Exit 208. I want to love somebody like you. Wait, no I don’t.

I have a complicated history with this song.

I pretty much didn’t know that the song existed until 2005, three years after its initial release.  I mostly ignored country music until the four-month period when I was wandering around the USA trying to find myself.  One day, I was driving from San Antonio to Austin flipping around on the radio, I got to a country station, and I decided to leave it on for a bit, because, hey, I’m in Texas, may as well immerse myself in the culture… and I realized that country music wasn’t all that bad.  A few weeks later, I was staying with a friend in Alabama, and she was so excited that I had started listening to country music that she copied a bunch of country albums to my laptop, including the one that this song is part of.

I quoted a line from this song on my personal Facebook page once (specifically, the opening line, “There’s a new wind blowing like I’ve never known”).  I remember exactly when it was: Tuesday morning, August 3, 2010, during the time in my life I refer to as The Week That Everything Happened.  If you’re friends with my personal Facebook, you can go look that up; it’s there.  I remember exactly when it was, because I remember why I posted it.  It was the morning after my second date with Mimosa (as explained in #12).  From my naive perspective, it looked like new love was in the air, or at least on the way, and it was going to be a different experience from anything else in my past… which is basically what this song is about.  But it didn’t last; I found out a week later that she wasn’t interested in a relationship, and that all the kissing didn’t really mean anything to her.  This seems to be normal for most people these days, but having grown up sheltered and then among Josh Harris types, the idea that kissing doesn’t mean interest in a committed relationship was heartbreakingly new to me.  (We did end up on good terms years later, after some very complicated ups and downs, although we don’t really talk or message much these days because of natural causes.)

For a time in 2014 and 2015, I was running a Song of the Day page on Facebook.  Sometimes I would just post a random song that was on my mind, but sometimes the song would be something that had a deeper meaning to me.  I kept it in the back of my head to reserve Somebody Like You for a time when I had met someone special again.  SN1604 came along in May 2015; I’ve mentioned her a few times on this blog, but I don’t believe I’ve told the whole story.  We hit it off quickly, there were two dates and a lot of kissing, and then she decided that spark wasn’t there.  We stayed good friends for a few months, and during that time she told me that she had changed her mind and realized she liked me after all.  I didn’t act on that right away, though, because I still had questions in my mind, because I was comfortable just being good friends, and because this conversation happened right when I was starting the school year and had a lot of other things on my mind.  In October, we revisited those conversations and decided to give things another try.  And as I pulled away from dropping her off after the first date of our second stint, I turned on the radio… and Somebody Like You was playing.

I had already stopped doing my Song of the Day page by then, so I never posted Somebody Like You as the Song of the Day.  But hearing it at that moment felt like a sign, a sign that new love was on the horizon.  And just like when I quoted the song during The Week That Everything Happened, new love was not actually on the horizon at all.

In the next five weeks, SN1604 and I had one more date.  We also had five times when she either had to cancel on me or attempt to reschedule, and one time when she flat out stood me up, supposedly because she fell asleep.  The five times were all legitimate excuses, though, either related to work, family, or health, so this left me confused as to whether or not she actually wanted to be with me.  In a tearful phone conversation on November 10, 2015, she said that with all of the work, family, and health things, she just had too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone right now, and she cared too much about me to see me keep getting hurt.  That would have just ended there with a bit of sadness, and possibly staying on good terms, except that a month later she was with someone else.  Not exactly the actions of someone who just has too much going on to be in a relationship with anyone.

Last month (June 2018), I met someone.  It was great at first, but it became increasingly evident that she and I have very different ideas of how relationships should develop and grow, and very different concepts of “taking things slow.”  A few days ago, during a Facebook conversation attempting to make plans for later in the week, she ambushed me with a serious long term future type question that I just don’t feel qualified to answer about someone whom I’ve only known for 25 days.  I could have told her what she wanted to hear, but I panicked and gave an honest answer instead.  She said that I was wasting her time if I couldn’t answer that, and proceeded to make some really insulting, patronizing, and slightly disturbing remarks which I won’t go into detail about here.  The next morning, I tried to call her and explain my side a bit more calmly; she didn’t answer, I left a voice mail, and as I posting this, a little over four days later, I still have not heard anything from her.

After I made the phone call that she didn’t answer, I needed to eat my feelings, so I wandered down to a place in the neighborhood that has a lunch special on weekdays: all you can eat pizza, salad, breadsticks, and inferior but acceptable soft drinks for comparatively cheap.  I walk in… and Somebody Like You is playing.

Really?  Now?

I got so distracted thinking about my history with that song that I got tongue-tied trying to place my order (even though all I had to say was Lunch Buffet).  This was probably just a coincidence, but the song is 16 years old, not something that is going to be all over the radio at any given time.  The lyrics of the song are about new love, but in my life the song has been more about romantic encounters that went bad quickly.  It makes me wonder if this is a coincidence or God trying to tell me something, since I’ve felt in the past that songs I’ve heard at noteworthy times might have been messages from God.  My mom would probably say that it’s only natural for a Keith Urban song to be associated with bad dating experiences because Keith Urban looks like a child molester.  For that matter, what kind of name for a country singer is Keith Urban?  He should be named Keith Rural.  But I’m getting sidetracked.

About half an hour later, as I was reaching my stomach capacity for eating my feelings, this song came on.

The message here is a bit more obvious and unambiguous.  Time to stop drowning in sorrows.  This woman who can’t accept the fact that I can’t make long term decisions about someone I’ve only known for 25 days, she ain’t worth the whiskey.  Or in this case, she’s not worth the pizza.

I am currently conflicted between trying to contact her again and work this out or just letting her go and admitting to myself that she and I have very different views of how relationships work.  So far, my actions (or lack thereof) have been consistent with the second option, and the songs I heard in the pizza place seem to be pointing in that direction too.  But we’ll see.

Exit 206. The math did not accurately model my digestive system.

My brother has taken up a new hobby: food challenges.  He looks up restaurants that offer some sort of challenge, usually something along the lines of if you eat this ridiculous amount of food within a certain limited time, the meal is free and you get your picture on the wall (and sometimes something else like a free t-shirt).

Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining him for one of these challenges, at Pizza Plus in Reno, Nevada.  Their challenge requires two people, and I live just about halfway between him and Reno, and I can eat a ton of pizza, so it worked out perfectly for him.  He drove up to my house late Friday night and slept here.  We left my house Saturday morning around 8:30 and got to Reno at 11, right when they opened.  The drive from Sacramento to Reno over Donner Pass (yes, as in those Donners) is beautiful, going through high mountain forests.  There is no snow this time of year to delay the drive, and most of the people making weekend trips up to the mountains left Friday afternoon to come home on Sunday, so we missed all the possible sources of traffic for this drive.  And the pizza was really good.  Pizza Plus has four locations in Reno and Sparks, and if I’m ever up that way looking for a place to eat again, I’d go back if I’m in the mood for pizza.  (And they’re not paying me to say this.)

The challenge was for two people to eat a 24-inch combination pizza in an hour.  In the days leading up to this trip, I was getting nervous, doubting my ability to eat that much pizza that quickly.  But then I did some math.  I know from experience that I can eat a 12-inch pizza and not feel completely full.  A 24-inch pizza is four times as much pizza as a 12-inch pizza (four times because it is twice as long and twice as wide).  So if my brother and I split it evenly, I would have to eat two 12-inch pizzas.  If I can eat one and not feel stuffed, surely I can eat two.

But the math did not accurately model my digestive system.  We did not complete the challenge.

We started out well.  When time was half up, we had eaten a little more than half the pizza.  We were pacing ourselves just fine.  But I definitely slowed down as time went on.  With five minutes left, we still had three slices remaining (out of 16).  We both knew that we weren’t going to be able to eat all of that in five minutes, so we just accepted defeat and took the leftovers home.  I think my problem is that I hit the wall quickly when it comes to eating.  I go from not full at all to completely stuffed relatively quickly with little warning.

I feel bad that we didn’t win; I thought for sure I could do this.  And I feel bad for letting my brother down, even though he told me not to worry about it.  But it was a good experience.  It was a good day trip to get away for a while, good scenery, good time talking about basketball and music in the car, and it was really good pizza.  And even though it was fun, I’m not so sure that food challenges are something I’m going to keep doing in the future.  And that’s okay.  It was an experience.

Exit 21. An interesting fashion trend.

As you know, I started a new job this school year, and I’ve noticed an interesting fashion trend among the students at this school: Pizza My Heart shirts.  All over the place.  On any given day, I’ll probably see an average of at least one or two Pizza My Heart shirt in every period, with a comparable proportion of students wearing Pizza My Heart shirts as they pass by in the hallway.

Let me explain, for those of you who don’t live around here.  Pizza My Heart is a chain of surfing-themed pizza restaurants located in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Coast regions of California.  They have 23 locations between Emeryville to the north and Isla Vista to the south, according to their website.  I don’t feel qualified to write about the restaurant itself, because I’ve only been to Pizza My Heart once.  It was the one in downtown Santa Cruz.  I do remember it being good pizza, though.  They also sell t-shirts at all of their locations, usually featuring surfing-related designs, and they have a meal deal type thing where you get a slice of pizza and a t-shirt for ridiculously cheap.  It’s actually genius marketing on their part, because they get their brand plastered on thousands of walking human billboards all over California.  I’m still a little bitter that the largest t-shirt they carry is still too small for me.  I just checked on the website, and the online store also only carries shirts up to one size too small for me.  I’m a pretty big guy.  Come on, no XXL shirt?  I’m sure some of the biggest Pizza My Heart fans probably eat enough pizza that they’re pretty extra-extra-large by now.  I wore my XL Pizza My Heart shirt a few times, but after I washed it once it was too small to be comfortable.  It’s now sitting in a box in my garage, along with all the other shirts that are too small for me now but too nostalgic to throw away.  (If any of my crafty friends read this, how much would it cost me to get you to turn these shirts into a quilt?)

So why would it be such a big deal that so many students at my school have Pizza My Heart shirts?  It’s because the nearest Pizza My Heart location is an hour and a half drive from the school.  (And the nearest Pizza My Heart location that is actually in a touristy area is a bit farther than that.)  This is not a place where the kids hang out after school on a regular basis or go out to eat after their baseball or soccer games.  They can’t get to Pizza My Heart unless they take a day trip to the beach with their families.  They have to make a significant effort to acquire these shirts.  And I just can’t figure out what the big deal is, although I have a theory now.

I wondered first if many of the kids took some sort of school-sponsored trip to that part of California and all ate at Pizza My Heart together.  For example, I thought maybe a science class did a field trip to the aquarium in Monterey, or to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to discuss physics while riding the roller coasters.  But I asked a few students about their Pizza My Heart shirts, and I didn’t get answers that suggested any sort of group activity.  Most of the answers I got involved the pizza being good and the shirt being comfortable.  Those are good reasons, but still not enough to explain such a huge number of kids wearing shirts from a non-local restaurant.  I have another theory.

Let’s not forget, these are still middle schoolers, with all their middle school quirks.  Like peer pressure.

At some point in the relatively recent past, there was probably some kid who took a day trip to, say, Santa Cruz with his or her family, and on the way home the family had dinner at Pizza My Heart.  The kid got a t-shirt and wore it to school, and all of a sudden everyone wanted to look cool, just like that kid.  So they all started bugging their families to take them to Pizza My Heart next time they went to the beach.  (Again, genius marketing on the part of Pizza My Heart executives to get their brand out there.)  I remember being a kid and wanting to wear stuff that all the other kids were wearing.  Most of the time I didn’t get my way, but I still blame a fascination I had with Hard Rock Cafe shirts in my 20s, as well as a fascination with concert tour shirts that continues to this day, on things that I’d see other kids wearing when I was a teenager.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.  It’s just funny to see how these trends spread.  And it’s kind of sad how so many engage in that herd mentality, where being like everyone else is more important than being oneself.  Fortunately, some people grow out of it as they get older.  I just wish more did.  And in the big picture, fashion trends really are a relatively harmless form of peer pressure.  If I had a kid that age, I’d encourage them not to care what the crowd is doing, but if they wanted to dress like everyone else to fit in, I wouldn’t be as worried as, say, if they wanted to do drugs to fit in.  And I’ve definitely seen much more bizarre and irrational fashion trends than Pizza My Heart shirts among students in previous years.

And the genius marketing is showing itself again, because all this makes me want to give Pizza My Heart another try next time I’m in that part of the state.  Except I’m still bitter about the lack of XXL t-shirts.