Right before the pandemic hit and everything shutdown, I got tickets for Alexis and I to see The Tallest Man on Earth at the Troubadour. Two years later, and a lot of rescheduling, we got to go. It was an awesome show. The thing that stuck with me more than anything though, was feeling that we finally turned the corner. Getting to finally use those tickets 2 years later feels like evidence strong enough to hold up in a court of law that we’re moving on and getting back to life. Thank God.
Like the Wheel by The Tallest Man On Earth
One scheduled flight at 10pm but cancelled at 3am later, we made it to Sacramento! The Duncans hosted a reunion of sorts at their new home. Was great seeing old friends, as well as meeting some of my brand new ones for the very first time. Lot of highlights, but one I was really excited for, was Drew, Duncan, and myself wearing the exact same shirt by happenstance. It’s always the best.
My Dad flew across the country to grab a beer with me on St. Patrick’s Day. One of the many perks of him being retired now. It was a quicker trip than he’d usually make to California, but we made the most of it. We ate the tacos, hopped the bars, talked the talk, explored the neighborhoods, poured the saké, watched the movies, clinked the glasses, and got a good look at the Pacific. Think I’ve also logged enough hours listening to my father go on about the never ending, infinite complexities of College Basketball March Madness, that at this point I might actually be able to pass as one of the talking heads on ESPN.
One of the brighter burning highlights came to be when just a day or two before my Dad got here, I learned that Flogging Molly was one of his favorite bands. As luck would have it, they were playing St. Patrick’s Day at the Palladium in Hollywood. I knew if we went it’d mean staying out way too late and drinking way too much, but damn it, life needs some living. So I got us some good seats, and after seeing the pit below and feeling the relief on our backs, I might consider it to be one of the greatest purchases I’ve ever made. One of the opening bands was from Ukraine, and given current events, the people were BEYOND fired up. It was a fun show, and most importantly, Dad got to cross off seeing Flogging Molly on St. Patrick’s day.
My Dad and I talk pretty often, but I’m not exactly sure the last time just the two of us spent this much uninterrupted time together. Maybe our cross country drive when I made the move to California 15 years ago. This little adventure has been a reminder that I should strive to make this happen more often. We had a great time, and I’ve got the photos to prove it. My favorite of which is Dad using chopsticks for only his second time ever for his “raymen” noodles.
I took some time last month to reflect and journal some of the things I’m grateful for, and why I’m grateful for them. Some of what I wrote seemed small, like how beautiful the weather was on my run, or how peaceful a walk through my neighborhood can be. Others felt bigger.
“I’m grateful to have hobbies and passions that keep me afloat through the harder moments.”
“I’m grateful my parents are still here, and still healthy. I can’t imagine my world without them. My mom is older than both her parents were when they died. I wonder if she thinks about that as much as I do.”
“I’m grateful my phone lights up because I have friends who think of me. I remember when messages like these were far and few between.”
And the list goes on. I wrote at least five things every few days. Ended up with more things I’m grateful for than there are days in February. Goes to show that even when you’re having a day, there really is so much to be grateful for, just right in front of you. The trick is taking that deliberate moment to realize it.
15 years in and I still struggle to define what exactly Six Foot Giraffe is. One thing I do know, is that it serves as a sort of safety deposit box for me. For the things I want preserved and kept safe. Things like these words from a complete stranger.
In regards to the work I do here, when I say I only aspire for it to inspire, I really, really mean that. It’s a hell of a thing to be inspired. If I can do that for someone, for anyone, in any capacity at all, that’s really as good as it gets for me. As an artist and as a human being. It’s incredibly rewarding. Thanks Michelle, you made my day.
Trying to strike a balance between the body, mind, and arguably the soul, or at least what I suspect is the creative part of my being. Don’t think I’ll be doing big write-ups this time around. Not totally sure though. Partially because I’ve been at it long enough now that I’m starting to revisit some of my favorite challenges again. And partially because the writing often takes longer than I’d like it to. We’ll see. Wish me luck.
“They are playing Taps now. I used to think it sounded nice but all those bugle calls sound different when you are on the inside.”
My Aunt Janet recently shared this letter with me, and I’m so thankful she did. My Grandfather wrote it to his future mother in law, while he was at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I’m assuming it was the first place he was sent after being drafted. Seems he wrote this just before he was shipped off to Europe. Never really heard him talk much about this time of his life. Don’t know if that’s because he didn’t care to, or just because I never asked. Sure wish I had though. Think he was Twenty years old when he wrote this. It’s hard to imagine, considering what I was doing at Twenty. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this small window into a big moment of his life, and felt like it should be preserved.
I know, a years end reflection post shared halfway through January isn’t exactly timely, but it takes more time to make the internet than to consume it I guess. In any case, 2021 is over and I’m still here, which means I survived my second annual long list of resolutions and monthly challenges. My main goal was to have no zero percent game development days. This meant doing something every single day to get closer to the dream of developing and publishing my own game. Even if there was only a few minutes to spare some days, and even if I didn’t have access to my computer. I set this goal because game development is still so new to me and it’s been hard to gauge how much time and effort is really required to create what I’m envisioning. Figured a year straight of dedication would give me a better idea. To answer whether or not the dream is even possible. I stayed pretty true to the goal, and I do have my answer now. The answer is yes, I can do this, but it’s going to take a really, really long time. Years. It’s clearly an amount of work that isn’t meant for a single person, especially when it’s not a full-time job. It’s all really tough, and all really time consuming. Thing is, I have so much fun doing it. So long as that stays true, and I hope it does, then I’m going to keep at it. This goal has shown me that it’s okay if it takes a really, really long time to see this through, because clearly it’s supposed to.
Another goal I had was to read more books. I aimed to read at least every other day. Somedays I missed the mark while plenty others I read back to back to back. So a bit of a wash. I read four books, nothing short of a miracle given my reading track record. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikalsen, recommended by my wife Alexis. Let’s Talk About Hard Things by Anna Sale. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I enjoyed them all. Those last two were also recommends from my friend Kelsie. Glad I made reading a priority for the year and plan to keep the goal alive. I got a lot more back from it than what I put in, and that shouldn’t be ignored.
My last stretch goal for the year was to eat vegetarian at least two days a week. Inspired by a challenge I had in 2020 to eat vegetarian for a month straight. Making it a part of my year long resolutions was meant to be a small, painless step towards changing a personal habit, where the cement has already been dried a long, long time. For the most part I made good on what I set out for. Some weeks I slipped up, but others I exceeded my modest goal of 2 days a week. I have every intention of keeping this one going with more effort, more nuance and more intention along the way.
For my monthly challenges, I did everything I set out to do at the start of the year. You can read my rambling thoughts about those experiences here. I left December open for any ideas that I might’ve come up with along the way. What I ended up doing for the month was… well, nothing at all. Innovative, I know. More specifically, I committed to not commit to anything. It was an everything in moderation, even moderation itself, kind of month. Capping off a year of discipline with a little rest and indulgence. I stayed up late, slept in, skipped workouts, ate the bad things, you name it. A good change of pace for me, but one that had me ready to get back on the rails by the end of it.
Looking back on the year, I’d say I learned a lot. Formed some better habits along the way too. Glad I took it all on. Out of everything though, the one thing I still can’t understand, a true mystery for the ages, is just what in God’s name I was thinking when I decided to take 60 second showers for an entire month.
We traveled to Florida in late October to spend some long overdue time with family. Our first stop was Anna Maria Island to see Alexis’ siblings and nieces. We spent our time exploring the island, chartering a boat, swimming, grilling, building a sand metropolis, carving pumpkins, and getting our Halloween costumes good and sandy. It’s not everyday we get this group together in the same room, so I designed (under Alexis’ supervision) some commemorative shirts for some added fun. By our last day I even got called “Uncle Kyle” a few times, which is always as equally terrifying as it is heartwarming.
After a few days we were off to Estero Island to see my parents at our family timeshare, where one Smith or another has been making memories at for over 35 years. Here we got a few good sunsets in, tore across the Gulf of Mexico on some jet skis, and drank an amount of alcohol that would be cause for concern if we weren’t on vacation. We were also lucky enough to catch up with some aunts, uncles and cousins who we rarely get to see, but who were also vacationing on the island.
Before we headed back to California we had just enough time to clink glasses and crack some jokes with my brother, as well as drop in on some friends in Fort Lauderdale. It was a long trip, that went by all too fast, which is really just a roundabout way of saying, we had a great time.
My goal for November was to complete some sort of personal finance course. Originally suggested by my friend Drew when I’d told him I was falling short coming up with new challenges. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea at first though.
I started investing around 10 years ago when I was 25, and got more serious and knowledgeable about it at 30. I’ve also been working with a Financial Advisor as well as a CPA for years, and in general have always lived well below my means. This is all to say, I didn’t really feel like a personal finance and investing course was something I desperately needed in my life. Regardless, I know that no one will ever care about your financial health more than you will or should yourself. So I guess I felt like it was my responsibility to give a course a shot and maybe learn something new.
I ended up taking and completing a course by Jeremy Schneider, also brought to my attention by my same friend who suggested the challenge. It was roughly 8 hours of videos, tests, case studies and charts that I broke up throughout the month to try to better absorb it. It covered everything from the absolute basics of investing, all the way into some of the weeds of tax law. It was a great course, and his spin on it takes a typically dry subject and pushes it a little closer to even being entertaining.
Although I enjoyed it, If I’m being completely honest, I probably already knew 90% or more of what was covered. Thing is, I found that fact to be overwhelmingly reassuring as opposed to frustrating. It’s so easy to second guess yourself when making decisions weighted in such heavy consequences. My November challenge reassured me I’ve been making the right decisions surrounding money, and that financial independence is not just a dream but a clear destination with an ETA. Here’s hoping we don’t hit too much traffic along the way.
Our self-professed full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had an idea to get the gang together for a Formula 1 race happening in Austin, Texas. He’s as old now as his dad was when he died, so he wanted to celebrate life, and we wanted to help him do that. Wasn’t long then till our friend Drew took the reins and made this seed of an idea into a full itinerary. The next thing I knew, I was dropping my bag in a hotel room at a city I’d never been before and heading to the rooftop bar to hug some pals who just flew in from about every corner of the country. Some of which I hadn’t seen in a long while. We were only in Austin 4 nights, and this was a few months ago now, but I’m still hesitant to say I’m fully recovered from it. To put it simply, we made it count.
Our first full day was as full it gets. This was the qualifying race day, and it started a little later than the actual race on the following day would. What this meant was, we had some time to fulfill a dream that many of us have harbored our whole lives. Having Texas Barbecue in Texas. We settled on Terry Black’s BBQ by recommendation of Drew who ironically doesn’t eat meat, but luckily happens to be an avid reader of the internet. It was a home run.
When it was time to head over to the track, we had a “party bus” take us there. A better description would’ve been “decommissioned public transit bus, with a few string lights.” It was perfect. Couldn’t ask for much more sipping a drink and watching the view through our windows grow increasingly more wide and rural with every passing mile. When we arrived at the grounds and stepped off our bus, we were still at least a ten minute walk to the gates. But the thing was, you could already hear the surreal harmony of engines in the distance. And it truly was surreal. Like nothing I’d ever heard. I turned wide eyed to Duncan to find him silently nodding with a smile. The feeling you get hearing those cars before you see them, growing louder with each step towards your destination, made me understand why people are into this. It’s powerful and it’s exciting.
Not only have I never been to a Formula 1 race, but I’d never been to any race at all. The track was enormous, with even more space surrounding it. This meant a lot of walking. Even with all that space we were still somehow just about bumping into people the whole time. Our friend Tyler put it well when he looked over at me and said, “This is very… covidy.” Apparently 400,00 people were in attendance that weekend. By the grace of God, we had seats with backs on them when we needed to seek refuge.
Although it was just the qualifying day, the powers at be upped the ante a bit and set Billy Joel to headline the night. I’m not a die-hard Billy Joel fan, but I know the hits and know how to have a good time at a show. His iconic Piano Man however, stands in a league of its own for me. I keep it in the company of some of my very favorite songs ever recorded. I’ve sung it at karaoke more time than I can remember, and hearing it live was really something. But what happened next could only be described as divine intervention, or just surgical precision planning. Just as he sang “It’s Nine o’clock on a Saturday,” I looked at my watch, and it was Nine o’clock and it was on a Saturday and then I lost my goddamn mind. The best example I can think of that captures the full range of emotions I experienced as this realization hit, comes from this masterclass of acting. It was a bucket list item I didn’t know I had.
Our ride back from the track was what could only be described as a post apocalyptic party school-bus. The driver at one point asked if one of us could literally pull on some cables by his feet for him because somewhere along the highway the gas pedal stopped working. Hell of a ride, but we still managed to stop off at a barcade for some games and a few more drinks, eventually getting back to our hotel, all in one piece.
The next day, was the actual race. The stakes were higher, the crowds were denser and people were FIRED UP. Duncan guided us through the in’s and outs of the drama unfolding in realtime, while I asked him in what way was Harry Potter related to Formula 1, since the word “Petronas” is seen everywhere. As uninvested as I was in the sport, I still found myself on my feet and cheering like a maniac for the last few laps. It shaped up to be a pretty dramatic battle between the top two contenders. I knew it’d be a fun experience, but I was surprised at just how fun it all really was. Also didn’t hurt that Duncan’s team won, and really that’s all that mattered to the rest of us.
Race day started and ended a lot earlier than the previous day, so by the time everything wrapped up at the track we still had plenty of daylight to kill. Most of us spent it floating in our hotel’s rooftop pool, with more drinks than any of us probably needed. It wasn’t long then till we headed off to celebrate Drew’s birthday at dinner followed up by a fancy cocktail bar, flaming drinks and all.
On our last full day, I found a little time to explore the city on foot, making the capitol building my loose destination. About a mile or so in, I learned that “Texas Heat” is not just a marketing buzzword for hot sauces. Jeans were a poor choice that day. Luckily, we booked out an air conditioned theater to see Dune, as guys do on a guys trip. We had a food an alcohol limit to hit during the screening which basically equated to everyone eating and drinking way too much, and almost brawling discussing whether or not Dune was or was not a good movie. It was a great time.
For our last night, we went to an Idles show. Most of us didn’t know the band very well, but our friend Drew did, and it only ever takes one of us to care about something for the rest of us to get behind it too. Of course it was a fun time, and the braver among us even pushed their way to the front where things get rough. It’s a miracle we ever saw them again.
Our last morning was spent packing up and saying our goodbyes in the lobby. It’d be fair to say we were all pretty much just fantasizing about our couches and takeout by this point. It was a fun, exhausting, memory filled trip that could’ve only happened when you get this group together. Like I said, we made it count. Most importantly of all though, is that our self-professed, full blown Formula 1 maniac of a friend, Duncan, had the absolute time of his life, celebrating life.
Bonus: Michael surprised us all with a fun video he cut together on his flight back home, what a guy huh?
Thousands of people take part in a drawing challenge every October called Inktober, and though I’ve participated many times before, it’d been a while since my last one. I decided to make sure it was one of my monthly challenges this year since I don’t always do it, but am always glad to have done so in the end. I traveled a bit in October and didn’t draw everyday, but I still ended up with 31 drawings for the month.
I have a true love-hate relationship with this challenge. The end result is always something I’m proud to have done, but getting there, at least for me, might be harder than the average onlooker might think. My drawing style isn’t very technical or time consuming, and the act of drawing itself brings me peace, but coming up with interesting ideas is always the hardest part. I pull a lot from the well of my everyday thoughts and feelings, but wells dry up fast when you’re drawing from them everyday. Guess if it wasn’t a challenge though, wouldn’t feel as rewarding.
I share my Inktober drawings on social media for the friends, family and even strangers who seem to genuinely enjoy watching them unfold, and in return I appreciate the appreciation. But I hadn’t been on Instagram in some time. I took a month long break from it that snowballed into almost 2 years. Logging in after that long was a weird thing. Like opening a time-capsule buried by people you almost forgot about entirely. Where I remembered newborn babies, I now saw toddlers with personalities and new siblings. New cities, new houses, new lives. Everyone sharing everything except for the not so fun parts.
I know what’s shared on social media is in most cases meticulously filtered and curated, but seeing it all, all the time, somehow still makes me feel low. The knowing doesn’t seem to be enough. Maybe it’s envy. Not in a keeping up with the Joneses kind of way, but maybe just wanting in on some of that never ending happiness everyone appears to be experiencing all the time. This is the feeling that drove me away from it in the first place. I feel better without it, and oddly enough, it was a drawing challenge that reaffirmed that belief in me. I deleted Instagram again about a week after the challenge ended, but I’ll surely be back for my next Inktober. What I can’t say is if I’ll ever do all 31 days again, because man, by the end of it that well was bone dry.
Been falling a little behind on reflecting back and writing about my monthly challenges, but they’ve still been happening. In September I tried fasting everyday from 9pm to 1pm. 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour eating window. A good chunk of that 16 hours was spent sound asleep in bed, so really nothing too extreme. This was by design since I’d never tried anything like it before. I also had water whenever I wanted. The main curiosity that drove me to pursue this one in the first place, was wondering how it would make me feel. Particularly if I’d find more energy throughout my day. The results were pretty mixed.
For the most part, I stuck with it. Here and there, the day got busier than expected and I’d end up not getting dinner made until after 9pm. In this case, I just pushed when I broke fast to later in the next day. 2pm or 2:30pm sometimes. Also had a long weekend getaway with friends, which kinda threw things into disarray. I try not to let these challenges stand in the way of having a good time on vacation though. Defeats the whole idea of getting away to begin with.
As far as how fasting made me feel, I can’t say I captured that new source of energy I was looking for, but I did start to feel something unexpected though. I started to feel gratitude and even a little more joy everyday. The experience shifted my mindset of food being available absolutely whenever (especially true working from home), to making the food I eat seem somewhat more special. I quickly found myself looking forward to breaking my fast each day, and for that reason what I chose to eat became more deliberate and I guess more celebrated. Not just something to tide me over on a busy day, but rather something I wanted and looked forward to more than I normally would. It was the best part of the whole experience and a good lesson in perspective.
An eating window from 1pm to 9pm basically skips right over when I would’ve normally had breakfast. The idea was never to skip any meals, just to compress when I ate them. This was the hardest part of the challenge for sure, and where I ended up falling short. I just didn’t eat the same amount I normally would, and I ended up losing a little weight. While I’m not surprised this happened, since it’s just numbers in and numbers out, it wasn’t what I wanted to happen. I understand it’s a goal for a lot of people, but it is definitely not one of mine.
It’s been a few months since this challenge, and I haven’t really kept up with it. Losing weight turned me off to continuing on as I had been. While I appreciated the positives from the experience, seemed like if I couldn’t find the appetite to maintain my weight while fasting, then it was probably best to move on. I can imagine coming back around to it with a little more effort put towards avoiding that pitfall someday, but I guess in the meantime, what am I having for breakfast?
I recycled 14 years of sketchbooks today. Was really starting to take up some space, and I’ve never really liked having too many things. I did flip through them all one last time though. An experience that was part nostalgia, part rescue mission. I tore out and kept any page that held any ideas that were never seen through, or just plain forgotten about. I’m sure some still may have slipped through the cracks though.
It was fun finding scribbled notes in the margins here and there. Everything from questions I thought were important to ask on my first career job interview, to a list of things I needed in order to get settled at my first apartment I ever lived alone in. Plenty of directions and phone numbers to places and of people that I don’t remember. And to do lists, so many to do lists.
Flipping to the occasional personally potent illustrations brought me pause. Remembering how hard a time was or what I was feeling in that moment. This is something I do from time to time looking through Six Foot Giraffe, but running my palm across the actual page I drew on so many years ago is something different. Like reaching out and touching a piece of the past, wanting to tell my younger self connected to that page that we’re gonna be alright. Seemingly dramatic, I know, but very true.
If I’m being honest, writing these words is giving me a sudden sense of panic to leap out of this chair and rescue these relics of my life from that recycling bin. Preserving tangible facts that I was ever even here. But I still think it’s okay to let them go. I already preserved the works I thought to be important, keeping them safe here on this site. I even have them stored offline at a much higher resolution to preserve fidelity. So I tell myself again, it’s okay to let them go.
If I start losing sleep over it, recycle collection is still a few days out, so I may possibly be getting fitted for a hazmat suit this week. Luckily, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over many years making Six Foot Giraffe exactly what I need it to be. So I think I’ll be sleeping just fine tonight.
UPDATE: I panicked about 48 hours later. Got some gloves on and went on a rescue mission. I decided there’s value in having the work exist in some tangible form. Just not in the way of scattered throughout a stack of sketchbooks spanning over a decade. So I think I’ll make something of a coffee table book. Like this site, something that curates the meaningful parts in and organized and interesting way, but now in a tangible form. Until I complete that, there’s a chance I might need those sketchbooks. Maybe a file went missing, maybe I didn’t scan something at a high enough resolution. Who knows. I decided once it’s done, I’ll let them go for good.
Middle Kids at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles. Ever since the first time I saw them and realized she was playing a right handed guitar, left handed, I knew I was sunk. They’ve quickly made their way into my list of favorite bands that I haven’t already been listening to for over a decade.
Edge of Town by Middle Kids
We had some fun out in Joshua Tree with friends on a long weekend in late September. It was exactly what I’ve come to expect when you get this crowd together. Good laughs, good food, good drinks, and good memories. Of course I also spent a life-threatening amount of time in the hot tub. Wouldn’t be a weekend getaway otherwise. It’s a nice thing when your agenda for the day doesn’t equate to much more than watching the setting Sun and the rising Moon.
The house we stayed at and particularly the surrounding scenery, was out of this world. With a little color correction, it could probably serve as a backdrop for an alien planet in some sci-fi film. The landscape always seems so surreal out there, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. This felt especially true because of how secluded the house was. Trying to spot any other man made structures on the horizon felt like playing “Where’s Waldo.” A welcomed change from my everyday sights.
We did venture out toward some civilization one night to see Modest Mouse play at Pappy and Harriet’s. I seemed to miss the Modest Mouse train when I was younger and don’t know much else outside their hits. Even still, it was a really fun show and didn’t hurt that it was at a pretty unique venue. The Districts were the opening band. I’d never heard them before but glad we caught them. Been listening to them on and off ever since.
Cheap Regrets by The Districts
After a few days dehydrating ourselves in the desert, we headed back to Los Angeles for one last outing before we all went our separate ways. James Blake at the Hollywood Bowl. If I’m being honest, I had absolutely no idea who this guy was. Thing is though, The Bowl is a truly magical place, and in my experience it doesn’t really matter who’s playing. So long as it’s a nice night out, you’re gonna have a great time, and we did exactly that. Also didn’t hurt that our seats were absurdly close considering the layout and capacity of the Hollywood Bowl. We’ve got a friend who’s a good guy to know, to say the least.
Our friends Jenn and Duncan even flew down from Sacramento for the night to join in. I know, sounds exhausting. Thing is, they have three kids, and I have to imagine a chance to catch up with friends and have some adult conversation for a change, is a juice well worth the squeeze. Glad they made it and even more glad I get to be in the company of friends like these.
I tried to make it a point to play guitar at least 15 minutes day for the month of August. A lot of these challenges I come up with are things I don’t really wanna do. Maybe because they’re hard, or maybe they’re uncomfortable. I guess that’s the whole idea though, because it’s the hard uncomfortable things that are usually the most conducive to change and growth. I knew this one wasn’t gonna be hard at all though, and I meant for that. It was just for fun. Bringing a little balance to a year full of challenges that are sometimes not very fun at all.
I was 16 or 17 when I spent the vast majority of my nearly one-thousand dollar life savings on an electric guitar and amplifier. I remember my Dad thinking it wasn’t the smartest move, without actually saying it. He never told us what to do with our money so long as it was earned. I remember thinking it was a good thing that it was expensive. Thinking that after spending that much money, I wouldn’t give up on learning it. I was right. I still play the same guitar to this day. Thought about getting a new one for a long while, something more in-line with my style of playing, but I just tell myself you can only play one at a time anyways, so one is all you need.
Weird to think I’ve been playing for nearly 20 years. Sure doesn’t sound like it. Though I’ve been playing all this time, I’d say I stopped learning in any structured way after three or so years. No more regimented practice or trying to memorize songs. Once I learned how to improvise, able to just make it all up as I go, I kinda lost interest in learning to play someone else’s songs. It’s probably kept from me from growing, but all I ever wanted from guitar was to have fun with it, and I gotta say, shredding a guitar solo on the fly is pretty damn fun.
I definitely don’t play as much as I once did, and it shows in my speed and accuracy on the frets these days. Really is like riding a bike though, you’re not gonna forget how to do it, but it may be a little wobbly at first if it’s been a while. In the end I had fun making it a priority to play every day though, and I even learned a new thing or two along the way. Honestly felt a little weird about sharing audio of me playing, since I just don’t play as well as I once did. But what the hell, be grateful for what you’ve got.
Today’s our wedding anniversary. We celebrated by getting out of town and exploring Laguna Beach this past weekend. Four years married now, and Ten years since the first time we kissed. A decade gone by and I’m still crazy for her and driven crazy by her. She’s still my favorite person, and I still get caught up in her beauty just the same as the first time I ever saw her. I can also say with great pride, that I still know how to crack her up on a dance floor, largely with the same set of moves all these years later.
Might not have seemed it at the time, but getting married was the easy part. Staying married, well that’s where it gets tricky. Marriage might just be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Hard to know if that’s because I’ve had an easy life, or because marriage is just plain hard work. Maybe it’s both. But in any case, it’s been my experience that the hard things we choose to do willingly, are always the most rewarding in the end.
I tried to pick out just one photo from each year of our story together. It was a challenge to say the least. Been so many bright spots along the way. Plenty of ties for first place. A lot of these photos didn’t even exist on Six Foot Giraffe to begin with, and that just felt like a bit of a crime to me. So here they are, not just safe and sound in my heart and mind anymore, but here too, for when the years start to get too far away from us. Happy Four to us.
Local Natives with good friends at one of my favorite venues in all of Los Angeles. The Greek Theatre. Seats about as close as they get, with the girls in the first row and us guys right behind them in the second row. Close enough that you have to use you arms to part the fog rolling off stage. It was our first show since before the pandemic hit for Alexis and I. Definitely worth it and definitely a night to remember.
Past Lives by Local Natives
My curiosity over meditation has steadily built year by year. The more you learn about it, the harder it is to ignore. Even if I might’ve been in a meditative state before, by whatever means, I certainly never got there deliberately. So I finally set out to give practicing meditation an honest try everyday for a month. One thing for sure is, sitting still and quieting your mind is much easier said than done.
My first two weeks I tried a bunch of different guided videos on YouTube to get a sense of some of the different styles and practices out there. Some focused on what my body was feeling at any given moment. Others were more about shining a light on some positive affirmations that felt important to me, no matter how big or small. I liked those days. A universal common thread across anything I tried though, always was a focus on your breathing. The sound, the cadence, the physical rise and fall of your chest. It really does help to keep the mind from wandering. I did get a little carried away with it though. On two occasions, after 15 minutes straight of forceful breathing, my face went numb and my eyelids started twitching. Pretty sure I was just shy of passing out and was basically just hyperventilating. You live, you learn, and in this case you have a good laugh.
I also found myself visualizing a group of lines while I meditated. Similar to what I’ve illustrated. Maybe one representing work. Maybe another is desire. Maybe fear, maybe anxiety. Regardless of what’s what, they’re all fighting and competing for dominance at any given moment. If I could quiet my mind, the lines distilled down to a circle. But if my mind started to wander, it all broke loose and I’d just see a bunch of spaghetti. It started to become like a target I was aiming for. Probably breaks a few rules, but it was helpful for me and I suppose that’s all that matters.
By the end of the 31 days, I can say that practicing meditation makes me feel better than I did without it, but I’m not sure yet if that’s from the meditation itself, or just from knowing I’m deliberately trying to do something that’s good for me. In any case, I feel better than I did, and that shouldn’t be ignored. So while this challenge officially ended over 3 weeks ago, I’ve kept up with it nearly everyday since. After a little more time and effort I’m excited to see where this one takes me. Hopefully to higher ground.
Joey, my one and only brother turned 40. It was almost a month ago but I’d regret if I never took a moment to share that here. Seems like I was just writing about him turning 30 not too far back. Doesn’t feel like yesterday but it also doesn’t feel like 10 years gone.
He’s 5 years older than me, and that use to feel like a big difference but I know in a blink of an eye I’ll be seeing 40 myself. The cool thing about having an older sibling is that you’ve known them literally your whole life. He was there the day I was born, and for 18 years following, I saw him just about everyday. 18 years of horsing around, exploring, fighting, lying to our parents, and getting in plenty of trouble. All the things that brothers do.
Hopefully there are still plenty more years ahead of us than behind, but I’m not sure I can say the same about new memories together. We live 2,700 miles apart, and have for 14 years now. To say the least, we don’t see each other everyday anymore. A fact made painfully clear looking for photos of us together. Anything from the past 15 years is far and few between. But maybe with a little effort from both sides, that can change some. There’s still time.
Happy 40 Joey. Can’t be all that bad, after all, you did get to keep your hair. Although speaking from experience, I wouldn’t get too attached to it.
Meet Roy. I think that’s his name, still working it out. He’s an aging Repair Technician for the Greenfield Power Company. I think he has a more interesting story to tell than the boy with the umbrella, so I’m gonna give him the lead. Really feels like I’m never gonna be able to complete this project, but even still, I’m having fun imagining the world and all its inhabitants.
I set out to run 100 miles for June and I ended up running 101 for good measure. I ran 29 days out of 30, which also means I’ve probably listened to The Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News at least 58 times. It’s the most I’ve ever run in a month, and maybe a world record for The Power of Love listens. You just can’t not be fired up to be alive when you hear that song.
In all seriousness though, felt good to be setting new records instead of just looking back on old ones. Particularly because I also turned a year older in June. Nothing better fights the feeling of time trying to bring you to your knees, than that brief moment in your stride where both feet are off the ground and you’re openly defying gravity.
I’ve also been wearing a fitness tracker, and by the end of the month I noticed my resting heart rate had become considerably lower. About 10 beats per minute less. Mid 40’s while I slept and low 60’s otherwise. It was cool to see the body doing what the body does, and to know that the hard things can equate to something good.
In the end, I’m glad I reached new heights but a part of me doesn’t feel entirely honest about the win. I know I could’ve gone further or run faster. No reason I couldn’t have, but I guess it’s just a fine line between enjoyment and punishment. Never the less, I still did what I said I would, and that’s a challenge enough on it’s own for most of us. The last and probably most important thing I learned is, no matter how tired you think you are, you’re still gonna be able to smash through a brick wall once you’ve hit the 4 minute mark of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.
We came, we saw, we fed. Got to spend a little time with our good friends Mike and Christina’s daughter, Leona. She’s hardly a few months old, so we’ve got a little ways to go until I can show her how to start fires with a magnifying glass and other fun and really safe things like that, but she’s a beautiful happy baby all the same. I’ve always been thankful we see Mike and Christina as often as we do, but even more so now since it means we’ll probably get to see Leona grow up in realtime. Something that’s not exactly true for most of our friends who’ve had kids, which makes it even that much more special. Above all else, my greatest hope is that I can be the equivalent to an Uncle Buck for her, because let’s face it, we all need an Uncle Buck. Welcome to the team Leona.
Finally got around to editing some footage from Fourth of July weekend two years ago. My turnaround time for these has really fallen off a cliff, but better late than never. We hiked, barbecued, boated, bowled and found ourselves entertaining a bar full of strangers at karaoke. With twenty of us on a boat and plenty of drinks in hand, it’s a miracle nobody fell overboard. Happy Fourth everyone.
Sixty. Second. Showers. That was my challenge for the month of May. I skipped a few days for a little staycation we had, but for the vast majority of the month, I stuck to it. Why would I even want to do this one? Well, guess I was just curious. Curious if it’d make my days more efficient. Curious if a short shower would be more invigorating than a long one. Curious if I could even do it. For as long as I’ve taken showers, I’ve taken them long. Always done a lot of thinking in there. Found a lot of ideas. Batman has his Bat Cave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, I have a phonebooth-sized shower stall that I can’t fully raise my arms in. Doesn’t stop me from standing in there until my back is as hot as the surface of the Sun though.
Unsurprisingly, on my first day I couldn’t believe it when my 60 seconds ran up and I had to cut the water. Also couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it all was. It’s absolute mania. I’m talking a full-body cardiovascular workout for a sustained 60 seconds. It’s the only way to get the job done in that amount of time. Definitely a little tougher and a lot more comedic than I thought it’d be. Even after a week straight of it, still had doubts I’d be able to keep it up. Like most things though, you get used to it. Even had some days where it felt like I only had a second or two left on my timer, but in reality I had over a full 30 seconds left when I glanced at my watch. Lucky me. Things always get easier the more you do them, for better or for worse.
In the end, it was a unique and kind of fun experience, but not one I’m making a habit of. I did end up with a little more time on my hands than I’d usually have, so on that front I did feel more productive. Thing is, that benefit isn’t worth close to the cost of losing that decompression and introspection which typically goes on when I’m in a hot shower. Nice to know I can pull it off when I need to, but there’s honestly few things that beat turning the shower knob to the molten-lava angle and having a good think. Above all else, the challenge has been a reminder that many of the things I think I need, are really just luxuries. I’ve known this, but often forget it. One thing for certain is, if you’re ever looking for a good laugh, try taking a 60 second shower.
A real breath of fresh air being with friends we hadn’t seen in person for over a year. The true highlight though, was holding their daughter Della for the first time. She’s a fun baby with a fashion sense already at expert mode and it didn’t take long fo us to fall under her spell. Seen together here at a photoshoot for a Levi’s denim ad campaign.
Aimed to walk at least 30 minutes everyday of April. A pretty straight forward one. I’ve been working from home for over a year now, and as a result not moving around as much as I was. Being at a studio everyday usually meant a bike commute and a mile or two walk on lunch. Getting out and getting moving felt like a good idea. I surrendered to a busy workday here and there, missing a few days, but for the most part it was a breeze.
I usually set out after work, getting back just as the sun set. Somedays walking more than 30 minutes, but never less. I’d listen to music, or catch up on podcasts. Death, Sex & Money is by leaps and bounds always a favorite. All the while getting to know my neighborhood a little better, and racking up some steps for the day.
I set this goal to benefit the body, but it did more for the mind I think. A body in motion is a mind in motion. Getting out and moving has always brought me some clarity in foggy times. It felt good to make it a priority for the month and capture those mental benefits. I’d be lying if said I didn’t need it.
My Grandfather passed away a little over two weeks ago. My Dad’s father and the only Grandfather I’d ever known. His name was James Patrick Smith. He was just shy of 89 Years old. A long life that above all else, defined him as a devoted husband, and a father loved by his five children. He was as hard working as they come. Legend has it, he hadn’t taken a day off work for 40 Years. A child of the Great Depression who cleaned his plate even if what was on it wasn’t always his favorite. Though, it’d be hard to know if he didn’t like something, since he never complained about a thing. He loved long walks, opera, football, and literally anything that concerned chocolate. He had a booming deep voice, and his laugh could fill every room of the house, and he laughed often. He always wore a wrist watch. I think he always understood the weight of time, which led him to always have a camera in hand or video recorder resting on his shoulder at any family gathering, which he and my grandmother always made a priority.
He filled many roles for many people, but to me he was someone I affectionately called Gramp. I had the good fortune of being born while my parents were still young, and my grandparents still only in the first half of their 50s. Still full of life and vigor. I’ll forever be grateful for that. An experience many of my cousins didn’t have. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother and I even kept my grandparents a little younger, for a little longer. We’d spend entire weekends there with them. Together we’d play games, watch movies, indulge in all kinds of sweets, explore our town and soak up anything they told us like sponges. We were just about spoiled rotten. We loved it, and we loved them.
I remember a particular fascination I had with my Grandfather’s hat. So much so that when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell them with unwavering certainty, a door-to-door hat salesman. It was a simple bucket hat he’d wear on his commute from the suburbs to downtown Chicago by train each day for work. When I was there on weekdays, I couldn’t wait for him to walk through the door to get my hands on that hat. As the story goes, I’d sometimes get a little impatient, and just use my imagination and put the dog bowl on my head instead. Regardless of how much dog food was already in it. When he’d finally come charging through the door, he’d always make this boisterously triumphant trumpet sound announcing his arrival. I’d run to meet him and in one swift motion he’d move his hat from his head to mine. Looking back on it, it’s clear I was just like any child wanting to wear the costume of a super hero they idolized. It must have made him feel fantastic.
As I got older, it was clear I didn’t fit the exact mold of some of the things he valued, whether that be having an interest in sports, being an ace student, or being involved with the church. Hell, I don’t even like chocolate that much. But none of that mattered and I know he was proud of me all the same, and know because he’s expressed that. Particularly, he was proud I chose to turn my passion into my career, and pursued my own kind of happiness.
In the end, I believe he was ready to go. His mind was still razor sharp, but his body had long been in decline. But beyond all else, I think he just wanted to be with my Grandmother again. Ever since she passed on, he’d often say with a chuckle something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I’m still doing here!” Particularly whenever I’d call him on his birthday. I can’t think of a more potent explanation of what love is than the sight of my invincible Grandfather crumbling to a thousand pieces as he stood over my Grandmother’s casket. And all this time since, he’s just been stuck at the station, waiting for his train to take him back home to her. Just as he always used to. He was a devout Catholic, and there was no doubt in his mind what he believed to be next for him, and it brings me a great sense of peace, knowing he was at peace himself.
Goodbye Gramp. I love you very much and I’ll never forget you.
Can’t really say when I got in the habit of bad posture, but probably somewhere in middle school. In any case, once it took hold, it never seemed to let go. Something that’s always bothered me. Aesthetically and physically. Without fail by the end of each day the middle of my back is sore and burning. Been this way for as long as I can remember. I used to ask my brother to walk with his full weight across my back, after being so beat up from my after school job each day. It’s a wonder we didn’t make things worse. Each morning brings a reset for me, but it’s short lived. So everyday of March I tried to make a point to focus on better posture.
I started out by diving into an internet blackhole of what healthy posture should be, and quickly learned that my own posture falls into something called kyphosis. Googling the word gave me a shot of confidence because it looks like things could be a hell of a lot worse. Then I started practicing specific exercises tailored to my posture. A lot of things you’d feel pretty weird doing in a gym surrounded by strangers to say the least. Also got this tiny device you stick to your back that vibrates if you start to slouch. Used that for several hours every day, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as annoying as it sounds. Kinda feels like being in a group text chain of twenty people who never stop texting each other. But hey, it works.
By the end of the month I couldn’t say that I felt any different, but I knew from the start, a month wouldn’t be enough to undo this one. Mostly, I was just looking to jump start something new. Still keeping up with that annoying little device, and including posture exercises in my regular workouts, but my biggest takeaway was more a mental one than a physical. Sort of these random mental audits of how I’m standing at any given point. Where is my pelvis? How far am I leaning over this cutting board? Is my neck so far out that it looks like I’m going in for a kiss with my monitor? You get the idea. Don’t know if it’ll ever get better, but I’ll keep trying. One thing for sure is, our parents sure as hell weren’t kidding when they told us to sit up straight.
The thing about working alone on a project that would normally be done by a team of people, is you’re going to end up wearing a lot of different hats. Somedays you’re an artist, somedays a programer, and other days a graphic designer making a pause menu and control system that’s bound to confuse even the brightest among us. Keeps things interesting to say the least, and if any of those hats ever start to feel a little too tight, you just put a new one on.
I was exclusively concerned with Peewee Herman, Batman, and Edward Scissor Hands at the time the Gulf War was happening, but as I grew to learn about it as a teenager and further as an adult, the photographs of the burning oil fields always struck something in me. Towering columns of fire shooting up from the Earth, speckled across an endless horizon, burning day and night. I sometimes feel how those images look. Particularly, the unseen part. I feel like that oil deep beneath the surface. Not knowing how much is under there, but only that it’s being violently spent every minute of every hour of every day.
Della’s first Six Foot Giraffe. Love how her little hands appear to be proudly presenting her limited edition, Six Foot Giraffe Della Anthem Onesie. Can’t wait to meet her, but truly I can’t wait till she’s old enough to sneak and share candy with until we’re both sick to our stomachs. Everyone needs that aunt or uncle, and hell, I think it could be me.
Headed up to Big Bear for a long weekend getaway with the Boggs’. We did some light hiking, set a few smoke detectors off cooking, some hot tubbing, some card playing, some star gazing, and gathered around some candles and a fireplace wondering when the power would come back on. We also taught the kids how to play Roulette, for better or for worse. Spencer and Nikki, please, please don’t grow up to be degenerate gamblers. The house always wins.
I don’t typically have a problem with mindless phone scrolling at night. By day’s end I’m tired and ready for sleep. The morning can be another story though. I’m awake by 7am somedays, but sometimes not “up” for another hour or even more. Usually because I’m mindlessly scrolling through my phone. News, stocks, social media, wikipedia rabbit holes, whatever. Even though this doesn’t happen all the time, I don’t want it to happen at all. It’s not how I want to spend what time I have, so I decided for all for February to make a hard rule to not touch my phone in bed. Morning or night. Unsurprisingly, it was a great idea.
Alexis is usually still sound asleep when my watch silently buzzes on my wrist at 7:30am, and I open my eyes. It’s here where I would usually reach for my phone and scroll from anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour and a half. But now that I couldn’t do that, I really only had two options, go back to sleep, or get up and get going. I almost always got going. I don’t start work till 10am, and working remotely means no commute, so everyday I had a good chunk of time to do the things I wanted to do, just for me. Man, does that always feel good. Doing what you want to do, before the day has any opportunity to dictate what you have to do. I’ve known this, and that’s why I like waking up early nowadays. Sticking to this hard rule for the month helped me protect some of my most valuable time by making sure it wasn’t being siphoned off by my thumb and my phone.
There was a small downside. I really only read the news at night or the morning, and usually in bed. So cutting that out maybe meant being a little less informed at any given moment. Though, I find a lot of news is just the same story everyday with a few more details than the day before. In the end then, I have to guess I wasn’t missing too much by only catching up on the weekends.
All in all, I’m glad I took the time to do this, and I’m going to keep it up. It was a good reset. I know that old habits die hard though, so I took it a step further and have since permanently moved my phone and charger across the room. Can’t reach it from bed at all anymore. I’d go even further and set my phone to blast Eye of the Tiger across the room at 7AM, but I’m afraid that could land my wife in prison for attempted murder.
Well over a day had passed before I even realized I got a very, very small feature on the Unreal Engine Twitter account this weekend. I was pretty surprised. It means this image hit the eyes of somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million people. Don’t really know what that equates to, if anything at all, but I know it felt good to be acknowledged even if in the smallest way by the very people connected to the software I’ve been trying my hardest to learn.
They made a one day only Mars donut to celebrate the Perseverance Rover touching down on the Martian surface. It’s been so awesome to hear about my buddy Mike’s experiences and insights over his past several years working on the project at JPL.
Can’t help but feel pretty cool being able say I know someone who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and yet even cooler to be able to call him a friend. Congrats Mike, and thanks for any excuse to have a donut.
Building out some environmental puzzles while I continue developing the art direction for Greenfield. Feeling momentum now. Making an image in your mind’s eye visible to anyone, takes time and takes effort. When you can get it right though, and seen just the way you see it, it’s really something.
Revisiting and refining the design of the protagonist in Greenfield. I like the idea of keeping the face featureless, so players might project their own emotions onto the character based on their own experience in the game. Or to sound less full of it, I just like the way it looks.
2020 was a mess on a lot of fronts, but a bright spot for me personally was following through on my resolutions. My biggest and toughest resolution was to learn Unreal Engine. A year later, it’s honestly still a work in progress. I’ve been simultaneously learning the interface, art pipeline, animation pipeline, visual scripting logic, and performance optimization among other things. Somedays feel like I haven’t come very far at all, but others feel pretty good, considering less than a year ago the program wasn’t even installed on my computer yet. Hopefully it’s upwards and onwards from here, but it’s hard to say. As much fun as it is, it still feels incredibly daunting. Here’s a small peek at a game I’ve been developing with what I’ve learned so far:
My second resolution was to exercise at least every other day. Above all else, this one made sure a missed day or two didn’t snowball into a completely derailed week or month. Seemed like a cycle I’d been stuck in the past few years, but this simple rule got me out of it. I made exceptions to let my body bounce back from injury or for a long weekend getaway here and there, but for the most part I nailed it. It’s formed into a habit at this point, and hoping to keep it that way.
My third resolution was to avoid hangovers. I know, I know, the depth of my shame is bottomless. I wasn’t exactly swearing off alcohol, but I’ve long been ready to swear off hangovers. I drink socially, so the pandemic really dropped my consumption this year, and in turn lowered any chance of being hungover to begin with. Even so, I still fell short on a few occasions. At least three I can think of. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more wins than losses, and if I can keep it in the front of my mind, the record should be an undefeated one soon enough.
Lastly, I took a shot at some monthly challenges throughout the year and reflected on my experiences with them month by month. In short, I ended up satisfying some curiosities, kickstarted some better habits, and knocked back a few bad ones.
All in all, it was a win in a challenging year. I’d never done anything like it and ended up having a lot of fun with it. So much so, that it feels weird to just stop down at this point. So I think I’ll keep on. More on that later.
My last monthly challenge of 2020 has always been a question mark. Intentionally left open for new ideas that revealed themselves throughout the year. Nearing the end of November though, still hadn’t really had it figured out.
Then one day my friend Jesse texted me out of the blue. He’d been thinking about me, and took a peek at Six Foot Giraffe, which turned into him catching up on my entire year. He let me know how it was really cool what I was doing and how he was excited for whatever my December challenge would be. I told him I still had no idea what it was though, and then he suggested something brilliant.
So that’s how this one came to be. I love video games, always have. The medium sits at the intersection of so many interests I’m passionate about. Storytelling, visual art, technology. Thing is, I really don’t play very often at all. I try to stay productive, and playing video games as you can imagine, isn’t exactly conducive to productivity. The way Jesse framed it though, felt like more than just an indulgence, and that was easy for me to get behind.
I played 3 games for the month, all made by independent developers. The first was called Untitled Goose Game. You play as a goose wreaking comedic havoc on a small and quaint english town. Totally ridiculous, totally fun. It was largely developed by just 3 people. The second was Kentucky Route Zero. A kinda off-beat, point-and-click, absolutely visually stunning interactive novel. The game took 10 years to make, and also developed mostly by only 3 people. I loved it. The last was Darq, a puzzle-platformer made almost entirely by a single person.
I had fun with it and truthfully Jesse was right, it was well deserved after a solid year of focus. Seeing what just a few people, or even just a single person is capable of in game development has been inspiring, but simultaneously daunting. I honestly don’t know that I’ll be able see it through, but I know I have to try. It helps knowing it’s possible if I work hard enough, and want it bad enough. Guess time will sort if those two boxes get checked off or not.
You’ve Got to Walk by the Bedquilt Ramblers. One of the many beautiful and haunting songs composed for Kentucky Route Zero that caught my ear.