Thursday, August 10, 2017

Day 8: Nashville

Today kicked off slow, which is fine- things will get crazy soon enough since I am moving to the group clubhouse today. Kristen was at work all morning, leaving me home alone to relax and blog and do my weekly Praxis call with my masterminds group (Anthony and Brian, pictured below in my favorite flashback from Praxis Weekend).




By 2pm it was time for all the craziness of the next 7 days to begin! Kristen and I met up with three of our soon to be 10(?) members of the Nashville clubhouse crew and we explored the huge brick house which will be home for the duration of my time here. During our exploration, me and Tim found cowboy hats.



By the time we finally got a shot of them from an angle that didn't look terrible, I was too struck with laughter to do much else.


Fast forward several minutes and we were on our way to get a few groceries:


Samuel: I reserve the right to harvest your organs if you perish in my car.


*Samuel almost misses a turn and takes it VERY sharp*


Everyone: whooaaaahhh!


Tim: you really want our organs, don't you?


Samuel: Do you have any idea what kidneys go for these days?!


Tim: More than this car.


Samuel: YEAH.


(So far, as of my writing this, we have all escaped having our organs harvested)


……….


Later on, we all headed over to Jordan and Sara’s little newlywed place- a literal cabin in the woods. It's adorable, and also a slight bit of a fixer-upper.




Sara made sure to give us a list of things that were already in disrepair so that if we thought we broke something we wouldn't freak out. This included things such as the back doorknob (which falls off), the sink faucet and doorknob (which pulls out) in the bathroom (and something about the toilet), a warning about the ice dispenser on the fridge, and another miscellaneous warning or two. After all that, Jer then broke one of their coasters. One more thing for the list, eh? In his defense, it did literally just come apart while he was holding it.


After the briefing, Jordan gave us a short tour of the house, including the (slightly creepy) unfinished basement.



While we were down there, Jordan told us about their neighbors, who were more than willing to lend them any tools they need… including a chainsaw. Perhaps there is a dark scheme to kill us? I mean, Samuel and his kidney harvesting and Jordan in his dark basement with the option to borrow a chainsaw… do you see the connection that I do?




Once out of the basement, Sara gave us an amazing dinner of mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs, chilli, and watermelon. It was such fun to have this group together hanging out and chatting again. It’s hard to believe it's already been a year since we were last together. It almost feels like we never left.




After dinner, we enjoyed some fireflies, made noises at the neighbors goats to try and get them to come to us (it didn't work), and enjoyed s'mores around a bonfire. Jordan came up with an elaborate system to charge people exorbitant amounts of money for the s'mores- but last I knew he hadn't gotten a penny off of us for them :P




Other campfire talk included how Jer isn't going to get a girlfriend because “he is too busy making money”, to which Josh decided to play therapist and dive into the dark secrets of Jer’s psyche and learn of his long lost ex girlfriend. Fun was had by all!




When we got home, we were unprepared for what would meet our eyes. A guy we had never seen before came out of our basement, followed by a girl. We heard laughing and screaming from below. What is going on? We headed down to investigate. In the basement, we came upon Chris Howard (aka, Pun Diddley, from YouTube), with another YouTube person I’d never met named Missy. He was having his legs waxed and eating habanero peppers in front of a camera.




You just never know what to expect when you go to a YouTube gathering, eh? As it turns out, he was having his own gathering- “DidCon”, and he had made a deal that if he got $100/month of supporters on Patreon.com, he would do this challenge.









Then our other friend Chris got in on the action; he had to see if the peppers were as spicy as Pun Diddley was making them out to be… what we didn't all realize (at first) was that he has a special skill for eating spicy food.




Tim videotaped the action, or lack thereof. Pun Diddley declares that after Chris Hager’s pepper eating display, he felt like a lesser man. We laughed, he almost cried, we… tried to go to bed. But it took a while to find blankets for the pull out couch. We did eventually get to them, along with this fluffy pink bathrobe, which got passed around and modeled at 12:30am:




Then the couch bed tried to eat Jer.




Oh, yes, and now we are all (more or less) peacefully in our rooms for the night. A houseful of 20-somethings really will go to bed on their own accord eventually.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Day 7: Murfreesboro/Nashville

Kristen had to work for part of today, but that was okay. It gave me a little time in the morning to chill out and work on a few writing projects and get the past several days’ worth of blog posts formatted and posted. I’d been doing some of the writing on-the-go via my iPhone, but due to Google’s lack of a mobile function for Blogger, I have to wait until I have computer access to make my posts because I have no efficient way to upload photos.

Upon her arrival back, I munched the Chick-Fil-A she brought me from her workplace and she got excited because today was the day her favorite book series was to gain a new novel. So, what’s a book lover to do when her pre-order hasn’t yet shipped on release day? Show up at Barnes & Noble in case they have it in stock already, of course! I am never one to turn down an excuse to visit a book establishment, so moments later we embarked on a journey that involved stops at B&N, McKay’s Used Books, and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. The photos below were taken in McKay’s, where we spent the majority of our afternoon:


As soon as I realized we were within 20 minutes of Olan Roger’s Soda Parlor, it didn’t take long to convince Kristen that we ought to make a stop in there while we were back in the city. It is one of my top 3 favorite places in Nashville- I can’t resist that place.


I bought a “Space Invader” (berry lemonade float) and enjoyed every last drop. Kristen got “The Cub Scout”, which made me smile because it came with a sword in it.


We then proceeded to explore Olan’s new store. I visited this shop last year, right before he shut it down and moved it to a larger venue. This new location is great! The parking situation is much better, there is more seating, more merch, more free arcade games, and even a gaming loft upstairs- complete with a TV and a mini NES system.


Of course, I simply can’t be in Nashville and NOT buy one of the shirts. Typically I don’t splurge for brand-new clothes because they are kind of spendy, but I always make an exception for Olan Roger’s stuff. The shirts are super soft and have great designs, but the biggest reason I don’t feel guilty spending for his stuff is because he’s a young entrepreneur who I hold a lot of respect towards. This guy has worked MAJORLY hard to get what he has going and has had such an amazing outlook, work ethic, and integrity through it. I really admire and want to support that.


Plus, he currently has a shirt that says “Adventure Til Death”. So perfect for me, right?


We enjoyed the wall of signatures (and found where the owner himself signed!)


And also discovered just how awkward it is to play Super Mario Bros with a joystick when we’d been used to console controllers all of our lives.


All around, it was a really enjoyable, relaxed day! Tomorrow, all the excitement begins as oodles of our friends from across the country begin to show up for BlimeyCon.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 6: Franklin

Today started off a lot more chill than the past days have. Kristen decided last night that we could both stand to sleep in a bit, so she put up the black-out curtains. What surprised me was when she nudged my air mattress and told me it was 11:30 in the morning. Whoah. I mean, I knew I would probably sleep hardcore, but it’s truly unusual for me to go past 9:30. Guess I needed it!

After finally getting out of bed, we enjoyed a bacon and eggs brunch and headed off to a nearby town called Franklin, in which exists a small business hub called The Factory. She has been excited to show me this place for a while, due to it’s somewhat steam-punky-y atmosphere (in case you don’t know, I am a huge fan of that style). On the way there, we also saw the top of a castle from the highway (yes, there is a castle in Nashville), and we also passed by a cemetery with a playground right in front of it (I want to go back and photograph that place later on this week if possible. The irony amuses me so much).


The first thing we did was explore a big antique market. I instantly loved The Factory. Any place that has a big antique store automatically scores points with me! During our explorations, we stumbled upon this book and spent probably a solid hour reading it from cover to cover:


I would highly recommend it, if you enjoy photography, comedy, whimsical images, or red sofas.


Not long after we had finished exploring the antique mall and the red couch book, we wandered over to a little juice place, where of all people, we ran into Jeremy Camp! That was fun. Kristen struck up a brief conversation with him- she knows Jeremy and a lot of others in the Christian music industry due to her constant volunteer work with concert merch crews.


After he left, we wandered around The Factory a bit more, then headed home to enjoy a night of pizza, BlimeyCow videos, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding with a couple of Kristen’s local friends. Way fun!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 5: Murfreesboro/Nashville

After the past several days of not going to bed until the wee hours of the morning, waking up at 7:00am just wasn’t happening for me. But alas, Kristen had to be up semi-early to run the cameras at church this morning. Lucky for me, her church isn’t too far off, so she agreed to come pick me up in time for a later service.

Upon getting to New Vision, her church here in Murfreesboro, I was surprised at just how massive it is. I mean, when she told me that she is part of the camera crew and there are three services, I anticipated it being pretty large, but wow. She says this place gets about 1,500 people every week between the three services, and the same pastor preaches all three. That guy has his work cut out for him for sure!

This was my view for the service:


The service style was a little different than my tiny church in Washington, but it was none the less quite good. We heard a great sermon on the baptism of Jesus, and following that, they had a number of long-time visiting inmates from the local prison who got baptised! That was really neat. Thanks to the presence of the chief of police in their church membership, this place gets to have a very special opportunity for prison ministry.

After church, Kristen and I grabbed lunch and hit up Barnes & Noble- just in case the book that she pre-ordered happened to be on the shelves early. It was not, but I had fun tucking pieces of my Wreck This Journal into the new Wreck This Journal books on the shelves.


Not long after this, we met up with our friend Jer, who is visiting from his small town in New York. While picking him up, we also got to connect with a local buddy and video maker, Kevin McCreary! He thought I was shooting a video, so he waved. Haha.


Jer was starving, so Kristen introduced us to a fun restaurant here in Nashville called Steak & Shake! It has a fun 1950’s vibe (let’s face it, I have a thing for 50’s style restaurants) and super yummy milkshakes. They also misheard my order, and thought my grilled cheese was a grilled chicken… That was really confusing to receive. But they got it all cleared up and our waitress was great!


Since we were clear over on the Nashville end of town, we decided we might as well hit up an old favorite location from my visit last year: Centennial Park! Outside of the Nashville Public Library and Olan Roger’s Soda Parlor, this is one of my absolute favorite places in town. Not only does it have some decent walking paths, it is the home of the replica of the Parthenon! I love it partly because it was featured in one of my favorite movies (Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief), but also because it is just so blasted photogenic. I could take pictures of this place for hours.


Our timing was impeccable. On the way there, it was a MASSIVE downpour. We got to the park, and the weather was perfect (albeit super humid. My hair was crazy!). After leaving the park, it rained off and on all the way back to Murfreesboro. It was totally meant to be. What a perfect first day in the Nash/Boro area!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Day 4: Atlanta

I knew waking up for the hike would be hopeless. A few of the friends in the hotel room I crashed in woke up to go, but I was far too exhausted to join. How can they go to bed at 4am and be up for hiking by 9:45 the next morning? I don't get it. I fell back asleep until 1:30.

Upon waking up, I took a walk alone around the hotel, as I couldn't find any of my Praxis mates right off. The pool room here is gorgeous, though! Such a lovely place to explore.


Eventually I found a few of my mates up on the 3rd floor, in a cafe. I had a lovely time chatting with a couple of them about travel (one of the people is the co-host of The World Wanderers podcast and blog. She recently let me guest post over there. You should check it out).

I am forever thankful that I got myself a decent cell phone before this trip. Due to my new tech, I was able to find another group of friends up on the 4th floor.


They were all chilling in a hotel room- but not like the crazy lot from the night before (I was informed at some point one of the tall guys started jumping around and punctured the ceiling with his head!). This crew was much smaller, and we all had a fun time chatting, plotting business ideas, and watching a hilarious bank heist movie.

My friend Adam and I discovered we were the oldest people in the room, and thus took great pleasure in educating the “young ones” about technology such as floppy discs, dial-up internet, and life before smartphones.

Also, somehow a weird joke emerged which resulted in this awkward “family photo” of Adam, Anthony, and Santi.


After exchanging brilliant business ideas and many, many laughs, Adam and I had to hit the road for Nashville. It was hard to leave everyone behind. Even though we had only spent two and a half days together, I became incredibly fond of a number of the people in this group.

For the next three hours, Adam and I had fun swapping stories, audio books, podcasts, and music with each other. It turns out we like some of the same relatively little known groups, which made him quite ecstatic. So fun!

My evening concluded in Murfreesboro (which I promptly discovered is NOT spelled “Murpheesboro”) at my friend Kristen’s house where I will spend the next several days. I already miss my Praxians, but I am so excited to see Kristen and am looking forward to spending time with the BlimeyCow crew and all of the friends who I will share a house with later this week.

Day 3: Atlanta

What. A. Day.

I have learned a valuable lesson about myself: I was really not created to be a night owl. That said, I don’t entirely regret being up until 4:00am. I hate that my body feels sick from exhaustion and that I know I’ll be too tired to join the hike tomorrow morning, but today was an amazing day, and in the end, I’m happy to leave it just the way it is.

Today kicked off with strange sounds. I thought it seemed awfully obsessive of Jackie to spend half an hour blow drying her hair off and on. Jackie thought it was horrendously obnoxious of our other roomies to be running the blender repeatedly for 30 minutes. We got up to discover neither of our assumptions were correct: there was a repairman taking apart our dishwasher. Apparently he was expected, but not until 11:00… it was 8:00.


We then hurried off to the Loudermilk conference center for a busy morning full of “break-out sessions”- little 45 minute talks by staff and students that we had voted on earlier in the year. There were 8 sessions, but they ran two at a time. Choosing which ones to attend was so hard! Glad they will be posted on Youtube sometime later. I went to sessions about working remotely, marketing, freelancing, and “how to work a city” (strategies for getting involved in your community and social life when you move to a strange city).


Of course, being Praxis, it wasn’t ALL work and no play! I had a fabulous time discussing Christianity with Angela (my friend from last night) and Elisheva, a new friend I made this morning. I really like these two! We might start a study on the book of Esther sometime.


Other fun included walking for half an hour to get to Jeni’s Ice Creams.


Along the way, we saw a TON of street art! Exploring Atlanta is like walking through a massive urban art museum. It’s such a colorful place.


In our group, we had a British guy and a Swedish guy. Ed and Igor. We also have an Australian named Santi, but he didn’t end up on our ice cream excursion, so I didn’t catch him in this photo.

After the ice cream trip, everyone caught Uber cabs back to the conference center. Everyone except for me and Angela and Ed. There were not enough seats in the other’s rides for us to pile in, and it was just as well. We almost didn’t realize that Ed would have been left alone! He spent half an hour or so chatting with a couple of guys he just randomly met on the street. One of them was (I think) a computer tech person (?) and the other, who I actually got a chance to talk to, is Joe- a recent music school grad from New Orleans who plays the viola and is looking for work. He seemed really cool. Standing there next to Ed with his backpack and all, I walked up and introduced myself, assuming he was part of our group and I just hadn’t met him yet. We had a good laugh when I discovered he had no association with us at all.

Eventually we pried Ed away from his conversation and hopped in an Uber cab back to the Loudermilk, getting there just in time for dinner and our final keynote speaker, Stephen Pair, the cofounder, president, and CEO of Bitpay. Sadly I didn’t finish dinner or the presentation, because I started feeling a little sick and left the room to lay down for a nap for a while. Glad I did too, considering how the remainder of the evening went.

After a quick stop by my Air BNB place, we headed over to the hotel where we had enjoyed conversations and played games last night. I figured that’s what we would do this evening. Boy, was I wrong. Upon first arriving, I didn’t see anyone around but Ed. So he and I hung out and had a great chat about life and psychology. Not long after, a number of staff and Praxians came through and invited us to join them at a karaoke diner nearby.


The restaurant had a really cool 1950’s-meets-the-future sort of atmosphere.


Due to the karaoke, it was unfortunately loud, however. So my voice felt kind of dead after trying to carry on conversation with people there.

A while later we headed back to the hotel. It was approaching midnight, but knowing my roommates, I wouldn’t be able to get back to our accommodations for a while to come. Someone told me there were a bunch of people hanging out in room 411, so I stopped by there. The information was definitely not wrong: I could hear people from several rooms away. As it turned out, someone had the bright idea to throw a hotel party and cram 25 people into one room with a bunch of alcoholic beverages. Good gravy. As I walked through the door, someone pointed at the back of the room and said “You’ll have more fun with the sober crowd”. I concurred and headed to the far end, where I saw Adam playing a fascinating, archaic looking game. Beyond him, my buddy Anthony was chatting with another guy about art and logo design for his nonprofit. It didn’t take long before we decided to head for quieter surroundings.

Somewhere along the line, our third person vanished, leaving me and Anthony wandering around the hotel lobby. We stumbled upon a Praxis staff member, who invited us to a Chicago style pizza place. Being a Chicago native himself, Anthony jumped on the invite immediately and I followed suit. We all got dropped off at the restaurant, only to find it was closed. Apparently the others had already come and gone.


We wandered along the street, trying to decide what to do next, as lightning lit up the sky and rain began to come down. Unfortunately for us, everywhere that was open on that stretch was a 21+ place, and Anthony is only 18. So, we stepped under an awning to research our options as the rain got thicker. Laurie, the Praxis team member we were with, got a text. Supposedly T. K. and his group were still at the pizza place. What?? We headed back over.


As it turns out, there was a back area that was still open, and though the restaurant was about to close, they let us in to join our friends since we wouldn’t be ordering.

Eventually, we got kicked out of the restaurant so that they could shut down for the night. That’s reasonable. It was already after 1:30am. As we all stood around outside (the rain had cleared! Hooray!), T.K. (the “token black guy” of the Praxis team, as he once said) and Evan Lee, the Asian of the group, finally had the freestyle rap battle they had been plotting throughout the day. As the two of them started to wind down, I decided to mix things up and jumped into the mix with a few rhymes of my own! Nobody expects the little girl in the pearl necklace to start rapping. Everyone’s expressions were priceless! We went back and forth a few times, then the guys handed victory of that round over to me. Gotta say, that was one of the most glorious moments of this entire trip for me!

By 2:30am we were back at the hotel. My roommate who had the one key that we all shared was looking pretty drunk, sitting outside the hotel room party. He refused to let me have the key, which thinking about it was reasonable. If I fell asleep (which we all know I would have), there would be no way for the rest of them to get into the building and up to our room. Another roomie had recently returned told me she was going to see about convincing everyone from our place to go home. 10 minutes later, she returned with a huge crowd of people who wanted to go to a waffle house. Yes, waffles at 3:00am. I was exhausted, but didn’t have much choice, so I tagged along. Besides, I told myself, I might not even get to see half of these guys again.


In the end, I was glad I went, even if I was exhausted to the point of feeling slightly ill. T.K. had to fly out in just a few hours, I learned, so I was happy to get to wish him well before he headed back to Los Angeles.

By 3:30, we were at the hotel once more. Jackie and I couldn’t find the rest of our roommates, who of course were the ones with the key to our place. In the end, we found friends at the hotel who let us crash in their rooms for the night. We can change clothes in the morning, eh?

What a wild day, night, and now morning it has been!