In the early winter of 2012, I stood in front of my condo building and stared at my parked car.
Someone had scrawled on my driver’s side window in burgundy gunk.
Vandalism? I lived in Aurora, Colorado, which has a crime problem, but the area felt safe. A neighbor was a meth addict, but the worst problem he caused was lounging outside his front door and mumbling while I walked to my mailbox.
A note was stuck between the bottom of the car window and the door. The text was typed in big, official, capital letters.
They gave me a warning, but next time they’d tow the vehicle. I looked around the parking lot and most of the spaces were empty — an almost mythological luxury in the Denver area. Was this really the best use of Aurora’s police force? Maybe, if their goal was growing a source of revenue from fines. …
I stared at the phone. My torso felt like an icebox.
Maybe I could weasel my way out of this? It was a stupid idea. Nobody wanted to talk to me.
I reached for my phone and pressed on the digit buttons. The phone emitted tone after tone like a dying robot.
More than a decade ago, I’d written and self-published a semi-lousy book and wanted to get some publicity. I’d mailed the book to some potential influencers.
I had to follow up, ask the influencers if they’d gotten my book, and what they thought of it — but I didn’t want to face the awkwardness, sound like a desperate salesman on the phone or spend an afternoon trying to force myself into strangers’ lives to make a buck. Instead, I wanted what all immature introverts want — to become a success without talking to another human being. …
“Hi. Golden Police. Get out.”
I sat on a park bench in Golden, Colorado as the sun set, gnats barrel-rolled above the grass, and a cop yelled at kids rafting in Clear Creek, just beyond the “Creek Closed” sign.
I was reading a book called How To Write Short.
The book’s author said to jot down great examples of short writing. This wasn’t exactly writing, but what the cop yelled made my list.
As the cop lowered his voice and the teenagers dealt out their apologies, stories, and excuses like cards from a playing deck, I lowered my gaze back to the book. …
In 2007, I sat at a table for dinner with maybe fifteen other people as we slowly revolved — slow enough to be unnoticed by some and fast enough to make others nauseous — counterclockwise to view the stale surroundings of Tampa International Airport.
Our group was eating on the top floor of the airport’s Marriott hotel in a revolving restaurant. I sat next to a world famous author and strength trainer, his wife, and other business people. As everyone chatted, I mostly stayed silent.
My shyness and low self-esteem were creeping over the back of my shoulder and around my neck. …
My friend Wally and I coasted along 285 South in Denver, Colorado, on our way to embarrass ourselves spectacularly at Top Golf. Wally and I have been friends for over twelve years.
We’ve cheered each other on while riding our respective life roller-coasters, enjoying the rises, screaming through the plummets, and occasionally puking during the corkscrews. He had at least one kid while I went bankrupt. He had another kid before I landed a dream job. And we’ve shared notes on who got screwed worse during our respective home constructions.
“It’s NateFest 2020,” Wally said. “See what that implies?”
“Yup!” An annual NateFest sounded like an excellent idea. …
Rex, his wife, another couple, my wife and I shared a big booth to celebrate our recent marriage. I called it a wedding aftershock party.
A few days earlier, the temperature had dropped more than 50 degrees to below freezing just in time for our outdoor mountain ceremony. The day after, it had rocketed back up. Short sleeves and air conditioning were back. So was talk about business, because, as owners or self-employed folk, we couldn’t help ourselves.
All the couples were sharing their origin stories, which included some struggles. …
I grabbed the edges of the six-foot metal basket, bent my knees, leaned forward, and adjusted my alignment as if setting up a pool shot.
The basket probably weighed over 1000 pounds. Maybe close to 2000. I gave it a little push to test which way it rolled, stepped to the left six inches, bent down, and pushed again.
It was spring of 2014. I’d started a job at a textile warehouse. The company supplied dozens — maybe hundreds — of businesses in the Denver area with clean uniforms, soap, brooms, towels, and floor mats. That day, I was folding freshly-washed floor mats. …
Nina grabbed my leg and stretched it as she continued her story.
“But you know what? I was really proud of myself. He didn’t cock his arm back. I saw that. He wasn’t actually going to hit me. So I didn’t flinch.”
She pulled on my leg and spoke faster, words rattling out of her like a blender whose top had popped and the churning liquid had erupted.
“The next morning, he tried to pretend nothing had happened and said, ‘Good morning, honey bunny,’ but I didn’t let him pretend nothing happened. I called him out on it.”
More than two years earlier, I’d found him online and he offered a free coaching session. A few minutes before we were slotted to hop on Skype, my gut rustled and told me that this was a bullshit consult designed to sell me. …
My partner and I stood 25 yards away from the first truck as it rumbled through the bay doors and hit the rubber barrier. One worker hopped out of the cab as the other unlatched the truck's doors. They helped the truck vomit its contents into bags.
Dirty pants, shirts, floor mats, towels, mop heads, and other grime-soaked cloths spilled out.
Their job was to empty the truck. After they swept the inside and drove it to our station, our job was to load it.
This meant waiting at least fifteen minutes before our first truck arrived, starving and ready to consume some clean clothes. Instead of sitting around, my partner grabbed some nearby clipboards listing everything we had to load. …
“That wine’s dank,” the server said as she scanned the menu.
My friend Wally and my wife sat by the window of Indulge Bistro & Wine Bar in Golden, Colorado, on the corner of Washington Avenue and 13th Street. The sun had set.
Like hearing a word spoken in a foreign language, my brain passed “dank” through some black box deep in my brain before the message came back: I think it means something good, sir.
“Dank is in now, right?” I said. “I’m trying to keep up with what words kids are using today. …