photo Set: Northern Ireland

The trip to Northern Ireland was by far the most important part of my trip. I was going to meet a “new” friend, someone I’d written about extensively over the last five months, to interview him and speak with him about the project. This is what I love about writing! 
Our adventure started at Waterloo Station…

Northern Ireland is picturesque, with rolling green hills of farmland and trees. It is a place of tradition, simple needs, and simple wants. Life on the family farm. Animals.IMG_1445  This is the cottage my friend Colm built, by hand, on his family’s land, which he can trace back thousands of years.… and these are his cows!The first night he took us to Brysons for dinner and a couple of pints (of Guinness, naturally). He’s well known around there, and rightfully so, he’s been going to that same bar for over 30 years!After a morning spent working, we decided to break for the afternoon and do a little exploring around Northern Ireland. We had a couple destinations on our list, but we were up for the adventure! Colm told us some great history about the places we visited!
This is the Northern Coast!
As a Game of Thrones nerd, Matt absolutely had to see The Dark Hedges!We also checked out Dunluce Castle!The last night was really special though, when Colm took us to The Crosskeys, a bar that’s been operating since 1654. Yes, 1654. The history there is never-ending, and there’s even a ghost that haunts the bar! We stayed late (like 3 AM), long after the bar had closed, drinking Guinness and singing songs with the a group of guys and the owner. It was one of those nights when I was given a rare opportunity to get a peek inside someone’s idyllic life, and it felt like a scene from a musical. Despite the downsides, and Colm’s had many, his life is rather wonderful.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early on Sunday, but spending the weekend with Colm was an experience I’ll never forget. Until next time, he’ll just be “going with the flow.”
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BONUS: In the picture below, I am holding an actual comm, a letter written on cigarette paper and smuggled out of Long Kesh Prison in the early 1980’s. These tiny pieces of history were integral in spreading the horrors of what happened inside those walls.

This finishes my European trip! Relive the beauty, starting back at Photo Set: Love in the South of France!

Photo Set: London and Rochester, England

I’d had about as much romance as I could handle, so it was finally time to say goodbye to France and move onto the next destination. I hopped on the high-speed train from Paris to London, under the English Channel.IMG_1146
It was a really cool experience, and apparently super efficient, which made me question why we don’t have these high-speed trains in the United States. Commuting around California would be so much easier!
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My time in London was going to be primarily spent writing and researching, but I did manage to get out and see a few things. The first night I spent with my cousin, then joined my friend in Waterloo for the week. It was go time!
Naturally, I checked out the London Eye and Big Ben because they were so close by!IMG_1190IMG_1194IMG_1239
Here’s a segment of the World War II memorial. I couldn’t possibly capture it all.IMG_1223
And Big Ben! IMG_1225
This is a Marriot hotel now, but for 64 years, this building was the London County Hall!IMG_1237Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican businesswoman known for setting up the “British Hotel,” a pseudo-hospital for sick and convalescent soldiers during the Crimean War. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton.IMG_1690
I ran into a friend in a tiny bar (small world right?) and she invited us to join her and her friends for their Fourth of July festivities, on the lawn by Tower Bridge. We may have been on the other side of the pond, but we held it down for ‘Murca. Shotgun!IMG_1292
The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment… naturally.IMG_1300
One of my favorite little gems in London is The Graffiti Cave and The Vaults Theatre, by Waterloo Station. If you’re into street art, this is the place to check out! The entrance is relatively unassuming, reeking of danger and “Do Not Enter,” but we all know that’s where the best stuff is normally hiding…
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It’s an entire tunnel covered in graffiti, top to bottom. It’s unbelievable! So colorful!IMG_1305IMG_1312
This is a shot of the ceiling! Anybody know the artist?IMG_1313
… if so, let’s get on a conference call! (That was a joke about the four phone booths.)IMG_1333
It turns out, a friend of mine from my days in Australia lived just outside London in Rochester, so I took a day to go see her and explore Rochester. It’s a really cool city! And look, another awesome castle!
IMG_1345The Rochester Castle was built in 1087 to protect England’s south–east coast from invasion.IMG_1591IMG_1360
And this beautiful church!
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Charles Dickens lived in Rochester, and is said to haunt the moat on Christmas Eve.IMG_1372

As a first-time American traveler in Europe, I was enamored at the age (old) and resilience of the buildings and castles. There’s so much history in Europe, it’s like America is brand new!

I took the train back to London late on Thursday night, because we had to be up and out early on Friday. The sole reason for my trip, the research, the history, was the next destination on my trip… Northern Ireland.

CHE

Did you see the other photo sets? Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-MichelPhoto Set: Normandy and Cancale, and Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

Photo Set: Dinan and Paris

We left Saint-Malo and headed toward Paris, not without making a pitstop in Dinan, a beautiful old village along the way. Gorgeous old architecture, and beautiful views!IMG_0887IMG_0919IMG_0909IMG_0938IMG_0898IMG_0896We arrived in Paris at the perfect time, rush hour… which also happened to be happy hour! I booked a bed in the Generator Hostel, located not too far from where Graham and Kate were staying, so after taking this picture from their window, I kissed them goodbye and headed toward my hostel.IMG_0965IMG_0974IMG_0986IMG_0991I only had one day in Paris, and as I wandered around one of the most romantic cities in the world, I was making a list of the places I wanted to see in Paris… when I come back with someone I love. (Yeah, that’s sappy, whatever! It’s my trip!)IMG_0995IMG_1059Accordingly, I spent most of my day at the Eiffel Tower, eating a baguette, drinking Rose, smoking cigarettes (sorry, mom!), and writing in my journal. It was so quintessentially perfect that I couldn’t possibly not, you know what I mean?IMG_1062I also made this cool time-lapse!ezgif.com-optimize
My last night in Paris could have been a quiet one, if everything had gone to plan. As I was heading up to the rooftop bar to watch the sunset, I ran into a group of young travelers from Southern California. We chatted, drank, played foozball, then headed out to Bastille for dancing. This is the last clear picture I took that night.IMG_1140.jpgThe last morning in Paris, I checked out, and walked along the river (trying not to throw up from a vicious hangover), heading to the train station…IMG_1114IMG_1123
My trip to Paris was far too short, but I definitely have a list of things I need to come back to see. What’s the old phrase, “Always leave them wanting more?” Well I want more Paris, that’s for sure.
But now, the adventure must continue, I was about to jump on a train to London!

BONUS: Is it just me, or is this Space Invader?
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Check out my other photo sets from France! Photo Set: Love in the South of FrancePhoto Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled CityPhoto Set: Mont Saint-Michel, and Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale.

Photo Set: Normandy and Cancale

It was a rainy day. We’re talking, big, fat, ugly drops. We debated the game plan…
“We’ve come this far, I would remiss if we came all this way and I didn’t go to the Cemetery at Normandy.” Graham said, matter-of-factly. “They didn’t exactly call off the invasion because of rain either.”
He was right, of course. So we loaded into the car and drove the two hours to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. When we finally arrived, it was apparent this was not intended to be an enjoyable experience. It was meant to change your perspective on a pivotal moment in world history. New appreciation. Gratitude. Respect.I didn’t take many pictures of the museum, you should really go see it yourself if you can, but some images were just too powerful not to capture…
The memorial, established June 8, 1944, features this beautiful, 22-foot tall bronze statue titled The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves There are 9,387 Americans interred here, most killed during the Normandy invasion and the ensuing battles of World War II…
… many are still unknown. The mosaic ceiling inside the chapel at the cemetery, depicts faith in a time of war.IMG_0745The weather finally got to us, so we sloshed our way back to the car and made our way home, with a dinner pitstop in Cancale, famously known as the “oyster capital” of France. And let me tell you, they weren’t kidding!IMG_0757
The small town is nearly overrun by restaurants, close to all of which specialize in some kind of seafood… and oysters. It’s no surprise when you hear that Cancale harvests roughly 25,000 tons of oysters every year!IMG_0760IMG_0772By the time we finished our amazing (and cheap) dinner, the rain had finally let up, so we spent the last remaining daylight at the beach (before the tide came up) and on the pier in Cancale. Special.IMG_0781IMG_0795It was the perfect way to spend our last night as a group together.
Tomorrow the group would be splitting ways, most returning home to the states.
But me? My European trip was only halfway done…
IMG_0799… next I was heading to Paris.
CHE

Catch up on the trip! Love in the South of FranceSaint-Malo, The Walled City, and Mont Saint-Michel!

Photo Set: Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located approximately a kilometer off the Normandy coast of France, and it looks like a goddamn fairy tale. (It is, nearly, a fairy tale, as the city was the inspiration for the Disney film Tangled.)IMG_0399Part monastery, part fort, part village, Mont Saint-Michel is designed to mirror the feudal system, with the monastery at the top, the village at the bottom, and there were allegedly houses outside the walls for farmers and fisherman.IMG_0407We arrived in the afternoon so the tide was still low, allowing you to walk around the outside of the walls (if you so desired). It was really rocky and muddy, so I decided to pass, but inside the walls is unbelievable… yep, that’s a drawbridge!IMG_0409Narrow, steep streets, lined with little shops, restaurants, and cafes.IMG_0412According to the legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on this rocky islet. From then on, it was referred to as Mont Saint-Michel.IMG_0418Saint Michael, considered an “archangel,” was not only a healer, but also a defender of the people, famously depicted slaying Satan in the form of a serpent. The Eagle represents Saint Michael himself, so there’s gorgeous gilded statues interlaced with the architecture. Here’s the Eagle head!IMG_0444IMG_0462Behold… the abbey! A destination for monks (and once used as a prison), the abbey is breathtaking, silent and still, a series of Gothic rooms and vaulted architecture. Since the island is somewhat small, and flat land is difficult to come by, the sacred space is divided into many rooms for their individual purposes!IMG_0467

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The dining hall had a beautiful overhanging installation of feathers, hanging over the middle of the room. It was easy to imagine the long tables of monks dining here.IMG_0496IMG_0512One of my favorite parts of Mont Saint-Michel is the giant tread-wheel, which required six workers to power the hamster-style wheel, allowing the monks to haul up thousands of pounds of stones and supplies from the landing below!

IMG_0533IMG_0521IMG_0575IMG_0473From the ramparts, you can see (intruders?) for miles! The tide’s starting to come in!IMG_0558IMG_0557The bridge to access the island was built in 2014, allowing later access to the island and helping with the tidal flow around the island. (See how the water came in?!)IMG_0607
Walking along the walls and ramparts, it’s hard not to feel a little romance, right?IMG_0632
Cemeteries in magical places like these are especially fascinating to me, when you consider the small population (under 50) that has lived here consistently over the generations, and those that have fallen here by chance, now remain forever.IMG_0657IMG_0660Mont Saint-Michel is by FAR one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to in my life, so I had to snap this panorama before I left, and I think it’s the best photo I got.IMG_0685And the trip continues! Where to next you ask? We take a somber, rainy trip, to the American Cemetery in Normandy.

CHE

Did you see the photos from Chateau de Bouthonvilliers and Saint-Malo, The Walled City? You gotta check them out!

Photo Set: Saint-Malo, The Walled City

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Saint-Malo, located in Brittany, Northwestern France, is a walled port city on the English Channel. A friend of mine read All The Light We Cannot See, which takes place in St. Malo, and convinced us to spend a few days there intra muros… inside the walls.

Saint-Malo, a port town, was historically notorious as the home of the corsairs, French privateers and pirates. Walking around the port, you can see why this little city has been so popular for so long.

Jacques Cartier, credited as the discoverer of Canada, hailed from Saint-Malo!

I was immediately enamored with the old cobbled stone streets, narrow and caked in history, with the intricate brick patterns guiding you down the city’s adorable streets and alleyways, where you could find boutiques, bakeries, and high-end jewelry shops.

In late 1944, General Patton’s US 3rd Army, advancing into western France, laid siege to Saint-Malo and it was only through a large scale bombardment that the last stubborn German defenders were dislodged. Accordingly, a majority of the city was destroyed… but they rebuilt, and it’s remarkable.

 

The tide plays a major role in the defensibility of the city. When the tide rises, the beaches disappear and accessibility is limited, or completely eliminated all together. This swimming pool is above ground at low tide, and the diving platform is completely under water at high tide.

The National Fort, built in 1689 is only accessible at low tide.

 

You can walk (almost) all the way around the entire city on the raised walls, looking outward or inward. There was a little bit of construction so a segment was blocked off, but we walked most of it!

Quality people watching going on up here!

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… and some delicious crepes. Check out that chocolate!IMG_0260Last, but certainly not least, I knew I would love Saint-Malo forever because their official mascot is an Ermine wearing a cape. Yes, you read that correctly, a weasel wearing a motherfuckin’ cape. Here’s a shot of their drain covers to prove it:Saint-Malo is definitely on my list of places to recommend to anyone traveling through Northwestern France. Really cool spot. Lots of history and gorgeous views.

Where to next? Mont Saint-Michel!

CHE

Did you see my photo post about Chateau de Bouthonvilliers?

Photo Set: Love in the South of France

Last month, I embarked on my first trip to Europe; a whirlwind of love, travel, work, and adventure. It was the trip of a lifetime, which would start in Paris, France, for a best friend’s nuptials. I connected with friends after landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport, cohorts heading to the truly destination wedding.

Our train was delayed, so why not catch a quick nap in the park by the Natural History Museum and the Botanical Gardens, right? Right.

In order to reach the chateau, we had to take two trains from Paris to Bonneval, where we were picked up at the train station and brought to the breathtaking Château de Bouthonvilliers. It is absolutely gorgeous.

IMG_9751IMG_9829IMG_9833IMG_9758The sprawling Chateau is complete with carriage house, chapel (with underground cave), swimming pool, and a one-acre garden! Oh yeah, did I mention there’s livestock, too? No big deal. (Side note: I wanted to kill the three roosters. Still do, as a matter of fact.)

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The caretaker, Edward, told us many stories about the Chateau, starting with the amazing fact that the property has been in his family for over 300 years! It was home to some very important historical figures, the location of some “secret world history,” and don’t forget about the high-ranking Nazi Officials that took over the chateau during World War II. (They fled when Patton came through.)

I wasn’t initially able to come to this wedding, and I was truly heartbroken about it, but something magical came up with regards to a project I’m working on, and I was going to be flying to Europe after all… so with some good graces and friendship, I was able to loop in the wedding after all! Best choice ever!

Back to the Chateau. Here’s the Carriage House! Those colored tiles around the edges are awards the property has won… I think?

I slept with some old friends out in the carriage house… which was also really fun! It’s like we were teenagers again, bunked up dorm room style! Now we’re just older, a little wiser, and drunk, right?

The little chapel had a “cave” (pronounced “cah-va”) underneath it…

… jam-packed with wine, champagne, beer, and foie gras. If you wanted something, you just picked out a bottle, wrote it down in the book (honor code!), and they’ll bill you for it later! Simple, and unmistakably dangerous.

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The bride and groom are some of my best friends in the world, and I was honored to be there with my other close friends, pitching in as we could to make it truly a dream day. The wedding was absolutely gorgeous (as expected) and I have no shame in admitting I openly wept at the sentimentality of the beautiful moment. Love is all you need!

First dance for the newlyweds!

I can’t remember what time the first dance was, but we didn’t stop tearing up that dance floor until 4 AM. (Special shoutout to the DJ for throwing on “Ignition Remix.”)

It was one hell of a wedding, you guys.

Bonus Adventures: One morning we took a quick trip into Bonneval for a little breakfast. It was an adorable little village!

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There was a “welcome party” thrown by the groom’s mother at another quaint country house nearby, located in France’s “bread basket,” the region where most of the wheat in the country is grown.

I mean, look at all those baguettes!

Where did we go next? Saint-Malo, the Walled City

CHE

Chase Bank, United Airlines: “Go Elsewhere.”

Seemingly arbitrary rules, regulations, and fees often make for a “less than desirable” customer experience, but the major needs in our lives (money, travel, etc.) are brokered by a handful of powerful conglomerates, and they could care less how your experience is. I don’t like writing posts like this, but my recent travel experiences left me truly bereft, so I felt the need to share.

Early last month, I learned that a dear friend of mine had died (very prematurely), so I needed to fly from Portland, Oregon to Santa Barbara, California, with just over a week’s notice. I was fully aware the prices were going to be high, but eventually I was able to find tickets that worked for all parties involved (including my ride from the airport). The only problem was, I didn’t have the money at the time to afford the ticket. My situation is not unique, as nearly 69% of Americans have less than $1000 to their name.

I was, however, fortunate enough to borrow $450 from my parents. My dad deposited the check into my Chase bank account on Saturday morning. Saturday is not considered a work day for the bank (I wasn’t born yesterday), so I was aware the check would not clear until Monday, despite the fact he has been depositing checks into that exact same Chase branch for nearly 15 years now. I saw no way around the delay, so I had no choice but to wait until Monday morning to purchase my airplane tickets, forced to deal with higher rates and now a scattered assortment of different flights from different carriers, pieced together by Google Flights. Now I’m starting on Delta, switching to United, and on the way back, hopping over to Alaska Airlines, but I guess that’s what you deserve for trying to travel, right?

On Monday morning the flights were gone, and the only available tickets that were left were way more expensive now, so I had to borrow another $100 from my family. By Monday evening, the Saturday check still had not cleared fully. I had more than enough money to purchase the ticket, but my “Available Balance” was less than the price of my ticket. Accordingly, Chase declined the purchase request from Google.

So I called the Customer Service line at Chase Bank and explained my situation. I explained the situation. The customer service representative agreed that I had the money, but due to federal regulations the check would need time to clear. I asked why it wasn’t cleared on Monday morning, since it’s been sitting there since Saturday. We went back and forth about the funds. I asked him to think outside the box to make this purchase happen, because each second that I can’t purchase these tickets, they’ll get more expensive. Again, that’s playing the game.

“I’ve worked in Customer Service before, and I can assure you this is one of those situations where you ask your manager for help in making this happen for me…” I nearly begged the guy on the phone, to which he responded,
“Don’t you think if there was a way to do this, we would have done it by now?” He responded. Wow.

While there is a “hold” on checks, there isn’t a hold on cash… as long as you’re a “certified depositer,” otherwise they won’t accept it because it could potentially be money laundering. How do you become a Chase certified depositer? By having a Chase bank account. My dad is not a member of Chase, undoubtedly because of situations like this one.

I called the local branch of Chase bank and spoke to the Manager, inquiring on how to get my father as a certified depositer. Again, I reinforced the fact that my father has been depositing checks into that bank account for over a decade, but nevertheless, it was fruitless. He could not deposit cash into my account. That’s when I dove into my situation with the bank manager, hoping I’d pull on his heartstrings enough to make something happen… and he did.

“Are you using overdraft protection?” He asked me. I looked into it, and he was right, I was. This gave Chase bank to authority to decline purchases for amounts greater than I have in my account. By turning off the overdraft protection, I could charge for whatever price I wanted (up to a certain limit I think), but I run the risk of accruing an “overdraft charge.” I turned off the overdraft protection, and just like that, the payment went through.

“Great!” The manager said, “Hopefully you don’t get an overdraft fee.”
“If I get an overdraft fee, I promise you I will be calling back tomorrow and somebody’s gonna hear about it.”

I’m a stewer. If I’m wronged in some way, I’m gonna stew on it for a little while. Looking down at the misinformed negative balance showing on my Chase bank account, I called back the Customer Service line and asked to speak with the same customer service representative I spoke to earlier. You remember, the “don’t you think we would have done it by now?” guy. Yeah, that dickhead.

Turns out the guy on the other end of the phone could not transfer me back, but told me he was a Manager and was interested in hearing my concern. Very well, then. I started at the beginning, told him about the hold, the first customer service call, the local bank manager’s advice, and now I was trying to get to the bottom of why I was treated the way I was when I called asking for help. I told him that if I was have my money with a local credit union, for example, they would have more than happy to make those concessions for me the first time I asked.

“Then maybe you should go elsewhere,” the manager responded.

Wait… what?

“Put yourself in our shoes. Your dad writes that $450 check and then his bank goes back on it, now you’re out $450.” This was a legitimate argument that was made to me, claiming that Chase Bank (market cap $234.2 billion) needed to protect itself against depositing a $450 check. Not to mention all the money is insured!

“I’m out $450 and Chase Bank goes under, right?” I chipped back.
“Of course not,” he responded.
“Exactly.”

Instead of making that money available at the time of the deposit, and letting Chase Bank and my father’s credit union figure it out between themselves, I am forced to wait three days before that money clears. This is, of course, a Federal Regulation geared to protect banks and not serve consumer needs. This policy absolutely must change. Chase Bank may be actively lobbying those in the government about changes to federal policy, but I’d bet my bottom dollar this isn’t the issue. Whatever they are doing, do you think it is in the best interest of my subsection of 69% of Americans?

I made it to Southern California. The service was beautiful, and as is the silver lining in these types of situations, it was nice to connect with old friends again. I had planned to be in the area the following weekend for my mom’s 70th birthday, so I was somewhat forced into working remotely that week (again, because I was unable to afford two sets of airplane tickets). A forced long vacation, starting off sour and ending off sweet… or so I was hoping.

In scheduling my return flights home, the cheapest tickets I could get involved a 14.5 hour layover in Los Angeles International Airport. Now, for those of you following along at home, driving from Ojai to Portland would take somewhere around 17 hours (including pitstops for peeing and gas). I left Ojai at 12PM on Sunday, arrived at the Santa Barbara airport at 1, my flight to LAX took off at 2:33 and landed at 3:17 PM. My flight to Portland would leave the following morning, Monday, at 6 AM, landing in Portland at 8:45 AM. Had I driven from Ojai to Portland, I would have arrived 4 hours earlier than my flights, but exhausted as hell. But that’s traveling, right?

As soon as I landed at LAX, I marched straight to the Alaska gate for the next flight to Portland, OR, and asked to be put on Standby for this flight and all Portland-bound flights on Alaska. The woman at the desk sent me across the round terminal to another desk, where the clerk informed me that Alaska has a $25 change fee, but only on the same calendar day. Since my flight wasn’t until 6 AM tomorrow, I didn’t qualify for standby. I would have had to pay the full $125 change fee + the change in ticket.

I had all but given up on getting home to Portland on Sunday night, so I retreated to the bar and made conversation with the other travelers. I was, of course, on the longest layover, but everyone around me believe the Alaska deal was for 12 hours, not necessarily the same calendar day. So I decided to call Alaska and inquire.

Turns out, Alaska’s same-day $25 change fee is based on the calendar day, not 12 hours. The problem was obvious: I’m here for 14.5 hours, and I’m on the first flight out the following morning. There were literally no flights before mine, and three flights out before the end of the day. This is a deliberate squeeze. The other problem was, even if I wanted to change my flight, I had purchased the tickets through United, so I had to change it through them.

So I called United and explained my situation, how I purchased the tickets on Google, I’m on a 14.5 hour layover, and that I was willing to pay for the change in airfare to get on an earlier flight. They told me there was nothing they could do since the ticket I’m looking to change is from Alaska, so he got the Alaska customer service on the line and transferred me (then hung up). Alaska, to United, back to Alaska. Guess what the Alaska representative said? “There’s nothing we can do since you bought your ticket through United.” The moral of this story is… don’t buy your tickets using Google Flights.

At that point, I marched across the terminal to the United wing, and found a clerk. I explained my situation and how I was hoping to get on any flight to Portland that night. She informed me I could get on the last flight of the day, 11:45 PM, for $289 (including the $200 change fee), which is more than half of what my original round trip tickets cost. I explained was willing to pay for the difference in airfare but I could not possibly pay the change fee (again, 69% of America!) to get on a plane 6 hours earlier that was going to have empty seats anyway. I’m not trying to take advantage of the system here, I’m standing in LAX at a counter! This should have been a simple change, but United refused to budge or even try to make it work for me. “Sorry, maybe you should fly with someone else next time.”

Y tu, Brute?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m gifted with a caring, generous family. At that point, my brother sensed my SOS (or my angry tweets) and he offered to come get me from LAX at 10 PM at night to let me crash on his couch (in Sherman Oaks), only to turn around the following morning and get me to the airport by 5 AM. My brother’s a rockstar, and I owe him a ton… especially for this late-night rescue. I made it home then turned around and headed straight to work on Monday morning.

Chase Bank and United Airlines don’t need my business, they’ll be just fine without me. They’d be fine without your business, too. They cannot afford to lose the high-value clients, the businesses and the billionaires, that fill their coffers every month. Don’t get me wrong, these companies love their lower income customers too, because they’ll get some extra money out of you with a plethora of fees that all add up, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it.

I have options, and I’m in the process of transitioning away from these companies. I can find a local credit union that will accept the direct deposits from my work and won’t charge me monthly fees. In the future I can fly a smaller, customer-centric airline with less amenities and no checked bag fees. I can shop at local grocery stores and local businesses, because in the end, I want to feel as though the company understands my needs and will do what they can to help me.

CHE

 

The A-Z of My 2016

I thought a creative way to retrospect on this past year was to create an A-Z “mega post” of my year, briefly touching on my experiences from Austin, Texas to Yoga, some of my favorite songs, and a handful of my ambitions and personality quirks.

As a disclaimer, I’ve included affiliate links to some of my favorite products. No biggie!

tumblr_o2se7xsh0q1rt7qgbo1_500A: Austin, Texas. I visited Austin in February for a business trip to attend the Mother Earth News Fair. We spent a few days in Austin, kicking around to multiple coffee shops (including the Tom’s flagship coffee shop) and unique bars (like the “secret” bar behind the bookshelf in a hostel) in search of the perfect Manhattan. I didn’t get to spend enough time there, but Austin, “I love you so much.”

B: Bees. Over this past year, I have been a vocal advocate for pollinators and honey bees. Their role in the ecosystem as a keystone species is unparalleled and there’s no doubt their existence is in danger. If you are interested in getting involved with beekeeping (it’s really not that hard!) I recommend checking out the good work over at Bee Thinking.

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-7-56-58-pmC: Card Games. I did a lot of “research” into card games this year, with a few of my favorites being Morels, One Hit Kill, and of course, Cards Against Humanity. Next year, Mystery Tin Games will be coming out with three games: Happy Hour!, a card version of the game “Hex,” and Robin Miller Presents Dinner’s Ready! Keep an eye out for Happy Hour! in February 2017! And if you haven’t already picked up Dinner’s Ready!, the healthy eating  card, you can get pick one up here! (Thank You!)

D: Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds. This year one of my best friends in the world, Graham Douds, got married to his beautiful fiancé, Kate. As a member of the bridal party, we traveled to Cabo San Lucas for a bachelors weekend and later, in September, they were married at a beautiful ceremony in the Napa Valley. I couldn’t be happier to be part of their special day and seeing the way they love each other is nothing short of inspiring. Cheers!

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Mr. and Mrs. Graham Douds

E: EDM. Yeah, yeah, go ahead. I’ll admit it, I listened to more than a little EDM this year, and I can’t say that I’m ashamed. I truly believe that there is nothing more human than dancing. There’s no “right way” to dance, just move your body however you want. Whether it was dancing at the splash stage at What The Festival, in the front row at the Crystal Ballroom, or in my car  on traffic, I can’t help but dance and smile. I’m not saying it’s the greatest music ever created, all I’m saying is that you should try it sometime.

F: Freelance. This year was my first official foray into freelancing on the website UpWork. Forbes believes that 50% of Americans will be freelancing in 2020, many outside of their day jobs. If you’ve ever been paid to do a job for somebody, i.e. your day job, that skill can now be made available to anyone on the planet. And you’d be amazed what people are looking to outsource. This year I mostly focused on writing jobs, including blogs and screenplay adaptations. In 2017, freelancing will take on a much bigger role in my life, including hiring some of my own freelance help.

G: Groceries (Fred Meyer). OMG. Have you ever been to a Fred Meyer? Holy shit. I mean, these places are amazing. It’s like a Safeway, Best Buy, and Target had a love child and while arguing over paternity they decided to name it the innocuous “Fred Meyer.” That’s Oh yeah, did I mention they offer gasoline, too? Whatever you’re looking for, chances are they’ve got it. It’s a one stop shop. Thanks for the hookup, Fred G. Meyer!

H- Hawthorne. For a majority of 2015 I lived and worked in the Hawthorne neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Despite the fact we were paying INSANE RENT for our apartment that was the size of an open matchbox, Hawthorne is an interesting neighborhood. Over the course of one block you can find a tattoo parlor, vintage clothing shop, get your haircut in an airstream trailer, fill your growler with kombucha, pick up some vinyl records, and get your bicycle tuned while getting an artisan coffee and a donut. While there’s no doubt the Hawthorne is the result of gentrification (as I was reminded often by complete strangers when they saw my California license plates), it’s still a fun neighborhood to check out when you’re in Portland.

15327450_10211139875630103_1152892381576227980_nI – Intimacy. For the first time in the last 7 years, I’m not dating anyone. It’s not easy to be broken up with and asked to move out. It’s even harder to continue living together while the divide becomes more and more apparent. Love isn’t for the weak or the scared. Love is for the daring, the risky, and those who desire to give more of themselves than they’d ever expect to receive from another human being. Loving with your entire heart is dangerous, but ultimately an important growing experience, just like the pain of the inevitable heartbreak when you lose it. I’m not bitter or angry, I just miss my best friend. But I recently saw this meme, and despite the spelling errors (maybe intentional), it made me feel a little bit better.

tumblr_o97jzb8ntm1rt7qgbo1_500J: Justice. I can’t say I got the justice I felt that I deserved, but I had more interactions with the police and the judicial system this year than I have (in total) since I left the legal field. I received a couple tickets, almost got my car towed, appeared in traffic court to defend myself (and lost), and recently attended a hearing to appeal my unemployment case. Needless to say, it’s better to stay under the radar than on it. Putting that behind me in 2017.

K: Kiiara – Gold. One of my favorite songs from 2016, Gold is a super-glitchy, sexy jam that sets the mood whenever you turn it on. The song just drips with seduction. If you stand in front of the mirror and turn this song, I promise you’re gonna feel yourself. It tastes like money when I speak.

tumblr_ohmj0i86rw1rt7qgbo1_500L: Louis the Child. Another one of my surprise favorites this year, I saw Louis the Child perform twice, once at What The Festival and in early December in Portland. These two kids, literally 19 years old, are dancing their way into their fans hearts. Admittedly, most of the people in the crowd were freshly-legal, scantily-clad girls straight rolling (awkward), but these kids are somebody to keep an eye on. My favorite song is probably their most popular track, It’s Strange.

M: Magnetic North. Since moving to Portland, I’ve reconnected with my high school buddy Walker Cahall (Waltronic), a graphic artist and printer. This year he became the manager of his creative space, Magnetic North. It’s an awesome space with desks, screen printing machines (for paper and fabric), CNC machines, and paints galore. They hold events every month, inviting the community inside to see how the magic happens and pick up some amazing art! If you get the chance to stop in, do it, and tell Walker I sent you.

N: National Felons League. This has been the sixth year of our Fantasy Football League, The National Felons League. I was the commissioner for the first five years (not earning a penny for the first four years), but this past season I handed off the responsibilities. Perhaps it was the best decision I’ve made, because this season I got to the championships, but came up short. 2nd place! Cash money, please!

tumblr_o3ywr3TaZN1rt7qgbo1_500O: The Obamas. Write the President. Seriously, do it. Whichever President you prefer, the outgoing or incoming, go ahead and write him a letter. It only costs $0.47 of postage to tell the President of United States of America whatever you want. That’s it! Earlier this year, I sent a copy of my healthy cooking card game Dinner’s Ready! to First Lady Michelle Obama, and I received a letter back! Also, as part of my previous job, I sent a letter (and awesome t-shirts) to President Obama to thank him for his Presidential actions to protect pollinators, and he sent us back a great note back! I’ll have these forever! Thanks, Obama!

P: Pacific Northwest. As a Southern California boy living in the Pacific Northwest, it takes a little getting used to the seasonality. The winters aren’t the same crisp clear skies, but rather a constant state of overcast with short spells of daily rain showers. Since I moved here in fall of 2015, we’ve had a couple of snowstorms, too! Snow days! The truth is, as somebody who frequently stays inside to create things, I don’t mind being an indoor cat for a few months during the coldest part of the year. Aside from the weather, the PNW has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Miles of beautiful hikes with waterfalls, pools, and breathtaking views! Come visit!

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Q: Quixotic. Lately I’ve come to embrace the fact that I may hold some quixotic views about my role in the world I live in. I am eternally optimistic that we can achieve the idealized world we all aspire for while desperately holding onto shreds of what we actually have. Perhaps my over-idealism stems from an unrealistic confidence that if I continue to work hard, and treat people well, the world will reciprocate in the form of success and happiness. I’m not exactly “tilting at windmills,” but I do find myself occasionally lashing out with aggression towards figures from my past as if attempting to “right the wrong,” an act that is foolishly impractical in the pursuit of progress. Next year, I’m letting it go.

tumblr_nwzlm6lyrk1rt7qgbo1_500R: Rabbit. No, I’m not talking about these creepy shrunken heads I found at Paxton Gate, I’m talking about my sweet ass white, 2009 VW Rabbit with 2.5 Liters. This car has been my saving grace, from road tripping the 16 hours from Ojai to Portland, carrying Dinner’s Ready! boxes to the Belmont Street fair, or napping in the back evading a domestic-squabble, my Rabbit and I are thick as thieves. For Christmas, I got her some new windshield wipers and a new rearview mirror. In exchange, we made it the 16 hours back to Portland safely. Thanks, babe!

S: Bernie Sanders. I attended my first political rally this year for Bernie Sanders. I have always been into politics, but this was my first rally. My boss had given me the morning off so I could go to the rally, and it was a magical experience. While the major news networks were busy showing an empty stage waiting for Donald Trump, they were missing out on the tens of thousands that came out to see Bernie Sanders at rally after rally. The only reason why the mainstream media even mentioned this particular rally was because of the famous “Birdie Sanders” moment. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

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T: Ookay – ThiefAnother one of my favorite jams this year, I’ve probably played this song over 100 times, jamming out hard with air-saxophone. With a mixture of dance beats, digitized vocals, and a little jazz influence, this song makes you smile for all the right reasons. If you want to have even more reasons to smile at this song, you really should watch the videoI guess I’m just a selfish ghost.

U: Unemployment. I won’t get into the details of my unemployment again, I’ve done that already, but I will take a moment to address a perhaps unspoken downside of unemployment. When you’re forced to pay attention to every penny you spend in fear you won’t make rent or your credit card payments, you will psychologically (and physically) withdraw from the world around you, in fear that you will be roped into a situation where you have to spend money. You have a social life that is slowly diminished to cheap beer in your buddy’s living room, or even worse, drinking tea alone at home, starving. I’ve made the choice to emotionally leave the unemployment struggle behind me in 2016, so I’ll be back to my jovial and outwardly social former-self.

V: Voodoo Doughnuts. If there is one thing Portland does well, it’s donuts. And you can find a different kind of donut in every neighborhood. Small ones. Sugary ones. All kinds of crazy donuts. The craziest doughnuts are downtown at Voodoo Doughnuts. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, it’s worth the hype, even if purely on a creative, culinary level. Delicious!

tumblr_o96gazYUv01rt7qgbo1_500.jpgW: What The Festival. This was by far one of my favorite music festivals that I’ve been to, and it was also my first experience volunteering at a festival. Despite the torrential downpours on Friday, eventually the sun came out, which made me love and appreciate the experience all that much more. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d love to go again this year. Want to tag along? Pre-sale tickets go on sale next week!

X: Xbox One. My parents gave me an Xbox One last year for Christmas, and it’s definitely one of the best things I had this year. Honestly, I don’t play very many games, but there’s a few I like; Rainbow Six Siege and Fallout 4 were at the top of my list this year, but even more importantly, I’m hooked up with HBOGO and Netflix through the Xbox One wifi. BAM! Never before have I had such a massive amount of content at my fingertips, and I can only imagine it’s going to get bigger (and better) next year. I think it’s probably in my best interest to implement some television watching parameters for myself next year, or else I am going to be an (even more) unproductive slob, but it’s super cool!

Y: Yoga. I was never big into yoga. I was successful at acrobatics when I trained at Circus Center, but I was never a fan of all the mysticism that is commonly associated with yoga. This year, however, my significant other took classes to become a Corepower Yoga instructor, and I was a frequent student for her homework training. I even did some partner Acro Yoga (thanks, Master Lu Yi!). Surprisingly… I kinda like yoga. Near the end of the teacher training sessions, I finally got the hang of the different poses and my body felt really good, almost longing for more physical activity. It was obvious I had not been physically active over the last year, that’s gonna change in 2017.

IMG_4825.jpgZ: ZZZZ (a.k.a. Sleep). Sleep is fucking important! I know it might seem like an easy (and likely) entry for “z” but in all honesty, I really try my best to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. This means, most nights, I’m asleep by 10:30 and up at 6 AM… sometimes 6:30 AM. I occasionally pulled late nights writing or socializing, but for the most part, I was in early because this year I learned a good lesson about myself and my work. I’m a morning person. I get my best work done in the stillness of the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. In 2017, I’m stepping that up the early morning work even more.

What about you? What are the A-Zs of your life in the year 2016? What lessons are you carrying forward into 2017? Let me know!

Thank You from MysteryTin.com! We’ll see you in 2017!

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