August Journaling Day 31: Aging/Recap of this exercise

The month is ending and this will be the 31st and final journal entry, whoo hoo! I’ll share my feelings on the exercise and thoughts below after this blog. The topic today is aging and it’s another thing where my viewpoint has shifted quite a bit. I mentioned in the grieving blog about having to grieve all my ‘lost’ years to anxiety. My prime years. My ‘best’ years. Part of moving through that was realizing and honestly believing that despite my numerical age now (42) and some of the limitations that come with being 42 vs 25, I’m actually doing better in almost every avenue of life than I was in my late twenties or all of my 30s. So how are those my best years if I’m doing and feeling better now? Answer, they aren’t.

The phrase “age is just a number” is one we hear quite often and I’m kind of 50/50 in agreeing with that or thinking it’s wrong. I mean, yes it is just a number. But it’s also a pretty good gauge of how long we’ve been on the planet, how much we’ve been through, and how long we might have left. Things do change with time and weathering, both for the good and the bad. But my overall thought on aging is that it’s a blessing. Getting old is a blessing. Sure some things will continue to get more difficult both physically and mentally. But I think we also tend to equip ourselves mentally much better to be able to deal with those setbacks that come with aging.

I heard Howard Stern recently talking about a conversation he had with Jane Fonda who is almost 85 years old. He asked her “isn’t it difficult to be getting older and not do all the things you used to do? I mean you were the fitness queen of the world and could do almost anything physically?” Her response was something along the lines of “I focus on all the things I still can do. I’m 85 and I can still twist, or hop right up out of my chair. I can still do so many things even at my advanced age.” It just struck me as such a realistic and optimistic view of looking at the effects of age and still feeling blessed with what we do have.

I mentioned earlier in these journals that I had an extreme fear of death for many years after my dad died and this was a big contributor to my anxiety issues. I mean, I suppose I still fear death, but I rarely think about it and have very much accepted it is going to happen and with each passing day it’s going to happen sooner. But when I was younger my attitude was driven by fear of death. I’m very embarrassed to type out this next story because I come off as a major asshole. But I was young and stupid and it honestly helped me learn a lesson, so here goes. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s I used to attend weekly mental health support groups in Portland. There was a gentleman who was struggling with some of the same issues I battled and he was probably in his late 70s. I remember having the thought that “why are you trying to fix yourself when you’re so near the end? Like what’s the point?” That was really my attitude towards him and I cringe typing it now. But as I got to know this man more and hear from him I realized that he, just like me at the time, needed support. And that he was trying to make his life better. He was very much still alive and still working to improve and become healthier. I questioned him then, I admire him now. Shouldn’t we all be aiming to be better and healthier no matter what stage in life we’re at? It was a real wakeup to a younger me that the journey of life is just that, a journey. Even though we all meet the same ending, we all have the opportunity to make good of our time here.

That man really helped to frame some of my thoughts on aging. I’m thankful for him and I’m thankful that I didn’t stay convicted in my foolish beliefs about him as a younger man.

I’m 42 years old. My hair is getting a little thinner and grayer. That bugged me for like a day, until I realized, I just don’t care. I’m embracing those natural changes that will occur and I’m fighting the ones I have control of like my weight, my health, and my attitude. I think as I age I just want to keep trying to be a better person. I know there will be things that aging will make that goal be more difficult to work towards. But I suppose the goal is just to do the best that I can with where I’m at. Getting older is a blessing.

Reflections on this exercise:

Overall, this was very enjoyable and I think beneficial in a few ways. I had a conversation with a friend about this exercise a week into it and one of the questions they asked was why put this on your website instead of just an actual journal where others couldn’t see it. It’s a great question and one I think I came up with the answer for. As someone who is kind of in the ‘clicks’ business with my podcast and content, I was wondering if maybe I’d just gotten used to the idea that “I need those views and clicks!” Because there is a certain weird and good feeling when examining numbers of readers or people who come to any piece of content that I do. But I think for me, the real reason is connection. I’m someone who enjoys and seeks out connections with people. I’m not the best at doing that in real life as I’m a little shy at initiating connections and fear rejection. On here however, it’s much easier for me. And the nice notes or stories about some of the topics from other people I’ve gotten from doing these, well that’s one of the real benefits of the exercise.

To me journaling should have two real purposes. One is for the release. To simply put those words on paper or on screen and get them out of you. Words have feelings and thoughts behind them and I think there’s a catharsis on getting them out into the world. And maybe even more of a catharsis when other people hear them. That was another reason I wanted to write these publicly vs. privately. To me journaling just to myself doesn’t feel much different than me just holding on to the thoughts and emotions. The second real purpose for me of journaling is to look back. Both at my life and thoughts on these subjects, but also just as a way to go back and read and try and interpret my thoughts and feelings on things and reflect on them. One thing with writing, it’s amazing how different something reads while you’re typing it vs. when you go back to read it later. I’ll probably go back and look at and read the entries in a couple of days and kind of see how they make me feel to read them. Mostly I do that just to help learn and be able to work on myself and hopefully the journaling helps provide some insights into where I need some work. Thanks for reading.

August Journaling Day 30: Animals

I thought this would be a fun and lighthearted topic to write about, so I’m excited for it. We almost never had animals growing up in my house. I think we had a few goldfish and I remember we had two parakeets at one point. One was blue, one was yellow, but I don’t even remember their names. But we never had a dog or a cat and that was totally fine with me and my sister because neither one of us liked dogs or cats.

My neighbor JJ had a huge mean dog name Max and when I tell you that I was scared to death of him, I’m almost underplaying it. Max was basically that dog from the movie Sandlot, atleast in my head. Mean and huge and loud and would eat me if he ever saw me. In fact I remember one time he was out front of their house and I ran inside as fast as I could. I was generally pretty skittish around any kind of animal up into my 20s. I just had no familiarity or practice with them so if a dog jumped up on me when I went to a friends house, I’d legit freak out about it.

Almost all of my appreciation for dogs and cats came as an adult and almost always came because of dating someone who had a dog or a cat. I remember one of my first girlfriends, Stephanie, had this wonderfully sweet black lab named Chamuca. Chamuca was the first pet I think I ever really got excited to see. She would play and get wound up like labs do, but she was also very sweet and would come nap with us sometimes. When I lived in Portland years later another girl I dated had a big golden retriever named Judd who was THE sweetest old boy. Judd was huge but a total softie. I’ve still never really had a pet that was my own as an adult, so getting to spend all that time with those dogs was really my first experience with having an animal around and I loved it. After Judd, I even thought about getting a dog at one point.

I just never have been willing to dedicate the time and effort that it takes to have a pet. My lifestyle with moving around for work is obviously not conducive for it. Plus being a single person, it’s not like I have a partner or someone to help take care when I have to go on the road for work. I’m very selfish with my time and freedom too and I know that it’s probably just not something I’ll do anytime soon.

But, I will say in the last few years, I became a cat person. I had almost no experience being around cats until 2018. I was dating a woman who had an old male cat named Skyler. Sky Guy as he was also known was in his golden years and he was kind of a crabby cat. But many days he’d come lay with me in bed or sit with me on the couch while I worked on my podcast. He kind of became my buddy. Later that year his mom adopted another cat, a young female cat named Woodji. Woodji is fiercely independent, loves to go outside, but her and I became fast friends. She’d always come into my room at night and lay with me and let me pet her and tell her she was the most beautiful girl in the world (she is, it’s a fact, see pic below). Victoria (Woodji’s mom) always calls Woodji ‘my cat’. She always asks me when I’m going to take her as my own. Maybe someday!

Of course the other animals in my life are horses. I’ve owned some horses and had friends who were owners and trainers and got to visit them. But I don’t spend nearly as much time around the horses as I wish I could. The backside is a really incredible place at the racetrack and every time I go back there it’s so fun to pet and visit with the horses. My friend Will who is a jockey told me the other day that when I was visiting the Graham Motion barn down at Tampa that one of the horses I got to meet was Spenderella, she just wasn’t Spenderella at the time.

But my appreciation and love for the Thoroughbred race horse is very much at the forefront of my mind quite often. Without them I don’t have a life and career that I enjoy. Getting to watch them run every day and describe their hard work to the audience is a privilege and joy. Sometimes calling race after race, it can get a bit mechanical. You focus so much on memorizing the names and giving an accurate call, that it’s easy to have it slip out of mind all of the work and training each horse and it’s team have put in just to get to this moment of a race. It’s a truly incredible thing.

My sweet Woodji girl!

August Journaling Day 29: Grieving

Grieving to me always sounded more like a feeling or just what you said after someone you cared about died. But I really have begun to think of it as a process that is always happening not only for how we remember our loved ones who’ve passed on, but how we deal with any loss that affected us. A job, a friendship, a relationship, a time specific time in our lives. Grieving is almost a practice of sorts, something that we need to get better at in a weird way. Because I think my first dealings with grief just involved being sad and just thinking the mental and emotional work was done once I’d stopped crying or just started to move on.

My dad was certainly my great long term lesson in grieving. One of the constant things that happens anytime I’m grieving him is I say ‘I’m sorry.’ Now sometimes it’s me telling him I’m sorry that he got sick and died. That it happened to him so young. Sometimes I think it’s me apologizing to him for any harm or wrongdoing I may have done while he was here. Or after he was gone but knowing what he’d think of me or what I’d done. I think acknowledging how and why I was always apologizing to him in my grieving was I think an important step in working through my thoughts about him. I think that’s an example of why I think grieving is a process. To me it’s important to notice and acknowledge the real feelings that are coming out and when, because they certainly are different at different times and stages. But I think by doing that work, it’s helped me to really focus in on what I’m feeling and what I can do to better facilitate those emotions and work through them. And sometimes working through them means staying in them for a little while. Sometimes you need to just be sad or angry or hurt for a little while. I think in my life I’ve often tried to move through those as fast as possible because they were negative and I was a positive person. But that negativity isn’t going anywhere just because I want it to go away.

A strange thing that still happens to me with people I grieve is that I’ll still have moments where I forget the permanence of the loss of someone. I still on occasion will have the thought to call my Grandma Beem even though she’s been gone for two years now. She was such a constant presence for so long that it’s strange that her physical, tangible being is not here anymore. Part of my grieving process of my grandma was battling some regret that I didn’t appreciate just how amazing she was while she was here. I mean I loved her, I told her that, and we did lots of things together. But the magnitude of her commitment to our family and to her children and grandchildren really didn’t hit me until after she was gone. So that’s been a process I’ve tried to work on lately.

A couple years ago I went through a bit of a grieving process with my anxiety issues. Not so much the issues themselves, but the time, energy, money, and life experiences that it took from me. I remember just after turning 40 and I’d been doing so much better for a couple years at that point. I’m sure some of it was turning 40, but also, I just had this great feeling of sadness that my BEST years were past me. And I’d spent them in hospital programs, isolating, and at times wishing I wasn’t alive. I had such anger at what I felt was taken from me. I don’t want to go too much into this because the aging blog is in two days and I suppose this has a little more to do with that than grieving, but that was an important thing for me to process and work through. I look forward to writing about that more on Wednesday.

The last thing I want to write about grieving is friendships. I’ve been extremely fortunate that almost all of the primary friendships in my life have either remained to this day or just separated slowly and peacefully due to distance or divergence in life. And most of those connections that have withered could absolutely be started back up with a phone call or a reach out of some kind. Just meaning there aren’t negative feelings. But there have been some friendships that had to end. Just like a romantic relationship, going from having someone be a really important part of your life to then becoming no real part of your life, is very hard. The memories and experiences with them certainly don’t fade right away. So those are with you. But the connection is gone. There are a few friends out there who I no longer talk to that I wish I did. Circumstances of life, hurt feelings, broken hearts, one of (or both of) us just being an asshole, these are things that happen in life. I can accept all of those things and try and work through all of those things. And I have worked through a lot of them. But losing those meaningful connections has been tough. In some ways, tougher than death grieving. In my life, those who have died closest to me, I’ve been fortunate enough to either get closure with or work through closure after they’ve passed on. Which, by the way, is there ever any truly satisfying “closure?” I think we can get close, but I can’t imagine a relationship with anyone having full, complete, and satisfying closure. But with friends or relationships where the folks are still around, there isn’t that kind of closure. And there’s also the curiosity. What are they up to? How would they feel if I reached out? How would I feel if they reached out? Could we be friends again? Is it best just not to talk ever again? In the friendship type of grieving, it just feels like there aren’t really too many satisfying answers or closure. I think it’s just a recipe of time and acceptance of that part of your life moving on. But it is a painful type of loss.

I’m someone who tries to make a point of telling people I really love and care about that I love them. I think regret is a hard part of any grieving process and I don’t want the regret of someone passing or moving on from me in their life without knowing what they meant to me. To me regret has often been the toughest thing to grieve past. The work continues.

August Journaling Day 28: Broadcasting

Today I wanted to write about broadcasting as a craft and also the benefits that I think it has given me in my life. I mean I suppose money is an obvious benefit but I don’t mean that. I mean the real and tangible things that come from broadcasting. The connections, the opportunities, the fun, and the nerves.

I bring up connection because that was something that happened to me a few times this weekend. When I do my podcast, I generally do it in my office or living room depending on where I’m staying. It’s just me, talking into a microphone and staring at my computer. And it’s not live, so it really is just an exercise in speaking and trying to fill empty “air.” The connection of course comes when it goes out into the world and into the ears of someone who listens. I can remember countless times listening to radio hosts who had me fully captivated. Where I had pulled up to work or school but didn’t want to get out of the car until the bit or segment was over. I always loved that about radio in particular. Theatre of the mind, but also it was such an intimate medium. You really felt like you knew the hosts and they were your friends for your time in the car.

This weekend at Charles Town and Timonium I had several people come up and say hello and that they listen to the show. That means the world to me of course, but it also puts faces to the faceless situation that I broadcast into. Horse racing is my community and I love that part of my job is facilitating conversations about something I love, for people who love the same thing. We have an instant bond when we meet at the races. For someone who never fit in all that well in school or other areas of life, it’s a real blessing.

Howard Stern was one of two major influences to me in terms of doing any kind of talk broadcasting. Looking past the outrageous and salacious stuff, he’s an extraordinary broadcaster. I don’t think there’s ever been anyone better at keeping listeners attention, at moving a show along, and most importantly, interviewing guests. His interviewing skills and the ability to make his guests comfortable enough to really open up, it’s masterful to listen to. I can’t tell you the number of times he had someone on his show that I didn’t care about at all, only by the end of the interview I wanted to see their movie or buy their CD. Howard’s show mixed in co-hosts, sound effects, and music into a symphony of entertainment. The show has changed a bit in recent years partly due to covid and partly just his own evolution as a person. I don’t listen as much as I did before, but I do still check in sometimes. Of all the broadcast lessons I’ve gotten from Howard, being open and authentic has easily been the most valuable. It’s very important to have good content doing any kind of broadcast. But if the audience doesn’t connect with you as a person, it’s my belief they’ll never stay around long. Over the years I’ve gotten way more notes and tweets when I’ve talked about life, life’s struggles, and big things not directly tied to racing, than I have talking about the early double at Saratoga. To me talking about horse racing is just the vehicle to connect with people who enjoy horse racing. And hopefully connect on meaningful levels.

The other influence was the sports talk radio host Jim Rome. His main influence was that he always did a one person show. He’d have callers and once in a blue moon staff would get on air, but most of his segments were just him. No back and forth, just him giving monologue delivery to an audience. A friend who works in racing told me once that he liked in my show that I seemed to be having a conversation with myself sometimes. That is entirely influenced by Jim Rome’s style.

Influences are funny because I think you can be very influenced by someone and not sound at all like them. When I got into racecalling I’d have said my influences were primarily Vic Stauffer, Tom Durkin, and Robert Geller. Of course, I don’t sound or call like any of them. But listening to them all the time definitely informed my thoughts on what I liked or didn’t like from an announcer. I won’t ever be as good as any of those guys, but I’ve never seen racecalling as a competition. I guess a competition against myself, but not other people. If I can be the best that I can be calling races, I’ll be more than happy with that and where that takes me.

The last thing I want to say about broadcasting is how therapeutic and good for me it has been. There were times I absolutely dreaded doing anything “on air.” As you’ve guessed from previous blogs, I live on the nervous side of things. So the idea of public speaking is terrifying. There have been times where my anxiety was so bad that I was unable to announce and left racecalling. But getting back into racecalling definitely paralleled my getting better from my mental health struggles. It was an opportunity to face my fears and learn to live and deal with my anxiety as opposed to constantly running from it. I still get nervous calling races all the time. Virginia Derby is coming up and I’ll have a knot in my stomach all day that day. With a couple horses left to load I’ll pour some cold water on my neck (look up dive reflex) and my foot will be shaking violently as they break from the gate. But I’ll get through it. And I’ll do good. And if I don’t, i’ll get em the next time. I remember before calling a big race at Monmouth Park and telling my mom I was nervous. She told me “well even if it goes bad I’ll still love you.” I always think about that now before any big race. Even if I call the wrong winner, or stumble, or panic, or anything, my mom will still love me. So will my friends. It’s just a horse race. I make mistakes every so often and I move past them so much faster than I used to. Because I’ve accepted they’re going to happen sometimes. Turn the page.

I love the art of broadcasting and I hesitate to call anything that I do an ‘art’ because lord knows I’m no Picasso at anything. However it’s my occupation and my craft. And I love that each day I do it I get the chance to try and be better at it. And maybe make some connections with people. That’s a worthy job in my books.

August Journaling Day 27: Dad

I would say in all the journaling I’ve done in my life, whether on this site or elsewhere, the number one topic has been anxiety. Probably by a Secretariat like margin. But the Sham of blogging for me has been my dad. I do think the anxiety and him are probably somewhat intertwined and no doubt doing work on my relationship with him and his death helped with my anxiety issues.

I’ve told my dad’s story on this site many times. I’ve talked about his life, his death, and the effect of both on me. So I think I want to talk a little bit about what my relationship with him and his memory are now and then just some random thoughts about him. I just got home from an amazing weekend of racetracks, friends, and making great memories. As I was driving home tonight I thought about this topic and of my dad. Twenty years since his passing, my specific memories of him are fewer and far between. I have old stories that I think of and I can remember many instances of our time together. But in the last few years, dad as a concept for me is more of a feeling than specific memories.

What I mean by feeling is when I think about him or it’s a day to celebrate or remember him, I get this very familiar feeling. It’s a small knot in my stomach, a decreased appetite, and a general malaise that has a similar feeling to depression. It’s not depression, it’s not even in the same league as that, but on those days the blankets feel a little heavier to get out of bed. Going to the gym takes just a little more motivation to do. It’s just this strange heaviness that I feel when I really think about him. Father’s day, his birthday, and the anniversary of his passing are all within like a 6 week period in the summer. So maybe it’s just fresh on my mind because all those days passed. But when I think of him now, that heaviness feeling is what comes to mind.

A few days ago, I was driving home and a song came on the radio. It’s a country song from I’m guessing the early 90s called “Keep it Between the Lines.” It’s one of those great father/son songs and one I hadn’t heard for a long time. The first verse is kind of about the singer learning to drive and his dad’s confidence in him. The second verses are the lead singer now as the dad looking at his young son, and wanting advice from his dad that things are going to be ok. The song just wrecks me. “I’m right here beside you, and you’re gonna do fine. All you gotta do, is keep it between the lines.” I instantly got teary eyed and thought of my dad. But what’s funny is, my dad was NEVER the type who would have said such confidence inspring things like “I’m right here beside you and you’re going to do fine.” He would have said “what the fuck are you doing?” or “just do it pussy.” Now my Mom, she would have said the things like the song did. I think sometimes when I think and grieve about my dad, I think about him in a light that wasn’t really how he was. And maybe he could have gotten there eventually, he just ran out of time. But I’m doubtful. He was quite set in his ways.

I remember in counseling one time telling this story and thinking it was hilarious. My counselor looked back at me and said “At no point is this funny and all I hear is a father who is being so hard on his son for a mistake.” See, telling it now, I still think it’s funny, but I get where she’s coming from. So I give you, the reader, full approval to laugh at my pain here lol.

I had a 1983 Cutlass Ciera Brougham (humblebrag) as my first car in 1996. It was kind of a POS but it was my POS, a gift from my grandpa. So for a few weeks, the check engine light had been on, but the car kept running, so I didn’t think twice about it. That light had basically been on since I got the car. So one night I went down to the Golf Park to hit balls at the range. Upon ending my bucket of 300 yard bombs, I went to the car. It didn’t start. I tried again, nothing. So I called my mom to come pick me up. I went in and told the guy at the counter “hey man, my car is dead, but i’m going to come back tomorrow and jump it and move it.”

So the next morning, I asked dad if he could take me to jump the car. He said he could drop me off on his way to Emerald Downs because he had an early daily double he liked and wanted to get there by the first race. We pull into the Golf Park, my car’s not there. They towed it. So my dad went inside and yelled at the guy, explaining in his own way, what happened and confused about why they’d tow the car after I asked them not to. He came out to the car with money from them to pay for the tow as well as five free range bucket coins. Score!

The problem however was now he had to take me to the tow yard and his first post time at Emerald was coming up. So he asks me as we’re driving to the tow lot “what happened with the car, the battery just died?” I replied “I’m not sure, the check engine light had been on for several weeks though.” I could see the steam starting to rise off the top of his head. “What do you mean the check engine light has been on, did you go get it checked out?” “No,” I said. So when we pulled up to the tow lot he got the car and it was working, so the battery probably did die. But I’ll never forget the speech my dad gave me as I sat into the drivers seat. He stuck his head into the window and saw the check engine light was still on. He pointed at it and said “do you know what that’s called?” I said “that’s the check engine light.” To which he so kindly said “No, that’s the dumbfuck light. It’s used to tell the dumbfuck…..that’s you….that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.” His delivery of that line is what makes it still funny to me. “that’s you.” Yeah thanks for clarifying that dad. My dad was never the “it’s alright Jason, you’ll do better next time,” type. He gave tough love and often it wasn’t love. He parented from fear, a lot. And I worked through my anger about that and in the end, I hold him accountable for that, but I also forgive him. I think he was trying his best.

I do wonder what he would think about me as a 42 year old man. I have no doubts he’d be disappointed in me in some ways and proud in others. He was the ultimate example of there is very little black and white in life. It’s mostly gray.

Dad coaching baseball. He was at his best on the baseball field

August Journaling Day 26: Hobbies

Thinking back to the journal entry on dating from a few weeks ago, it seems like meeting new people always at some point features the conversation of “what are your hobbies?” “What are you into?” Anytime this conversation comes up I think about Norm MacDonald’s bit about how he spends his days. “Well I wake up and start thinking, what am I going to do for breakfast? Then I make and eat breakfast. But as soon as that’s done, gotta start thinking about lunch.” Essentially he spends all day planning for or consuming his three meals. But seriously, what are we into? It’s funny because I think of my life as being somewhat structured and busy, but I also often have decent chunks of down times. So how to fill them?

The last year exercise has become a daily event, but I don’t count that as a hobby. Mostly because it isn’t something I actually like, I just like the benefits and feeling afterwards. But how do I spend my free time? Is watching videos on youtube a hobby? I feel like a hobby needs to be something more engaging and specific. And I do have lots of things I enjoy doing, but in recent years I’ve taken up a few things that have become enjoyable hobbies.

First of all is cooking. Is cooking a hobby though since we have to eat? I would argue the way in which I’ve changed my eating habits and the time spent shopping and cooking, that it has become a hobby. I’ve taken up a million hobbies in my life, but cooking has really become a central one. I love all aspects of it. Looking for recipes and ideas. Watching how to videos. Learning the science of food. Going to the store. Executing the dish. It’s all just so much fun, and you get to eat at the end! What’s strange is often the process to me is more fun than the eating. The eating almost is like “well I guess we have this food here, may as well consume it.” Along with cooking, smoking meat was my pandemic hobby I took up. BBQ has always been a favorite food of mine and good ribs would be my death row dinner for sure. But getting a smoker and learning all the tricks of making good BBQ at home was something I jumped into during the pandemic. I was probably smoking three to four days a week. It also taught me the value of cooking larger and less desirable cuts of meat and the benefit of getting several meals out of one cook. Smoking a pork shoulder would make a delicious meal that night, but it also made meat for sandwiches, nachos, pulled pork, and more for the next week. All for a $10 or $15 cut of meat. Knowing I was going to be living in an apartment in Tampa and the foreseeable future, I gifted my smoker to my ex girlfriend who also loves to cook. She sends me pictures all the time of her latest creations. Once I get a more permanent place in Tampa, I’m going to treat myself to a new smoker which I’m pumped to get back to.

My other hobby in recent years has been watches. I was never a watch wearer growing up until my mom got me a nice watch after college. I wore that for several years before selling it when I needed some cash. I always regretted that and in 2019 I thought about getting another watch. My budget was tight so I just bought a little cheapie off of amazon. I enjoyed wearing it and started watching some videos about watches on youtube. A few months later I bought a Longines quartz watch, a step up in quality and price and I just loved it. My interest in watches skipped past hobby level and ran quickly into obsession. I watched and read every video and article I could find. Started learning the history and mechanics behind them. After stumbling across the youtube channel Wristwatch Revival and watching this guy Marshall put back together or service old watches, I bought all the tools an amateur watchmaker needed. I’d order old pocket watches on ebay and spend hours tinkering with them. Taking them apart, cleaning them, putting them back together. The highlight of my experience was getting an old Elgin Pocketwatch back up and running. I diagnosed the problem was a broken mainspring and some parts that needed cleaning. Got a new mainspring, wound it in, did a service, and boom! It keeps horrible time, but six months later it still works when I wind it.

My mistake in watch collecting early on was I started buying too many too fast. I loved combing ebay or chrono24 for good deals and jumped at a few that I knew I could flip if I wanted to or could keep them and they would hold their value. Next thing I knew I had like twelve watches haha. I sold a couple at very small profits and one or two at small losses. Overall in my watch trading career I think I’m up maybe $200. My collection right now has 8 watches and feels like that’s manageable. They all get some wrist time each week and I have a special attachment to tall of them. A couple are very inexpensive and just fun to have. A few are expensive (by my standards not overall watch standards) and are nice pieces that are beautiful and great mechanical pieces. I really have enjoyed learning the mechanics and history of watches and knowing what makes a certain watch special and why. It’s a really interesting hobby and has been something really rewarding to learn about.

August Journaling Day 25: Spirituality

I had a talk the other day with someone I’ve just recently met, and the conversation of our spiritual beliefs came up and I realized that I hadn’t thought about this in a while. There was a time in my life where I often questioned what my beliefs about God, religion, spirituality were. But honestly I kind of just kept coming to the same conclusions pretty much every time. And now it’s something that I rarely ever think about.

We had absolutely zero religion in my house growing up. Outside of weddings or funerals, I think I’ve gone to church two times in my life. Both times were because in order to stay the night at my best buddy Jared’s house on Saturday nights, we had to attend church on Sunday mornings. I was probably 13 or 14 and all I remember was the song that went “hallelujah, jesus christ is lord,” a bunch of times and going up to the front to eat the cracker and grape juice. I remember asking Jared repeatedly “they aren’t going to give us wine right? I can’t drink!”

As a kid I think I thought I believed in God just because that’s what you heard on TV and movies all the time and that’s honestly the only place I remember hearing about him as a kid. Other than my dad taking his name in vein during a baseball game that is. It just was never brought up and I don’t remember ever really asking my parents about religion or God. I don’t think I really cared to be honest. I was too busy with baseball after all to worry about such small things as eternal life and the creation of the entire planet.

I think my dad getting sick and dying was really the first time I truly started to really look internally at any spirituality I had. I suppose death is a normal time to question such things. It sure wasn’t for my dad. I remember a friend of his even asking a couple weeks before he died if he wanted to read the bible or had questions about God and my dad just quickly turned it down with no interest in hearing him out. The night before my dad died I remember saying out loud “Just let him fall asleep and not wake up.” He had been in such pain and discomfort and was ready to go. I woke up the next morning at 10am and went out front. He was sound asleep. My uncle came over and within an hour, Dad quietly passed away. Didn’t make a sound or a movement. HIs body just kind of turned off.

That moment certainly made me question if my prayer was really heard. I mean it kind of happened how I asked. And it happened to be the one time I’d really asked the universe for something really important. I mean I’d asked to hit home runs in baseball games and for a girlfriend, but this was a real request. A real prayer of sorts. It stuck with me for years as maybe some kind of hint towards something greater.

In the times that I have explored my faith though, I’ve kind of always come back to the same answer. I don’t believe in any religion or a particular God. I’ve just truly never felt it within me. And maybe that’s where the ‘faith’ part of it comes in. Maybe people who do believe just have faith and not a true feeling or sense of God. But I would guess that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be wrong and there’s a heaven and hell and we all get to live in some form forever. I just don’t have the faith that’s how it goes.

For this reason above, I used to be absolutely terrified of death. I thought about it all the time. A major part of my anxiety was always thinking I was going to die. I became a hypochondriac. I was consumed not so much about what happens after death, but rather, what happens just before and during it. The ultimate lack of control at that point. I wonder if in that moment maybe I will find spirituality and faith. Or just frantically begging for it? But I suppose, if it is something I see coming, I’ll just close my eyes and try to give in and be open to the approaching nothingness. In recent years though, my fear of death has waned. Maybe it’s just getting closer to it myself and realizing the true randomness of the universe and that tomorrow I or someone I love can be gone. I think accepting and almost embracing the uncertainty has helped me not to worry about it.

Even though I’ve never been someone who believed much in a higher power, I don’t begrudge or look down upon those who do. Quite the opposite, I admire people who have faith. I sometimes wish I had it. But I think that as long as people aren’t hurt, shunned, or stripped of their rights because of your faith or religion, we have no issues at all even though we have different beliefs.

The one thing I always come back to in any conversation on religion or spirituality is energy. I do believe in energy. I don’t think my dad is up above looking down on my from heaven. I do however think he still lives in my brain and heart while I’m still here. The figurative heart, not the literal one. I still can faintly remember his voice, his hands, his mannerisms, and his words. They live on in my memory. They still possess an energy because those memories can still trigger emotions and feelings within me. And I think that goes for everyone who lives on this planet. We all connect at some level with someone and after we die I do believe some energy from us remains in this world. So while it might not be an eternal afterlife, it is a sort of ‘life after’ no?

I know this is a potentially sensitive topic to write about and for some to read. I want to be respectful about the topic but also honest with my own self about it as well. As I said, it’s something that hasn’t really been a part of my life. It just is not on my radar, which I’m sure sounds crazy if you’re reading this and spirituality is a key tenet of your life. But that’s how it is for me. I imagine my curiosity and exploration of my own spirituality will ebb and flow at times. I want to be openminded enough for if I do have a change in philosophy that I’m ok to go with that. But 42 years in, hasn’t really changed yet. But life has a funny way of sending us on different paths sometimes, so we shall see.

August Journaling Day 24: Creativity

I suppose tonight’s topic builds a little bit off of yesterday’s about music. It’s the process and benefit of creativity I think I want to write about tonight. And how I think it’s helped not only my life, but how I value it as something both fulfilling and necessary. I mean, I guess doing a journal is being creative in a way. You’re conjuring up words, thoughts, and stories out of your brain and placing them on a page. Hopefully in a way that benefits either yourself or the reader through some clarity or even just purging out the words.

Writing has always been very therapeutic, which is the main reason I started this month of daily journaling. I love the purge that comes with it. Just spew these words out, get them out of my head and in front of me. When I wrote my book (Southbound, signed copies available!) I remember finishing the first draft and being so excited and thinking “I’m done yay!” I didn’t realize that 80% of writing isn’t the writing, it’s the editing. The shaping. Now with a journal like this, I think this type of writing is 90% writing. I give a cursory re-read just to make sure there’s no horrible errors or something doesn’t make sense, but mostly it’s the exercise of writing I want to focus on here. But actual writing….so much of it isn’t the writing.

The idea of ‘process’ is something that I really focus on in a lot of areas of my life. Diet, exercise, announcing, writing, all of it. If I create my process and do the little things that make up that process, I’m going to see something real, tangible, and hopefully good at the end of it. I love that most things have a process, particularly creative things. Because I think for a lot of years I thought creativity just came in moments or flashes and that you had to capture them right away on pen and paper or whatever medium you used to express that sudden rush of creativity. But real creativity is filled with trial and error. With editing. With redos. With multiple takes. With tons of failures. Comedians like Chris Rock probably write thousands of jokes that are terrible and we never hear at all. They hone and craft every word, every syllable, every raising of their voice, to see how and where the joke will work best. And I guarantee that so many of them don’t see the light of day beyond a set at a comedy club where they’re working out their material. I love that about creativity, that it’s work. Because it’s a work that I personally find extremely fulfilling. I feel better about myself if I’ve been creative. I think that comes from enjoying the process of it.

I remember a writer friend of mine from Portland, Willy Vlautin, telling me that he used to clock in to write. He’d show up at his office at 9am and write until 5pm. He told me that was how he got real work done.

I have a lot of ideas come in and out of my head, as I think we all do. I tend to jot them down in my phone most times and come back to them when I have some time. Sometimes they sit there forever, sometimes they sit there for an hour, but I always want to keep any idea that comes around atleast jotted down. I had a dream a month ago that was so vivid and felt like a movie. When I work up I grabbed my phone and immediately wrote down the main notes of what I remembered. The next day I came up with a bunch of characters and was thinking obsessively about this story that I was just given in my sleep. Now, since that day, I haven’t even thought about it. It’s still in my phone, but I haven’t sat down to the do the work to flush it out. I got lucky with the initial inspiration and now anything that will ever come of it, will only come from work. Which is where the real creativity comes from.

I find being creative very fulfilling. A shift I made in the last couple of years was to get away from trying to be ‘happy’ and work on trying to be fulfilled. Because I think for me, more happiness tends to happen when I’m doing things that fulfill me. And that can range from stupid stuff like writing a song parody or a poem all the way to having an important conversation with a friend or doing some homework for work. It can come from writing this journal. I’m tired right now. I don’t particularly want to write this. But now that I’ve started, I’m enjoying it. And I know when it’s done and it’s a tangible thing that I’ve created, I will feel good. Fulfilled. And when someone reads it tomorrow, if they enjoy it, boom, more fulfillment. If they hate it, eh still kind of fulfilled! For me being creative in any way brings me great fulfillment. And I’m a happier person because of that.

August Journaling Day 23: Music

I got my shuffle playing as I type this and White Lion’s “Wait” just came on. Not sure if that’s a good omen for this blog. I think I have like 5 hair metal songs out of a couple thousand songs on there and that’s one of them. High Enough by Damn Yankees and House of Pain by Faster Pussycat are the only other two I can think of, but I’m sure there’s a couple others.

I actually talked with a friend earlier today about music and they said something to the effect of “I don’t know how there are people who don’t really ‘feel’ when they listen to music.” I kind of agree as whenever I actively listen to music I want to have some sort of emotional release and connection from it. Sure sometimes you might just be passing time and music is on in the background. Or you’re at a bar and there’s some band playing originals and it’s fine, but you don’t care. But any time I’m in the car alone or listening to music at home, or at a concert, I really want to feel the music. I want to delve more into the emotional experience that it gives me. I want that little knot in my stomach when a sad lyric hits just write.

I do tend to gravitate towards sad music and I almost always have. I think to me that’s the emotion that I most connect with in music. As a kid my mom would make us listen to country music in the car all the time and it was always the sad ballads that I liked most. Feels So Right by Alabama, Almost Goodbye by Mark Chestnutt, stuff like that. Country and pop were kind of all I knew as a kid and my transformation into a rock guy was very slow and gradual. It started with oldies and eventually I had a really big Creedence phase when I was like 14. Then I remember really liking Bob Seger for a while. 95.7 KJR was all 70s on the radio and that was the station that was my number one when I got a car at age 16. I remember coming home once and asking my dad “Have you ever heard of Led Zeppelin?” He looked at me even more dismissively than he normally did. High school was almost all classic rock for me. However at some assembly early in my senior year I remember someone played the song Master of Puppets by Metallica. I was floored by it. I had heard Enter Sandman and stuff like that, but holy shit did hearing Master of Puppets hit me. I bought a guitar like a week later. I started and stopped learning guitar a lot that first year and when I left for college, I really started to play a lot. I learned every Metallica song I could play (which wasn’t many at first). My tastes started to go more towards the Seattle bands and early 90s rock as it seemed like I was generally 10 to 20 years behind the times in my music education.

I liked all the Seattle bands, but Alice in Chains became my favorite. I loved everything about Layne Staley’s voice and lyrics and just everything about them. I remember seeing Layne in the video for Would? and he had those bug sunglasses on and to me there was never going to be anyone in the world cooler than that guy. Sophomore year me and two friends from high school were all at UW for college started a band. We were fans of the show Growing Pains as kids so we named the band after Mike Seaver’s best buddy Boner Stabone. Stabone started out just us playing cover songs but eventually I started writing originals. All throughout our junior and senior years we’d play house parties and we actually kind of got a little following going at school. We’d usually get 100 or 150 people to show up to these parties to come and see us. Maybe they came for the beer, but I’m going to assume it was for us. We recorded a 6 song album that summer after college graduation and while it only took us three days, it was so much fun and I still have some great memories of that time. And I still consider both guys good friends.

  • Side note, when I made these videos I didn’t know how to video edit, so I literally just took photos from my computer and put them on there to fill up the time needed for the song. I realize they’re cringe AF.
A Stabone song about my dad’s death called Floating. Pardon the horrible videos. And potentially horrible music 🙂

I loved the process of writing song and I’ve always gone in spurts of writing songs since Stabone. Mostly just for myself and my own enjoyment. I posted some of them on youtube and will include a couple of those below. They’re just demos and I never thought that I was any good at songwriting or music, but I did love the process of it. I haven’t really played guitar in a few years and other than singing in the car, I don’t know if I could hit notes that I did before in these old songs.

Last things I want to say about music. I remember in high school I started getting real judgy and snobbish about music. And for no reasons because it’s not like my tastes were ever that hip. But as I’ve gotten older, I hate music snobs and I hate that I ever gave someone crap because they liked Dave Matthews. Like just let people listen to what they like without shitting on it. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum. So don’t let someone else poo poo a song or artist you like. Keep on rockin!

A song about depression with the corniest video of all time
This song in some ways was the precursor to my book. That idea of running away and gambling my brains out.

Stabone show from the early 2000s. That Zakk Wylde guitar got stolen after a party that year. Assholes.

August Journaling Day 22: Social Media

I saw someone recently say on their website that social media is making us dumber as Americans. My initial thought was, I don’t think it’s made us dumber or smarter, I just think it’s given a bullhorn to everyone and they just expose their stupidity. But reading some of my posts over the years, I could argue it’s done that for me as well. Another quote about social media that resonates with me more is “Social Media is a loaded gun, and it’s always waiting to go off.” It’s incredible to watch how people’s lives can be effected or changed just by saying something dumb on their keyboard and hitting send.

With most forms of social media, I’ve generally been a few years behind in getting into them. I feel like Myspace was a thing well before I finally joined. Same with facebook, twitter, and instagram. And all the new ones that have popped up in recent years, I haven’t even bothered. I’m sure it would be smart from a career perspective for me to get on tik tok or snapchat or any of those type things, but I’m kind of content with my social media life as it exists now. I keep Facebook active but only have close family and friends on there and don’t post all that much. Instagram I don’t have that many folks on there I interact with but I actually like the platform, especially for looking at watch stuff or cooking stuff. Twitter is still far and away the application that I spend the most time and energy.

To me twitter has always felt like a very large living room where everyone hangs out. You can pop in and out when you want, but I feel like I’m just there all day. Each September when I take my vacation I delete the app off my phone and I will grab my phone and go to click on twitter, out of sheer habit, at least ten times a day during that time, only to remember it’s not on there. Am I addicted to social media? I don’t think so, but I’m certainly extremely invested in it. Ok, I’m probably addicted to it. But let me live in denial will ya?

Overall I do think social media has been a net positive in my life. I’ve made some incredible friendships through social media and I feel like I have friends in many parts of the country and world, even though we’ve never met in person. Actually a couple of my closest friendships are with people who I met on social media and didn’t meet in person for years. We’ve since met many times but the foundation of those friendships started from social media.

I owe a lot of my career to social media. I don’t know if we count chat forum’s as social media, but making connections on and helped me gain advice and connections that got me my first announcing job. BetAmerica hired me to do my podcast in 2016 after seeing the Beemie Awards that I did. The quote from the man who hired me was “We want to work with you, pitch us a job.” I mean, nobody had ever pursued me for a job like that. It was always me begging before that. I think social media helped me get both of the racecalling jobs that I currently have, probably as much, if not more-so than because of my abilities at racecalling. So I have a lot of reasons to be very thankful for social media and the connections it’s allowed me to make. It’s changed my life in some very positive ways.

The negativity and bad sides of social media are there. Overall, I think I get very very little amounts of trolling or shit from people on there. I see some friends and colleagues who get endless amounts of people shitting on them, so I feel fortunate that for the most part I avoid that kind of heckling. I mean, I get some, but usually it’s just from anonymous troll types who I just mute or block and then they’re out of my life. My general rule is if my first interaction with someone is a bad one, there’s no reason to think it’s going to somehow get better, so I just mute and move on. Anyone whose first approach to a stranger is being a dick, I mean that kind of tells me all I need to know. I just don’t see any reason to let someone say something that might dictate or effect my mood or how I’m doing. No way do I want to give anyone that power, especially someone I don’t know.

Going back to the loaded gun analogy from earlier, social media scares me in some ways. I rarely comment on serious issues on social media. I’m shocked at how often people will call people’s bosses or try and get them fired because they don’t like something someone said. Believe me, if you’re reading this and I follow you on social media, you’ve said some crazy shit on there. Things I find disgusting and wildly disagree with. But don’t worry, I’m not going to try and take away your livelihood. I have friends I follow who I think diametrically opposite on political, social, and horse racing issues. But so what? I let them say what they want. It’s just words. And if they’re too annoying, Mute City, population one more. I have no doubt lots of people have me muted and that’s fine. I understand I’m probably annoying sometimes. Sometimes I wish I could mute myself!

Anyways, to wrap up, I’ll stay on social media, don’t have any plans on quitting it. My participation in it is less than it used to be and I think that’s a good thing. But I’m grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met or talked with who have been kind and been a force for positive in my life and the world. It’s a great tool in that way.