Strange days. Also: Vegas (no) baby!

9 May

Winner! Winner! Chicken! Dinner! #Vegas!

Apart from the usual busyness that bloggers who aren’t blogging (or, as we used to call them, online diarists who aren’t writing diary entries) experience — and there’s been plenty of that lately — the reason there hasn’t been a real update around here in a while is that I had a little nervous breakdown.

A really small one. Itty-bitty. I didn’t even notice it myself when it was happening. It didn’t involve depression or erratic actions or walking outside in my underwear and peeing in the yard or anything strange like that.

What did happen was that right after South by Southwest Interactive, which is about the busiest time of the year for me, I took some time off from work. Then I took some more time off. For about a month and a half (just concluding, really), I’ve been in and out of the office and haven’t really settled back into a real rhythm of work. But that’s not where the problem was.

The problem was that right after the festival, I was so mentally exhausted and bored with the area that I cover (technology) that I was seriously considering whether I wanted to continue. Then that led to, “Well, what would I do instead?” and all the panic and reflection you have when you think you might need a big life change.

It turns out I didn’t. It turns out I was kind of panicking for nothing and losing focus and doing all the things you do when you’re worn out and decide to throw yourself into more activity instead of just letting yourself rest. Once I figured that part out, I did rest. I played a ton of video games. Watched a lot of TV. Saw some movies, which is a luxury I rarely get to enjoy these days. Spent lots of time with my girls and started taking more photos and videos of them.

What I didn’t do was spend a lot of time writing blog entries here or seeking out new freelance work or other extracurricular activities. I kind of just let myself settle down for a little while and see what that’s like. Of course, that leads to a whole path where you begin to think maybe you’ve forgotten how to write or how to do your job if your job is to write. The only cure for that, really, is to just start doing it again and see how it goes.

So that was the extent of that. It was a really tiny, super-self-contained little crisis of faith.

Of jellybeans

One thing that actually really helped get over this weird life-hovering I was doing was going to Las Vegas. My wife and I went with Jessica, a friend I’ve had since I was 13.

Our excuse for going to Vegas was that Jessica was going to an all-classes reunion for the school we both attended in Germany as teenagers. The real reason we went was that we don’t get to hang out with Jessica (who is also Lilly’s godmother) nearly enough and that we just needed to get the Hell out of town and take a vacation. It was the first trip we’ve taken anywhere since before Carolina was born when we went to New York for a vacation we knew would be our last for a long while.


The calamities started early. I broke the zipper on my laptop bag before we even got on the plane causing my wife to wonder if all my stuff was going to sail down the aisles of the plane if we hit any turbulence. (That didn’t happen.)

Right after we arrived at New York, New York, the official reunion hotel where we were staying, we were standing in line for registration. My wife and I were sharing a bag of Gummi watermelon sours (we are classy like that) and I felt something crunchy in mouth suddenly. The damned sticky confection had pulled off a goddamned cap (or crown; I don’t know from molar dentistry) off my rear right lower tooth. I fished it out of my mouth, a gross, smelly little intact bit of porcelain.

I was like Ben Stiller in that “There’s Something About Mary” scene with the zipper and Cameron Diaz outside the bathroom door. I was saying things like, “It’s OK! I can still gamble! Look, I’ll pop it right back in!”

Instead, we went upstairs and started calling dentists in town at about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, with predictable results. It does turn out that lots of Vegas hotels have in-house dental offices (because they are the size of small cities). But none of the ones I called had anyone who could see me on such short notice… except… one of the in-house dental businesses referred me to a place that kept early Saturday hours. It was way across town. The cab would be incredibly expensive. But they could get it done early and permanently. My home dentist in Austin called me back shortly after and agreed that it would be better to have it taken care of sooner rather than later. He did advise I put some toothpaste in it and stick it back in. I did that and it worked! Totally! But I went to the dentist anyway.

I call him

It was weird.

First of all, there were tons of framed posters on the waiting room and exam room walls featuring Las Vegas talent. And when I say “Talent” I mean dudes with no shirts on and ladies with their boobs pushed up about an inch from their noses. I couldn’t tell if they were strippers or dancers or cheerleaders or what, but there were lots of them and they all had great death. (Go, dentist!)

No ordinary dental visit

Now, I’m not trying to stereotype here, but I’m used to dentists who are a lot older than me and who still seem like authoritarians when it comes to subjects like plaque and flossing. Both the dentist and the dental hygienist were straight-up dudes, guys with gelled hair who looked like bartenders. One of them asked me, after mishearing an answer of mine about how long I was staying in town (in my defense, I had someone else’s fingers in my mouth) and asked, “So, you a truck driver?”

But they get the job done, bless those dudes. The cap was glued back on and they wished me good luck on my gambling. At least they didn’t make a “Hangover” joke.

The rest of the trip we spent walking through casinos, gambling a bit (I ended up ahead about $50-$100, though I make it a point not to keep exact track so I don’t feel bad if I lose a bit), eating everything in sight (two buffets and the excellent Firefly tapas grill on Paradise at the suggestion of Kerissa) and seeing “The Beatles: Love” at The Mirage. That part was fantastic. We had some of the worst seats in the house and it didn’t matter because every seat is good and the design is insanely good. I don’t know that I’ll ever hear the Beatles catalog sound so good on any other sound system in my life.

Donald Glover / Childish Gambino at the Hard Rock

By complete luck, we caught the second half of Donald Glover’s concert at the Hard Rock. We missed the stand-up comedy set, but we caught a lot of the music and he was fantastic. I posted a video I shot on the blog last week.

Really, the only problem was that I had this weird feeling, especially at night when I slept, that my old pal David Copperfield was watching me.

I’m sure it was probably just my imagination.

Copperfield Watch

We really needed Vegas and the timing was good. We had a much better time than we were expecting.

In fact, you could say it was kind of magical. There were Pegasuses and everything.

Me and a pegasus

And what of the reunion itself? That part, unfortunately, was kind of a bust. We didn’t know a lot of people at the two reunion dinners (and the people I did recognize was mostly because we’ve subsequently become friends on Facebook, the new nexus of maintaining thin bonds online).

It was a little awkward and the attendance was a lot lower than what we were expecting (we were told later it was less than what the organizers themselves had expected, too) and even though there was some fun memories we got to relive, it reminded me how much I’ve come to appreciate the present and the future instead of dwelling on what’s been left in the past. It was kind of an expensive lesson to learn, but luckily Vegas had lots of other things on offer to lift our spirits.

I miss a few things about those high school years now and then, but I’ve lost any desire I might have once had to move backward in time, even for just a peek.

Photo by Ralph Barrera, Austin American-Statesman

Even though I had such a strange time getting back on the writing horse, I have had stuff run in the paper. I had an app feature about one called “Coaching Assistant” run a few weeks ago, had a review of the video game “Bulletstorm” in the paper, a review of the new MacBook Pros and a Tech Monday column about AT&T’s recent home broadband caps.

And of course, the Digital Savant blog keeps me busy. I started a Digital Savant podcast before SXSW that I mentioned before and have posted three episodes so far. It’s short format (less than 20 minutes per episode) with one guest per episode. I like that format and will probably keep it that way for a while and try to increase the frequency to a new podcast every week or two.

It should be up on iTunes soon with an updated link/feed. I’ll post once it’s there.

And, lastly, after we got back from Vegas, I got a vasectomy. (I’m not sure if that counts as unlucky; what say you, Vegas experts?)

But that’s not a story I’m ready to tell you today. I’ll post about it soon, promise.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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