Your Trip Report Is Boring

Before we get started, I need you to know that this is not directed at you. At least, not you personally. I love all the blogs and all the stories of all my friends. This is more directed at you, in general. You, the internet. It pains me to say this, although not as much as it pains me to keep clicking on these links. Your trip report is boring and I don’t want to read it.

I get the impulse. A lot of you out there are doing some pretty cool stuff. Some of you are riding motorcycles around the world. Some of you are skiing improbable lines in exotic locales. Pretty much all of you have done something in the last year or so that’s worth sharing a beer over, and you’ve probably heard, “you should keep a trip report blog so we can follow along!”. But if someone’s going to go out of their way to pull up your story and skimread it at a red light or during their morning poop, keep in mind that there’s basically three reasons a person is interested in what you have to say.

  1. They care deeply about you as a human. This is the aunts. The Godparents. That kid you went on a few dates with like 10 years ago who, unbeknownst to you, wonders every day if you were the one who got away and scours the internet for any hint of what your life is like so they can insert themselves and wonder what might have been as they sit in traffic or drift to sleep at night next to someone else. These people are your fan base. They’ll read anything you put out there, even if it’s awful or doesn’t make any damn sense. That’s great. Cheers to the fans.
  2. They are interested in doing exactly what you did. These folks are looking for beta. They want to know whether to turn left or go straight when the trail forks at that big cedar with the lightning scar. They are completely uninterested, and starting to get a little annoyed, at long explanations of what you had for breakfast, the color of your shoelaces, and which brands are currently offering you 25% off one order a year. Honestly, a few photos and an annotated map is probably much preferred to any kind of prose.
  3. They’re interested in the story. And by story, of course, I don’t mean simply what happened, or even necessarily why. I mean the human drama. The nitty gritty. It’s not enough that you had a nice time, or a bad time. It’s not enough that the weather was bad. It’s not enough that you were right; someone else has to be wrong. It’s essential not only that you prevail in righteousness, but also that you quell the haters, which, generally, is composed by everyone else on earth.
I went for a jog after worth the other day and this is exactly how it played out. I swear.

When Homer recorded the greatest trip report of all time, The Odyssey,  he could very well have said, “Odysseus went for a walk. He got lost. The haters hated. His new caligae really had the arch support he needed to go the extra mile. He came home, he brought the drama. The end.” That’s not a very good story. He didn’t waste time talking about which brand of goatskin flasks the Phaeacians relied on to stay hydrated. And when it stormed? This was no ordinary squall. This was the wrath of deeply, personally offended gods.

Odysseus never got bonked, but his crew was drugged by lotus-eaters and turned into pigs. They were never distracted, per se, but lured toward a cold, violent death by a supernatural Siren Song. Like, 500 people died, or something. And when he got home? Ho man. No shower beer and Netflix for that guy – he got right to killing everyone who even walked on his lawn while he was out.

That’s a trip report I can get behind.

Not every hike is an adventure, not every ski tour is an epic. Almost nothing we do is really all that interesting, if we’re honest. So if we’re going to have a story, tell us a story. We’re not all that interested in exactly what happened.

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Morning People

There are some people who rise each day without an alarm. These morning people spring from bed some time before dawn, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and embark (I presume) on satisfying a meticulous list of things to do, prepared the night before in neat handwriting. These people don’t drink coffee. They don’t eat bacon sandwiches. They subsist primarily on juices of kale, broccoli sprouts, and optimism. These people are not to be trusted.

For the rest of us, the regular folks, the Joe Sixpacks, mornings are a little bit different. We grapple with digital alarms and claw ourselves from the confines of our beds whole dozens of minutes before our first engagement of the day. Shower briefly, dry off a little bit (not too much, no time), stagger bleary-eyed with a paper cup of strong black coffee into the first meeting of the day, whatever it is. Don’t forget to check your fly.

For us normal folk the routine is the same, plus or minus children. What varies, though, is the means by which we manage to extract ourselves from the linen womb. Where do you fall?

The Snooze Gambit

The alarm rings; you cringe. You press snooze; you wait. It rings again. This is easy, it’s satisfying. The Snooze Gambit appeals to the truth that as pleasant as sleeping is, the best feeling is that semisomniferous haze that comes the moment before you’re actually asleep. That moment when dreams are lucid and you reign as lord over a physicsless domain. It allows you to actually fall asleep four, five, six times before your first cup of coffee. Of course after a few snoozes your alarm gives up on you, and that’s assuming that you don’t just keep snoozing indefinitely like a rat with a heroin button. Tread carefully.

The Puzzle Master

You heard once that in order to wake up to need to engage the mind. You have a collection of apps on your phone that force you to solve arithmetic problems or trivia questions before it will silence. You hide your phone in a different place each night so you have to paw around the darkness for it before it can be quelled. Mostly you wind up stubbing your toe and cursing before you go back to sleep.

The Sensei

You are a master of discipline. You understand that only the force of will can rouse you in the morning, but that you possess the strength and fortitude to simply get up when the alarm goes off. You drift to sleep with the comfort that when the thing buzzes you will rise, rested and un-phased. You use this inner strength to simply set the alarm for 11 minutes before you have to be someplace.

The Self-Aware

You’re not getting up. You know it, they know it. You don’t schedule things before 11am.

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Hobby Season

In a few days you’ll get your hour back. The one you squirreled away in March, and that by now you’ve surely forgotten about. On the one hand, that’s great. It’s your hour. You’re owed it. You can sleep in a bit, and for one day a year you get an extra 60 minutes before the bar throws you out at 2am. On the other hand, it means that it’s about to start getting dark sometime between your lunch break and the time you leave the office, and that’s a load of BS.

We’ve been arguing about Daylight Saving time since basically forever, and if we would just get with the program and ditch the non-renewable fuels it wouldn’t even have to be a whole big thing. But we’ve waffled on the concept for more than a hundred years, and now, finally, with the exception of non-tribal lands in Arizona and Nevada, Hawaii, and overseas territories with no congressional representation, we’re all more or less on the same page that yeah, we do this weird clock thing a couple times a year. Fine.

You can write your congressman if you’d like, and try to get this thing changed, because if we’re honest it doesn’t make any sense. But aside from that exercise being a complete and total waste of your currently free hour*, maybe it’s also the wrong play.

Maybe the annual sudden darkness is a chance to not do all that stuff you did all summer. Like, read that book you were definitely going to read. Build a model airplane. Cook something like they would have done it on the Mayflower. It’s hobby season. Use your new hour to dig into a project. Spend a long time doing something pointless. Fuck it; gain 10 pounds.

Now is the time to hibernate and meditate. Crawl back into yourself and see what’s inside. You might find something you like.

*Free hour, like a tax return is free money

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A Broken Nation

This post was initially intended as a thought experiment in bicycle commuting, which to those of you who frequent this page should not come as a surprise. Each day we take our lives into our hands and gamble with it before would-be assailants in 5,000lb murder rockets. In the doldrums of our shared commute the aggressive and the oblivious meld into a tapestry of people trying to kill a vulnerable man.

The question, then, was whether the Castle Doctrine applies to our tiny slice of the road. Whether we, as cyclists, have a duty to retreat, or if, when an attempt is made on our lives by a passing motorist we may return fire under protection from the law. It was meant to be funny. Biting. True.

In light of the last 36 hours that seems in poor taste.

Instead we’re left with a kind of dull, hollow feeling that comes from the melange of anger, fear, heartbreak, and, ultimately, resignation that we, nationally, are unmoved by 600 partygoers being shot by a single man.

59 bodies are barely cool, but we carry with us the warmth of a president’s condolences, delivered 200 characters at a time. Brevity, it seems, is not only the soul of wit. And then after thoughts and prayers comes the tedium of parsing personal histories and allocating blame – bickering as we retreat to our partisan bastions and shield ourselves from the truth that ours is a broken nation.

That we do not care for the heartache of others. That until we are affected in a real and personal way there will be no change. That only when a majority of us are touched by violence will we move to make it right, and the chilling reality that that future is, perhaps, not so far off.

From those with the power to change we have warm condolences. We have thoughts and prayers. We have the knowledge that we will be judged harshly by history for deliberate inaction.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. – Abraham Lincoln

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