I’ve started writing a book

Well, I’ve started writing a book. I say this with a lot of fear and trepidation. Actually, that’s a bunch of crap. I say that with a lot of pride. Pride that I hope will eventually turn into humility, but most likely will just turn to shame.

You see, I’ve always wanted to be an author. And I suppose technically I am. I’ve written a number of articles and stories and a fair number of them have been published in real magazines that a few people have actually read. Not very many people, mind you, but people nonetheless. My big dream has always been to write a book. I think this dream has more to do with an egotistical desire to see my name in print on the new releases table at Barnes and Noble.

But that probably won’t happen. And I’m beginning to come to terms with that. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and she reminds would-be writers that publication is nothing. Publication is vain glory, a passing breeze, meaningless. In fact, it’s probably more headache and ego-bruising than you’d experience if you never wrote anything at all. After all, who’s actually going to find my book in Barnes and Noble? And if they find it, who’s going to read it? And if they read it, who’s going to like it? Certainly my mother will read it, but that’s no guarantee she’ll like it.

So I’m beginning to accept that publication is crap. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I have to tell myself that so I’ll stop thinking about what font I want my byline to appear in and focus on what the book is actually going to be about.

I’m writing a book on marriage. As if getting published isn’t enough ego inflation, I’m going to set myself up as an expert on marriage. Me the newlywed with divorced parents. Sounds like a long shot, huh? I suppose it is, but that’s half the fun.

The real question is why am I bothering to mention this here? I think I’m telling people because the more people that know I’m trying to write a book, the more people I won’t want to disappoint. It’s a simple psychological trick to keep myself going. So when you talk to me, fell free to ask how my book is coming. I’ll probably have developed a sleeping disorder from thinking up chapter titles by then and will be so enraged that you asked that I’ll have to hurt you; but that’s a small price to pay for a little accountability.

Let’s just hope my book isn’t as random as these thoughts, or I’m in trouble.

Consolidating Music Collections

The most difficult thing about getting married is consolidating your music collections. Two different people with different tastes and different ways of organizing these massive collections of music. And once you get married you’re not allowed to have a shoe box full of CDs anymore. It’s some kind of household decorating rule that you must have some high dollar CD rack or drawer or system. It’s really a pain in the butt. I’m a big advocate of no more CDs, tapes, or records. I think the digital age should take us into a new realm where we don’t have to worry about jewel cases and scratched CDs and liner notes. Just put all the music on a harddrive and pipe it through my stereo, my walkman, my car stereo. Then I wouldn’t have re-alphabetize the whole collection. Life could be so much simpler.

Nevinin and Shelley

Last night I had a dream about Shelley. Shelley was a girl in my fourth grade class who called me Nevinin. And Bullwinkle. And probably a number of other nicknames I can’t remember. I was blossoming into the epitome of a dork in fourth grade: glasses with thick plastic frames, braces, and a shot in basketball that hurt to watch. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Popular.

But at this point in my life I wasn’t concerned enough to care. That would come in fifth grade when I had simultaneous crushes on the skinny athletic girls that were actually an asset in dodge ball—the kind of girls that would rarely talk to a kid like me. But Shelley talked to a kid like me, if only to ridicule me. I could never quite tell if she liked me or if she like picking on me. I think she liked both. It was the kind of elementary chiding that at times was madly annoying, and at other times cute and familial. Some days I liked hearing her high pitched squeal, “Nevinin.” Other days I wanted to crawl in a hole.

Shelley had long black hair and freckles. She had a small mouth and nose that seemed pinched together. She had dark eyes and moody demeanor. I remember she smiled and laughed a lot, and if she wasn’t smiling you’d better stay away.

I remember seeing her through the darkened cafeteria in sixth grade at one of the many sixth grade dances. I saw her leaning against the brick wall during the slow song and I wanted to dance with her. My gut twisted in a knot worse than my wedding day as I navigated the swirling junior high pit of emotions. I couldn’t summon the courage and the opportunity slipped away. I remember at another sixth grade dance I asked Katie if she’d dance with me, and I felt the icy chill of embarrassment as we turned tight circles at arm’s length, the top of my head coming up to her eyes. I remember her shamed smile and the glances she exchanged with her friends. On Monday I’d be accused of liking her and would do all I could to deny it. Perhaps it was better I never had the courage to ask Shelley.

In tenth grade I sat behind Shelley in Mr. Palizzi’s American Literature class. We read “The Crucible” and Catcher in the Rye and Shelley cried out with a nostalgic “Nevinin!” I groaned and dropped my head. But the nostalgia didn’t last long. I listened to Shelley proudly proclaim how many days she’d been clean. She talked about visits to her counselor and had a collection of key chains celebrating her sobriety. One was for a week. One was for two weeks. One was for a month. Another for three months. The newest one for six months. My eyes were wide and I tried not to show it. She talked about sex and alcohol and her love affair with frogs. I was the quiet sophomore who started a Christian rock show on our high school’s radio station.

The next time I ran into Shelley I was sitting behind her in my Sociology class senior year. Our teacher was fresh out of college and we recognized the young blood. She was four years older than us and that didn’t earn her an ounce of respect. I felt bad for her. That and she had a name out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Sociology was fifth hour, and one day when my youth group girl friend didn’t have school—she was a cheerleader at a different high school, if only my friends knew I dated a cheerleader I would have been so much cooler—she baked a plate of pre-mixed cookie dough cookies and brought them to school for me. An office aid dropped off the package and I opened it quietly while our teacher with the Seussian name continued the lesson and yelled at one of the McCalls. The McCall twins were in my kindergarten class, and now they were in one of my classes senior year. How fitting. I was impressed they made it that far.

Shelley turned around in her seat and asked me what I got. I smiled and showed the plate of cookies, wrapped in yellow and blue colored saran wrap. Shelley lit up and cooed about how sweet that was. Shelley was now in an all black phase and didn’t seem to be proudly displaying her key chains of sobriety. She said something about not knowing I had a girlfriend. “Nevinin has a girlfriend!” she exclaimed, suddenly stifling her voice as she realized how loud she was. “Have you fucked her?” was the next question.

I haven’t seen Shelley since graduation, except for last night when she suddenly appeared in my dream. Recollection is an amazing thing.

I like my job.

Just last week I realized how lucky I am. I graduated college and got a job. That’s a pretty good start. The fact that the job I got is within my major is pretty cool, too. The really cool thing is that I actually like my job.

In high school I worked in a grocery store and I remember counting the hours. It was always two hours until break, four hours until lunch, six hours until the next break, eight hours until I get to go home. I’d count it down and try to work the system by working two and a half hours and pushing my breaks back, so the last two hour stretch would only be an hour. I played mind games with myself while I stocked frozen peas because I really didn’t like stocking frozen peas.

Now at my job I hardly realize what time it is. Break time comes and goes and half the time I don’t notice. I’ve never once counted how many hours I have left. Granted, some days are harder than others, and I do take my breaks and enjoy the rest it gives my brain. But it is such a blessing to actually enjoy my job. It’s actually worth the unfathomable debt I’ve strapped to my back in college loans just to be able to work at a job you like.

Modernizing NASCAR

I like NASCAR. I admit it. I like watching the cars vie for position, fenders almost touching, screaming at speeds way faster than I’ll ever be able to go. But I’ve also noticed I’m one of few. Especially living in Minnesota. The state may have a former wrestler for a governor, but it’s not exactly a bastion of NASCAR fans.

And while I’ve been thinking about why people don’t like NASCAR, I’ve realized it has a lot to do with NASCAR’s poor public image. So here’s a few things NASCAR can do to improve their reputation and become a more acceptable sport in America (and Minnesota).

Say goodbye to Winston. For more years than most people can remember the top NASCAR series has been the Winston Cup Series–sponsored by Winston cigarettes. You can’t talk about NASCAR without advertising for a cigarette company. If NASCAR ever expects to be the most loved sport in America, they need to dump tobacco. And it wouldn’t hurt to take a second look at the advertising adorning the rest of the sport. I certainly don’t expect all advertising to disappear from racing, but perhaps they should reconsider beer, chewing tobacco, and cigarettes emblazoned on Taurus’s, Monte Carlos, Grand Prix’s, and Intrepids. There’s something a little disconcerting when an eight year old is wearing a t-shirt of their favorite driver–inadvertently becoming a billboard for beer.

Learn how to turn right. The number one reason people don’t like NASCAR is because they think it’s boring. Those of us who understand the sport scratch our heads and scoff. But if you take a closer look, perhaps it could use some spicing up. Of the 34 races only 2 are on road courses, tracks where the drivers turn both left and right. All the other tracks are some sort of circle, in varying degrees. If NASCAR switched to more road courses the racing would be more exciting, and more accessible to the common person. After all, I’ve never driven on a circle track with 18 degree banking. But I have driven on some twisting, winding roads.

Perhaps the biggest concern stems from the tragedy at this year’s Daytona 500. A number of people have condemned NASCAR as a sport of death. This is an issue with no easy answer, but it’s one NASCAR needs to address. It doesn’t help that wrecks seem to increase ratings–of course the drivers aren’t fans of twisted sheet metal, but the television coverage doesn’t shy away from including as many fender benders as possible in the highlight reel. Perhaps it’s simply the rubbernecking effect, but it doesn’t do the sport any good.

Finally NASCAR should take a giant leap into the new millennium and do something extraordinary to boost it’s value in the public’s eye. NASCAR should leave behind the gas-guzzling V-8 internal combustion engines and become an environmentally friendly sport. Certainly this throws the whole idea of “stock” car racing out of balance, but imagine the possibilities: a sport that becomes a testing ground for high-performance environmentally friendly vehicles. Has there ever been such a thing? High-performance and environmentally friendly have never even been used in the same sentence. The sport would suddenly be transformed from a red-neck, gas-guzzlin’, tire smokin’, testosterone fest to a techno-weenie meets tree hugger out to save the planet meets somebody who’s actually cool. Sure I’m playing off all the stereotypes, but that’s marketing for you. Imagine the possibilities. If car manufacturers ever wanted to get serious about global warming and finding a way to make alternative vehicles sell–race them. Nobody’s gonna call it a wussy eco-car if it can do 150 mph on the race track.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of ways to make NASCAR a more accepted sport, but it’s a start. Maybe I should write an article about this. Let me know if you have any more ideas on how to make NASCAR cool to the scoffers. Also let me know if you’d like to buy the article.

I want to write a book

I want to write a book. Tonight I was wandering around in Barnes & Noble and checking out all the books I wish I could buy. My wife and I still walked away with a sizable stack from the used section. That’s my favorite section.

I just keep seeing all these really interesting covers and really odd books that I really can’t believe get published. And then there’s all sorts of titles that I know any Joe Schmo could write. Especially a Joe Schmo like me. Then there’s all the books that just aren’t there. All the books that I could write. At least that’s what I like to think. Then I walk out the door and cross the parking lot and get in my car and I really can’t think of a lot of books I could write. I think I just like the idea of writing a book.

I know if I actually did write a book it wouldn’t be as glamorous as I imagine it to be. My book most likely wouldn’t be featured on the new rack at Barnes & Noble. If it was, I think I’d be sitting on a gold mine. More than likely my book would slip into obscurity and I’d have to call Barnes & Noble and ask if they even stock the book. They ask, “Who?” and I’d have to spell my last name, trying not to sound desperate. Of course Anne Lamott has written about doing this exact thing (only she was smart enough to act unsure of how to spell her last name so she sounded like a truly desperate writer trying to find her book in a bookstore). So maybe if Anne Lamott was that desperate and succeeded, then so can I.

Of course Anne Lamott doesn’t have any of the glamorous part either. In all of her best selling books she writes about how poor she is. Maybe it’s just a trick to scare us aspiring writers away. Yeah, that’s it. That’s what I’ll keep telling myself.


That’s what they tell me. Walking is good for you. I do a lot of walking nowadays. It helps you think. It gives you time to think. It allows you to think. There’s something about walking that does that. Part of it is the fact that it takes longer to get anywhere than any other mode of transportation. And that’s just the idea. Driving is too quick. The only time driving is good for thinking is when you’re on a twelve hour road trip by yourself through Wisconsin. Otherwise you’re fighting traffic and focusing on staying on the road and what the other nut case drivers are doing. But when you’re walking it’s just putting one foot in front of the other and it really shouldn’t require that much of your attention.

So I walk. I walk to the bus stop every day. It gives me time to think, think about a lot of the things I like to think about. Somehow I’m better able to work through things when I can think them over while I’m moving my feet. Maybe it’s the change of atmosphere, maybe it’s the exercise that gets my blood flowing. It just does something that makes my brain work a little better, my imagination work a little harder. I imagine novelists walk several hours a day.

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone walked? If we stopped driving our cars and we just walked instead. People would think a lot more. Driving tends to deaden your senses. You listen to the radio, the atmosphere is controlled, you follow the lines on the road. Walking changes all that. People would see things, smell things, feel things, hear things, taste things. And they’d actually process that because they wouldn’t have anything else to do. Driving is kind of like the doldrums. Don’t get me wrong, I like driving. It’s just when that’s what you do every day to get anywhere it becomes more of a chore. Maybe I just don’t have the right car. But I don’t think so. Maybe we’d see a real enlightenment if people started walking. I bet that’s why there was an enlightenment in the first place–there weren’t any cars so people walked. Maybe I should think about that one a little more.

One more thing. Don’t watch a Quinton Tarentino film before going to bed.

Meeting with Justin McRoberts

I was hanging out with Justin McRoberts today. The guy really makes me think. But before I get in to that I want to address something. Since I started working full time I’ve been doing this multiple personality thing. When I’m not working I’m Kevin D. Hendricks, Editor of ReALMagazine.com. When I am working I’m Kevin D. Hendricks Assistant Editor of passageway.org. It’s a very odd situation because I can’t be both people at the same time. Case in point: Justin McRoberts has done work for ReALMagazine.com–he writes the On the Road journal entries. He was coming through town and we decided to interview him for passageway.org. While I was talking to him on the phone about the interview I could only talk about passageway.org related stuff and not ReALMagazine.com stuff because I was at work. Billy Graham doesn’t pay me to talk about ReALMagazine.com stuff. It’s kind of a weird situation. And it gets even better. The things I write for work are actually owned by my employer. The Billy Graham Evangelical Association owns them, not me. So if I interview someone (like I did twice this week) and then write an article about it (like I did once this week), not only can I not sell the article again as my own, but I can’t even use the interview to write another article. The interview and the writing is all owned by my employer. It makes sense, but it just seems odd when you have all these different hats you get to wear.

Anyway, most of what I want to talk about from my discussions with Justin McRoberts today come from my time with him today while I was wearing my passageway.org hat. But now I’m wearing my ReALMagazine.com hat and I’m just going to usurp my power as passageay.org Assistant Editor and talk about some of Justin’s ideas. It’s not like this is the only time he’s talked about them.

One of Justin’s big things is what I like to call the Young Life evangelism method. Young Life is this Christian group that teaches adults how to reach out to kids. Their basic premise is that you have to earn the right to be heard. Before you can expect to share the gospel with someone you have to earn their trust and respect by simply loving them and spending time with them. In a way this is Justin’s model for ministry. So he was explaining how that’s how Jesus did things. Jesus went to the hookers and befriended them and hung out with them and told them about God. In our churches we think that’s a crazy thing to do. We never actually go to the sinners of this world and love them on their own terms. We always want them to come to our little Christian event and hear the gospel. But we haven’t earned their respect. We haven’t earned the right to be heard.

It’s an interesting concept which drew two thoughts to mind. 1) I found it rather ironic that Justin was hanging out at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association talking about how the church needs to be going and meeting people where they’re at, not expecting them to come to our Christian events. Of course that’s exactly what Billy Graham does, coordinate these massive Christian events. I wonder if there’s a way Justin and Billy could sit down and mesh their ideas together. 2) I wondered why Justin is in the Christian Music industry. If he wants to meet people were they’re at, why here? He said he’s here trying to earn the right to be heard. He doesn’t think he can just tell the Christian industry how to do things until he earns the right to be heard. Which makes him seem kind of prophetic. When he finally does earn that right to be heard, I wonder if we’ll listen. I also wonder what it would look like if he took his music to the mainstream culture and tried to earn the right to be heard. I imagine that he’d go far, and I’d love to see him try. I always feel like there are so few Christians who actually do that.

I’m filled with lots of thoughts today. Milo would say that’s a good thing. Because if you’re not thinking you better be careful or you’ll end up in the Doldrums. And I think the Doldrums are a nice and cozy hell.

The Phantom Tollbooth

I started reading The Phantom Tollbooth today. I’m only a few chapters into it, but I can already tell it’s one of those classic books everyone should read. That and the raving review my wife gave it. It’s one of those books that makes you appreciate reading and the imagination. It’s one of those books every writer wishes they could write. So go read it. Yeah, that’s it. Not too deep tonight.

Paying Bills

I never thought I’d spend an evening of my life paying bills. How depressing is that? The bills pile up for a few weeks and then one evening you sit down and go through them all, writing a ton of checks, and licking too many stamps and envelopes. I always thought this was the kind of thing grownups did around the kitchen table. It’s kind of freaking me out. I’m 21 years old. I’m not supposed to be a grownup. I’m not supposed to be paying bills. I’m supposed to be young and stupid and reckless. I’m still supposed to be a kid.

Unclean! Unclean!

I better go play with my blocks to make up for all this grownup behavior.