The End: The Strawberry Man Leaves the Classic City.

As I write this, I have a ton swirling on my mind. I write on the eve of my final colloquium, a summary of the projects that I have been working with through the two academic internships that I have completed over the past year that I have been in my program.

I just wanted to write this  to express my gratitude, however, to everyone that has kept up with the adventure that has been my last year in Athens. From my cohort.

IMG_5587

To my political comrades.

To the game day crew.

And all the great events in between. (SLIDESHOW)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thank You. Everyone I have met, both pictured and not, have meant a lot to me.

SO, where does this blog go next?

Well, it looks like we are going to be retiring it ultimately. I will be frantically searching for work in Colorado in my last 7-8 days in Georgia, so I cannot guarantee another entry. I have some leads, but nothing incredibly substantial yet. As of this edit on July 31th, I am still looking, but making connections in the Metro Denver area and Boulder. Watch this blog for a short follow up post soon!

 

 

On Slow Cooking Loren’s Black Bean Vegan Chili

The Final Product!

Over the past year or so, I learned how took via the “Sink or Swim,” method. The following recipe is a moderate breaststroke that I have made. Adjust hot sauce amount upward or downward depending on tolerance.

Total Time: 6 Hours 15 Minutes

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 6 Hours

Ingredients

12 OZ Quorn Grounds (1 Bag)

27 OZ Black Beans W/liquid

1 Onion, Diced

2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped

5-7 Sliced Jalapenos

1 Can Cream of Celery

1/4 TSP Hot Sauce

1/2 TSP Onion Powder

1/2 TSP Garlic Powder

1/2 TSP Chili Powder

1 TSP Red Fajita Powder

1/2 TSP Black Pepper

1/4 TSP Salt

1 Cup Vegetable Broth

Directions:

  1. Heat Quorn  in skillet for 7-8 minutes. Toss in red fajita powder for taste
  2. Toss heated Quorn Grounds into slow cooker, add other ingredients and stir thoroughly
  3. Turn on low for 6 hours, stirring every 1-2 hours
  4. Serve immediately, freezing leftovers.

 

 

Black Lives Matter: How to Help as a White Ally

In 2010, Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness. The book, a mix of narrative history and academic study, postulated that the worst vestiges of racism, far from being gone from society, had solidified themselves in policies found in the criminal justice system. From the disparity of sentencing when it comes to powdered cocaine versus crack cocaine* to the racial bias in cases of police shooting, the entire spectrum of how the criminal justice system has become an enforcement tool of old racial hierarchies is covered. The book became a bestseller, and forms some of the intellectual underpinning of Black Lives Matter.

Cover for “The New Jim Crow”

I mention the book because it was one of the major reasons that I, a white 23 year old man, got involved in social justice issues related to police brutality and criminal justice reform. In light of recent events, which upon the writing of this blog include two shootings in Baton Rouge and the suburbs of St. Paul, the Dallas officer killings, and the Piedmont, below is  a short guide for allies like me that are informed about the issues and want to effect change in their communities.

1. Listen, Listen, Listen

Listen

This is tantamount. Without going into too much detail, part of my current work that I do trying to reform the mental health system where I live involves listening to community stakeholders and people from all parts of the community and hearing their stories and frustrations. This means listening to everybody. From community service providers, to individuals impacted by the current system, to members of the criminal justice system, to law enforcement, everyone has a unique kernel of knowledge to contribute to the conversation. Form your opinions on racial justice and criminal justice not only on the quantitative information that you get, but the qualitative conversations that you have with people.

2. Talk to your friends and family about racial issues

Given the wide swath of people that I know in life, I know people won’t agree with me on every issue. Heck, there are probably people that I know that are angry that I am even writing this blog. That being said, it is important to talk to them. Explain where you are coming from when you use the phrase Black Lives Matter. Explain why you go to the marches that you go to, what it means to be an ally, and that being against police brutality does not make you anti-police or anti-cop. You may not be able to change their minds, but at least you have given them your perspective and raised your voice on what you believe.

3. Get Involved

Showing up for Racial Justice
SURJ Banner Logo

Right now where I live, our equivalent of the city council is in the midst of drafting an anti-discrimination policy that would affect businesses downtown that have had a history of discriminating against people of color (POC). Fight for policies like that. Attend marches and rallies to show your support for the cause. If you have a local chapter of Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in your area, attend their meetings. Write letters to legislators at the state, local, and federal level for policies that you believe will help dismantle the racialized criminal justice system. Support people running for office that vow to fight bad policies. Getting involved locally not only allows you to raise your voice, but also to effect real world change.

4. Don’t lose hope

After I read about the Dallas shootings of officers during a peaceful protest, I took a hiatus from Facebook. A part of me had lost hope that the system could be reformed. I was striving for the same answers that a lot of my peers were, frustrated and worried that the dialogue of the conversation of criminal justice reform would shift in a toxic direction. That being said, the conversations that I have had with people have been incredibly productive. Most people I talk to genuinely want to reform the system, but have disagreements on how to. I remain optimistic and realistic on what can be changed, but strive to change it nonetheless. Losing hope gives rise to a toxic apathy that feeds the enemies of justice. I know it is tough sometimes to find your part in a conversation that

In the end, I defer to the wisdom of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. At the end of the 1965 March on Selma, King answered the question of how long it would to achieve social justice in the United States. His exact words were the following:

“How long? Not long because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long.”

Let us continue helping to bend that arc as allies.

(1) The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the disparity of crack-cocaine to powder cocaine from a 100-1 to 18-1 weight ratio and eliminated the mandatory minimum of 5 years of simple possession of crack-cocaine.

 

On Peachtree 10K and “Finishing Strong”

My Finish Line Photo

Running is hard. Running 6.2 miles after a bit of a minor lull in your running training is harder. Though there are many moments during the Peachtree 10K that I will remember for the rest of my life, one in particular stands out to me.

It was somewhere between mile 4 and mile 5. I was about to start walking for the second time (I walked most of Heartbreak Hill), and felt like my running was over. I was listening to some random Irish Punk anthem as my running slowed down, awaiting the next song. When it came on, it completely changed the entire trajectory of my run.

The song was Bullet the Blue Sky by U2. Released on their 1987 album Joshua Tree, it was originally written as an indictment of the violence during the El Salvadorian Civil War in the mid 1980’s which Bono had witnessed. Recently, it was used in advertisements for the last season of Sons of Anarchy. The song, a mid-tempo tune characterized musically by a heavy drumbeat and screaming guitar riff, took on a completely different meaning to me as I ran through the heart of  Atlanta. 

Joshua Tree
Cover Photo from U2’s 1987 release The Joshua Tree

 

It made me think of my mom, who also runs.

My mother is a huge U2 fan. She saw them perform at the US Festival back in the early 1980’s on the War Tour, and has loved them ever since. As I listened to Bono scream his heart out on the track, I recalled the advice that my mother gave me over the years. The words that echoed through my ears were “Finish Strong”.

I took the advice several times in my life. From the final week of my first job as a UPS driver helper, to the last days of my undergraduate career, to the final hours of my graduate assistantship, I knew that it was good advice. Though I sincerely believe that life is about the journey, getting to the destination still matters. In the last miles of a 10K race, the time that it takes to get there matters.

After hearing that U2 song, the tone of the race changed. It wasn’t merely about making it across the finish line anymore. It was about making it across and being proud of my time.”Finish Strong,” screamed through those headphones louder than Adam Clayton’s commanding bass riff. It was about the glory of finishing in a timely matter, and positively pushing myself towards the end.

The playlist shifted again, going back towards more Irish punk, hard rock, and alternative music. But it didn’t matter, as I started to pick up speed and run as fast as I could for the last two miles of the course. When I passed the finish line and entered Piedmont Park, I felt victorious.

I finished with 1:09:19 as my final time. Though not a PR, it is a commendable time. Hearing “Bullet The Blue Sky” kept me going, and helped me finish strong. 

On Festivals and Fame: My Experience at AthFest

I love music. Playing it, listening to it, and supporting artists, whether local or huge, are some of my favorite activities. Big free outdoor concerts appeal to me on many levels. When I heard about AthFest and what that was all about, I had to check it out.

Before the day of the festival, I carved out a list of groups that I wanted to see. It was a hybrid list of different genres of music, different levels of locality to Athens, and differing levels of skill as well. When I got on the downtown bus with my mini-cooler, I was ready to go.

Day 1

Part I: Saturday Day

First band that I saw was Repent at Leisure, a traditional Celtic pub band. They played one of my favorite folk standards “Whiskey in the Jar” and  were all around a pretty solid group.

20160625_122053.jpg
Repent at Leisure

I know Dan, who plays rhythm guitar for the group and is an all around awesome individual. After the show, I said hey to him and his wife and went on to my next adventure.

The Welfare Liners are a solid Athens based band as well. Though I had no particular “ins” with anyone in the group, my enjoyment of bluegrass was a deciding factor in seeing them perform. Additionally, I had heard them on previous years AthFest compilation albums, and their style of music really stuck out to me as unique.

20160625_125134
The Welfare Liners

Like most summer festivals, it was HOT. On average, the temperature reached between 101 to 103, varying by forecaster. After seeing The Welcome Home  (couldn’t get a solid band picture, sorry) and wandering around the artists gallery for about an hour, I decide to hole up at the UGA library and do some studying and job applications for a couple of hours. Before heading back the the festival, I went home, dropped off my mini-cooler, and headed back to see the remaining bands.

Part II: Saturday Evening

I really enjoyed the little I heard of both the Randall Bramblett Band and Timi Conloy (local Athens legend) in the latest project he had going on, but at that point I was somewhat dehydrated and excited for the headliners. That night, it was legendary Atlanta hip hop group Arrested Development.

20160625_212913
Arrested Development

Introduced by DJ Mahogany, a popular Athens DJ, Arrested Development played an awesome set. Due to the fact that my main encounter with the band is through listening to them on Spotify somewhat passively, I could not name any of the specific songs that I heard. However, the vibes that the group and the crowd were giving off were solid. About 30 minutes into their set, I headed out, as I was meeting with

Part III: Post-Street Festival Experience Saturday

After the main event, I went with a small group of friends to see Greco, a 4 piece that sounded similar to Jet and those classic rock revival bands of the mid 2000’s. The band that followed them, Quiet Coyote (pictured in the blog cover.), did a lot of covers of classic rock standards, including The Doors and Led Zeppelin.

20160625_220353
Greco

Day 2

A group that I had wanted to see ever since the beginning of the new year, The Darnell Boys, was the first act of the day. I headed over to the festival around 4:00 because I was meeting up with some friends prior to that, and then saw The Darnell’s play live. They were pretty solid, and gave a good performance for a group in their genre

20160626_173753
The Darnell Boys

Monsoon was the next act to see for me to see. Composed of Sienna Chandler on lead guitar vocals, Scott Andrews on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Joey Kegel on drums, the group was a hybrid of No Doubt, Screaming Females, and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. The pop punk nature to it was probably the most appealing aspect to me overall, and the dynamic between  Sienna and Scott (particularly at the end of the set), was pretty magical.

20160626_180000_HDR
Monsoon

The final group that I saw was Kishi Bashi, the main project of former Of Montreal Violinist Kaoru Ishibashi. It is really hard to describe what “genre,” that Kishi Bashi is technically under as an artist. As a producer and violinist, his work using effects peddles, sound delays, and playing off of the strengths of the multi-talented members of his band made the show intense and magical for me. Right now, I am coming down from a major Kishi Bashi high, as I just saw their set and thought it was absolutely stellar. If you ever get the opportunity to see them live, take it. It is absolutely worth it.

Conclusion

As always, I would encourage you to support local music and check out the links. Before Arrested Development became a world renowned hip hop group, they were selling early recordings of their hit song “Tennessee,” to friends that they had grown up with. Prior to international super-stardom in the 1990’s, Sublime coasted up and down Southern California playing for what they could. Even if the band you support does not “make it big,” there is comfort knowing that you helped feed someone’s passion by supporting them monetarily and promoting their music.It was a privilege to see such a great swath of genre of bands this weekend, and will be something I miss when I ultimately leave Athens.

 

 

 

 

 

On Choices: What is next on the road of life?

About a month ago, I posted a blog about how I was leaving Athens once my lease ran out for my apartment for multiple reasons. Now, as an individual that has a much more secure handle on where I want to go in life career wise, I have narrowed my job search to 3 major locations: Atlanta, Denver, and Ventura County (my birthplace and almost lifelong home)

Atlanta, Georgia

Blog site
Atlanta at Night

Pros

In looking at Atlanta, the two biggest pros that I see as a young professional are somewhat intertwined. The first major pro is that there are an abundance of nonprofit jobs and opportunities. A quick search on Idealist or another job hunting site shows a fair amount of availability, and a lot of major organizations have their headquarters or satellite offices located there. Additionally, out of the 3 locations that I am currently considering, I probably have the second most potential connections due to the fact that I will be a University of Georgia alumni come Fall 2016

Additional pros beyond professional include the existence of a supportive and diverse music scene, the closeness to relatives, and okay transportation ITP

Cons

Cost of living and getting around. From the people that I have talked to so far, the cost of getting and renting an apartment in Atlanta has almost universally been discussed as a negative (depending on location). Transportation is also a major drag for me as well. Though getting around without a car will be problematic regardless of where I live, the stories that I have heard about MARTA outside of the perimeter (OTP) and getting around have been less than endearing.

One minor issue for me living in Atlanta as well is the weather. It is incredibly hot in the South.

Denver, Colorado

sunrise_over_denver_skyline
The Denver Skyline

Pros

In a lot of ways, the pros to living in Atlanta mirror those of the pros of living in Colorado. Many nonprofit jobs seem to be available from the job searches that I have performed and the people I have talked to. The big draw for me is the fact that public transportation in and around Denver seems to be pretty positive. Everyone that I have talked to has told me nothing but great things about the existing light rail system, the friendliness towards cyclists, and the area in general.

Additional considerations for Denver include closeness of relatives, a strong music culture, and an abundance of vegetarian options.

Cons

As of right now, I have very few tangible connections to getting an actual job in Denver. Though job sites are great as a speculative tool to seeing what is available, there is still, for better or for worse, immense value in having that “in.” Another con is cost of living. Like Atlanta, Denver costs more based on several different issues that are going on right now.

Additionally, unlike Atlanta and my hometown, I have also never been to Denver and have little knowledge of the area, so the learning curve might be steeper.

Last, but certainly not least…

Ventura County, California

ventura-ca_680x392
The City of Ventura at sunset

Pros

Home. Has the most connections out of the 3 places that I am considering post-graduate school. Very familiar with the area. A lot of my friends, family members, and others have wanted me to return since I left for Athens back in August of last year. Weather is pretty consistently good year-round as well. Have family that are willing to help me out if need be. Readily available vegetarian options.

Also, as a minor note, more accessibility to a lot of good foods that I like.

Cons

Cost of living is incredibly expensive for a 2 BR apartment. Public transportation in the county is incredibly sub-par to the point a car or gas-powered bike becomes a necessity. Worry too much about relying on family as “crutch,” when getting started career wise. Probably the least likely place I would go back to because I want a change of scenery.

Concluding Thoughts

On August 4th, I will be fully moved out of my current apartment. My current search for a more permanent home does not include Athens, and spans the gamut of 2 major locations and my home county. That being said, if the Dream Job From the Sky(TM) came and hit me on the head, I would be a fool not to take it. Until then, I have decided on 2-3 areas to. Regardless of where I move, please support me in whatever decision I make. And write a lot. I enjoy postcards immensely.

 

On Depression

It doesn’t always look like this

Or, to rephrase, on my depression.

I don’t say that as a narcissist, but as someone that realizes depression affects people in different ways. It would be foolish to think depression is a “one size fits all,” phenomenon of people feeling sad for reasons.

For me depression lies in both lack of structure and uncertainty. One of the biggest reasons that I hated summer back in high school was the fact that there was no sort of structure for me to work under or in because:

A). I didn’t really have a job, so that was not an option for me

B). When I did do things that involved structure, they were mainly taking summer college classes with people that were much older than I was, and there was often this “disconnect” between me and the individuals I took classes with that made the structure stressful.

Without any sort of guide (AKA class periods and different imposed schedules) I often got introspective and self-destructive out of the fact that I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to create structures. Every time that I took a college class, it was mostly at the recommendation of my parents, who fully supported me in my endeavors.

This sort of mentality persists even into my adult life. I cannot think of a worse punishment for myself than having 2 weeks without any sort of structure in place. Even if I was on vacation, having a day or 2 to just hang out by the beach would be unsettling unless I was taking surfing classes or reading a good book.

The uncertainty part, though often coupled with the depression that comes in periods of lack of structure, is much more encompassing. While I can fall asleep in a structure-less world, an uncertain one keeps me up. It encompasses the micro, questions like “Will the kids at the new school like me?” “Who am I going to take to prom?” and “Should I apply to this job?” It also encompasses the macro, questions like “Do I want to get married?” “Will I ever be financially secure in my life?” and, the ultimate question “what do I want to do with my life?”

Part of the reason I am writing this is because I am currently in the uncertainty part of my life. Though I have structure, the lack of knowing where I will be less than 2 months from today is something that keeps me up at night. I am living on the remaining savings from working at an office in my undergraduate career, so I don’t have much money to do anything major while I am still here. One certainty that I have is that my future doesn’t lie in Athens, for now. That being said, where does it lie? I had been looking primarily at Atlanta and the Bay Area for the longest time, but now Denver, Colorado seems like a viable option in my life as well.

The good thing for me regarding periods of uncertainty lies in the fact that they are just periods usually. I go into this period knowing that, and it staves off some of the worst fears that I have. I sincerely believe that, even with very scant knowledge of what lies ahead, everything will be alright in the end, and this depression will pass.