I just woke up to the sound of a vehicle slowly rolling over gravel, too close for comfort.
I’m hungover. I’m in a YMCA parking lot. I need to get moving. I need to write. More than anything else, I need to find a bathroom.
Slowly, I recall all three drinks. Three! Two of them were gifted to me.
Basically, last night I partied. Hard. In one night I more than doubled my alcohol consumption for the entire month of June. At one point in my life, three drinks was considered “pre-gaming,” something to do while getting ready to go out. Now three drinks is a bonafide rager. I’m good on booze for a very, very long time.
I delivered three explosive pitches yesterday. I regaled. I preached. But first, I listened, and it made all of the difference in the world.
Here’s how it works: I tell people just enough to get them talking. It doesn’t take much. A few nuggets of info and a few good questions. And once I crack the shell, I bore in, with deeper questions and deeper vulnerability. I say that I’m lost and confused and alone, because it’s true. I say that I’m trying, every day, to figure out the meaning of life, beacuse it’s true. I let people spill. And I spill with them.
At Snowbound Books, I met a slew of fascinating folks, including an extraordinarily accomplished Upper Peninsula-based artist from Japan whose versatile approach to capturing nature included delicate woodblock prints and majestic, dream-like oil paintings of the clear streams where she fishes. Her work was on display, and I fell into it.
Everybody everywhere is struggling with technology. With reading. I like to let the conversation brew before offering my take. I leave clues. I said, “My story is long, and messy, but I’ll give it to you quick.” And I do. And I look around, reading faces, eyes especially. I watch expressions widen, open up. A few jaws drop. It fuels me. I get to a point where every additional factoid feels like gravy, to be poured slowly.
A good gambler knows when to fold. And often I do that. I walk away with a good hand, because it doesn’t feel right to try to make the sale.
But more often than not, when the energy is peaking, I go all in.
I take a full-throated breath. I create silence.
I lock eyes. And then:
“I’m the CEO of a tech company that’s going to completely change the internet.”
Reader, know this: I have been sticking the landing like Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympics.
Of course I still fumble, but it doesn’t matter. It makes it better, in a way. It keeps me human. It opens the door to further exploration. To real, two-way connection.
It’s not about being interesting. It’s about being interested. And it’s about being me.
Realization: I am interesting. That part takes care of itself. Honesty and vulnerability, on the other hand, don’t. So that’s what I need to focus on.
At the bookstore, at the tail end of a dynamic, exciting conversation, I looked up at Richard Powers’s The Overstory and said, “I need to read that book. It’s been sending me energy for months.” They offered it to me for free, and told me to take as many postcards as I wanted. I insisted on paying for the book. Nobody with a soul takes a new book, for free, from a purveyor of new & used books. Plus I had nothing to offer in return, except of course Readup, my gift to readers everywhere. We agreed that I’d get the employee discount, an arrangement that made all of us feel whole.
As the sun went down, a light drizzle began to fall. I ducked into a bar where a guy on a stool was singing Rocky Raccoon from a stage by the front window. When I popped in for a listen, the entire room, including the musician, looked at me, so I had no choice but to make my way to the bar. Before I could even take a sip of my IPA, S invited me to join his biker gang at the rowdiest table in the joint. No wasn’t an option.
S is 56, works in IT, loves Bitcoin for the same reasons that I do, and has three Ducatis. He doesn’t want his kids to go to college. I get this guy. Deeply. He showed me a photo of his son and daughter and I said, “They’re good looking kids,” because it was true, they were. And I knew that that mattered to him because (1) that matters to everyone and (2) in the photo they had their shirts lifted up and they were flexing their abs.
Just like in the bookstore, I had that weird feeling like he was falling into the palm of my hand. I had him figured out. I told him my story, and the Readup story, in a way that was crafted specifically for him, wrapped up like a gift. He was rapt.
I hope I don’t sound arrogant telling you this, reader, but it’s how I feel. I feel like a man with a message. A message with the power to drop people to their knees.
One of S’s buddies started screaming “POOL!” across the table. And when once wasn’t enough he started chanting: “Pool! Pool! Pool!”
“I guess this guy wants you to play pool,” I said, basically highlighting the fact that S was in my web. There wasn’t a chance he was walking away from me. “Ignore him,” he said. And even S’s wife helped with the box out. “They’re having a moment,” she said to the pool-screamer. “Leave them alone.” And it was true. S and I were having a moment. And so we were left alone.
At some point, someone bought a round of tequila shots. I partook.
Eventually S said, “I feel like I love you,” and I said, “You do, and I know, but it’s just because I’m a decade younger than you and making myself sound interesting.”
I made a quick exit on a high note. On my way out the door, I said, “I have the cheat codes,” referring to the fact that we’re living in a giant simulation. He nearly lost his shit, practically begged me to remember to email him. I really liked S. He has an extra bedroom in Southern California, so I think we’ll meet again.
I staggered back to Sputnik feeling plenty drunk on the beer and shot.
But instead of retiring for the evening, I knocked on M’s door. M lives in what was once a Methodist church, a passion project if there ever was one. He’s been working on his house day and night for years. And it shows. He offered me a beer at a table with a multi-colored glow that emanated from the inside up through an ornate wrought iron centerpiece surrounded by old wood. Everything was old wood. It felt like sitting in a magical, psychedelic tree. Or I was just drunk.
Kirsten Gillibrand’s voice, emanating from the television, seemed vaguely satanic.
I met M earlier in the day, in the library parking lot next door to his church-house. I handed him a window screen he accidentally dropped from a window and he said, “swing by for a beer later if you want.” I don’t think he actually thought I would. Neither did I. Regardless, we had an excellent meaning-of-life conversation, the kind that can only happen late at night.
M got one of the most passionate pitches I’ve ever given, complete with a full life recap and a booze-infused cherry on top that I’ve never used before and never plan to use again: “Dude, I have no idea if life on the road is making me crazy, but I legit think I’m going to have a Steve Jobs existence. I see it happening.”
He thought about that. And then, slowly, seriously, he said something like, “Yes. And I believe you.”
It was perfectly vague. It could have meant, “It’s clear to me that you do feel that way about yourself, but you’re actually a crazy idiot.”
But it could also have meant, “I too think that you have what it takes.”
One thing’s for sure, he didn’t say, “Get out of my wonderful church-home you drunk lunatic.” And he had the Readup app on his phone before I left. So I’m chalking it up as a win.
So that’s it. That’s my story of yesterday.
Now, about twelve hours later, my hangover is finally dissipating.
I think I’ve accomplished what I needed to accomplish here in Marquette. I’m anxious to get to Ishpeming. But, then again, there’s a free bluegrass concert tonight at the bandshell. So… we’ll see. Maybe I’ll hang around for one more night.
Regardless, see you tomorrow, first thing in the morning. -B