I had intended to write an entry on Sunday, a 9/11-ten-years-later-piece with my recollections of how I experienced that day and how I think the world has changed since. But it was too much. The constant barrage of mandatory reflection instigated by the media and the fact that – everywhere I looked online – everyone else seemed to be writing the same piece…    well, it all exhausted me.

So I don’t think there’s much value in adding my 9/11 into the mix. My day was probably a lot like yours. I heard about it from a coworker, I made a joke about it, it got really real really fast, and then the world changed.

But what I’ve been trying to recall since Sunday is this: what was the world like for me in the days immediately following 9/11. What was I (the averagest of average Joes off the street) going through? How did I feel?

So the internet being the internet, I went back in time. No flux capacitor needed; I just pulled up the blog I used to have so long ago. Yes, it still exists. And, in the interests of preserving whatever dignity I have, no I will not give you the URL. I mean, some of the stuff I wrote… Let’s just say I was very young.

So, as a look back in time, what follows is what I went through ten years ago today. Part of me winces at the naivete, part of me wants to tell that kid that some things will get better and some things will get worse, but that he and we will still be here, truckin’ along.


I cried at lunch today.

I know I’ve said before that the events of Tuesday had made my cry, but they really didn’t. I’ve gotten a little teary over the past few days, but nothing approaching real weeping. I’m a tough little trooper, see, and real men don’t cry.

I cried at lunch today.

I was alone, as I am most days. I drove over to my little hiding place so I could listen to the National Prayer Service and have my own personal moment of silence. I listened to the cold words of comfort from national religious leaders. I listened to the President. Tried to imagine what it would be like to be him right now. I do not envy you, sir.

Then I switched over to Don and Mike and listened to the voices of Americans just like me. One man didn’t know how to explain things to his ten year old son. One woman was close to tears over the Jerry Falwell comments. One girl my age worried about war. One elderly man worried about terroristic reprisals.

The image of the buildings coming down would not leave my head. The image of firefighters raising the US flag in their own personal Iwo Jima floated through my thoughts. The memory of my first words after I had heard that the WTC had collapsed:

“Things will never be the same.”

My eyes teared. ‘America the Beautiful’ came on the radio. A passenger jet took off from BWI. I started to sob. News reports of people walking around lower Manhattan in a daze. No words, just pictures of the loved and lost taped to their chests. My sobbing would not stop. I thought of the CEO whose 700 employee office is entirely unaccounted for. I thought of our President, ostensibly the most powerful man in the world, visibly shaken after visiting the Pentagon.

And I began to cry. Slowly at first, but building as the moments went on. Finally able to hold it back no more, my body spasmed with grief. I don’t remember ever losing control like that.

Back at the office, a quiet moment waiting for the elevator. The security guard approached and, almost whispering, said, “Mike, you’ve been crying.” I gave him a defiant “Yes”.
“It’s ok,” he said, “Me too.”

I guess the security guard and I are not real men.

I don’t give a damn.

Oh, the Places I’ve Been

Well, hello there. Work lately has been a bit stressful and nothing helps me unwind better than the sound of my own voice, so here I am. Nothing’s on the agenda today, but I thought I’d mess around a bit with embedded maps. Because I am a nerd.

So, without further ado, here are maps of every place I’ve ever lived.

321 Cherry Tree Circle, Hagerstown MD. The childhood home. Where all the old, good memories are. The driveway was pretty steep, good for jumping your BMX. Dad built a treehouse in the backyard. At the age of 7, I went rebellious and wrote the word “shit” underneath my bookshelf. (Sorry, Mom.)

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11908 Woodland Way Road Myersville MD. When my parents split up right before high school, I moved with Mom and the step dad to this house. I used to tell people I lived on a hill in a valley between two mountains. And I did. And it was awesome. We had a pool, I set up a shooting range in the back yard, and sometimes hours would pass without a car driving by. The wind whipped from south to north up the valley.

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1006 Hamilton Boulevard Hagerstown, MD. This is where my Dad lived after the folks split. It was one half of a duplex. My bedroom was at the top of the stairs and had a balcony with a green hammock. The house was a 5 minute walk from my grandparent’s, a 10 minute walk from school, and a short bus ride from the comic shop. Here is where I nurtured my love for being in a work shop, eating grilled cheese, and watching bad sci-fi.

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Butler Hall 408, Loyola College. My freshman year dorm. All guys and at that point I was even less of a “dude” than I am now. Thought I’d hate it, but made some of the best friends there I’ve ever had. We played muddy football in terrifying thunderstorms and drank ourselves silly.

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Winwood (Wynwood?) West 802, Loyola College. Sophomore Year. Lived in a six person apartment with five of my best friends. We began to perfect the art of throwing amazing parties. I got an inkling for what it must feel like to be an adult. I learned what it was like to have brothers. You could see the Baltimore skyline from our living room window. I fell in love with a city. The dorm has a different name now, but it’ll always be Winwood and/or Wynwood to me.

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Gardens D302, Loyola College. Junior Year. Our room overlooked the volleyball court. I had already met Joey A, but he was a year older than us and had been studying abroad. Coming back, he didn’t have a place to live so  they stuck him with us. And thank god for that. Joe has been a partner in crime, a cheerleader, and a brother ever since. Here was the site of some legendary parties, and some indelible memories. I hate claiming that any years were the best of my life, but if I could go back and experience any D302 weekend all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute.

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Charleston 12B, Loyola College. Senior Year. The curtains were closing on the college career, but this basement apartment was the best place we could have lived. Me, Duff, Chris, and Griff. Becca, Jess, and Timmins upstairs. Rich stopping by regularly. We grilled, we hid kegs in the room and passed the tap discreetly out the window. Got drunk, slept late, didn’t do too much studying. But I learned a lot about life and a lot about myself.

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Twin Ridge Apartments, 10 Sunny Meadow Court. My first real place after college. BFox and I shared a pretty sweet two bedroom place. There was a wide disparity in bedroom sizes, which he was too gracious about. We’re pretty sure there were many heavy-footed russians living upstairs. One of the first weekends there, a gerbil chewed its way out from within my bedroom wall. I screamed like a nine year old girl. Tom, visiting, got a new pet.

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Waterloo, 640 North Calvert Street, Baltimore. After a year at Twin Ridge in Mount Washington, Fox moved away and I moved into this Melrose Place-like complex with Saulo and Chad. Bars and restaurants were closer, the city was mine to explore, and I eventually got used to the traffic noise. We through some pretty good parties, had a beer pong table in the dining room, and our kegerator was just steps from the swimming pool. Here I rediscovered the internet, learned that any movie, tv show, or song can be found free online, and learned about blogging.

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6225 Cliffside Terrace, Frederick, MD. Sooo…  I thought I was getting a job in Virginia. So much so, that I gave up my spot in the apartment. Then I didn’t get the job. With nowhere to go, Mom and the step dad took me in. I lived with them for nine months or so. A hell of a commute, but delicious dinner on the table every night and the opportunity to get to know your parents as (almost) equals. I lived here during 9/11. Work let out early that day. Speeding like a banshee out 70 to get myself in front of a TV, I was overflown by two f-15’s, low and fast, on full afterburner heading for Thurmont. The rumor at that point was that Camp David was the next target.

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1538 South Hanover Street, Baltimore. The more things change…    Saulo bought a house in Federal Hill (well, technically South Baltimore… I think) and needed a roommate. I needed to be closer to work. Back to Baltimore I went. Although not my house, I felt more at home than any of the post-college living situations. I also learned a lot by osmosis about what being a homeowner was like. Hung out on the roof deck, and played a lot of kickball.

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2007 Sulgrave Avenue, Baltimore. Life moves on. Saulo was getting married, I had a girlfriend, and it was time to find a place of my own. So, I found this basement apartment in Mount Washington, not too far from Twin Ridge. The place was small and musty. There was a disastrous sewage leak in my living room closet. I’m pretty sure my gas bill included the gas for all four dryers in the building. I spent a lot of time at Emily’s.

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3617 Keystone Avenue, Baltimore. Looking back, this may be where my adult life started. Emily had put in an offer (unrelated to how awesome I am) early on in our dating. By the time we were serious, my one year lease on Sulgrave was up so I moved in. No, technically, my name wasn’t on the loan. But I was and felt like a homeowner in every other way. The house was tiny, but I loved it – imperfections and all. The times we spent here, especially with Nick and Kate and Ben…  I’ll remember them forever.

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13B East Spring Street, Winooski VT. Everyone wakes up one morning and realizes that they hate their job. I had made it through eight or nine hundred such mornings before I did something about it. I quit my job, and Emily and I moved to Vermont. I went to grad school in a bold and costly attempt to change careers. But, Vermont. Ohhh, Vermont. It was like living in a little slice of heaven, if heaven is located next to Quebec. We lived on the top floor of a Greek Revival house, had a succession of weirdo downstairs neighbors, and slowly fell in love with our new life.

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  • 152 Allen Road, South Burlington VT. As grad school was wrapping up, so was our lease in Winooski. The future was a big question mark and we didn’t know how long we’d be in VT for. Our landlord would only let us sign another year lease, so we told him to pound sand and found a place managed by the company that Jessie worked for. The building was under construction when we first looked at it; we were the first tenants in our unit. Despite the empty lot in the satellite view, I assure you, the building exists. In the end, we’d only live there for three months, but it was a pretty nice place. The view across the street was a field, the first time I’d had that since Woodland Way.

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1136 South Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park IL. Which brings us to today. The post grad school job search led me to Chicago. After living in the country for two years, we weren’t sure where we’d fit in in one of the nation’s largest cities. We settled in Oak Park, which is just outside the Chicago city limits. Wide streets, tall trees, a very neighbor-y feeling. Our apartment is one of the sunniest I’ve ever lived in. I’m two blocks from the L and surrounded by delicious food. Dunno how long we’ll stay, but for now… it’s home.

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The Beginning

It actually a lot more depressing than I expected it to be.

Today’s my last day at the company I’ve worked for for eight years. Eight years is a long time. It’s funny how I think of college as my formative years and yet I’ve been with the company twice as long as that.

And I know I need to get away and I’m excited to move on. But still…

I’ve spent the morning so far throwing away eight years of paperwork; tossing out ninety six months of accumulated documents, reports, proposals and the like. I cleaned out my desk and took all my pens and post-it notes, all my scissors, staplers, and letter openers back to the supply closet. I’m putting a big part of my life… away.

It’s a strange and unpleasant cocktail of a surprisingly-sad-to-leave flavored with why-did-I-stay-here-so-long-anyhow.

And while all this is going on, I’m still getting random requests for a one-off query or a hey-how-do-I. I feel like I’ve just broken up with someone, am over at their place gathering my things, and all the while they’re making plans for us for the following weekend. No. Don’t you get it? We’re through!

I pass people in the hallways today and they give me a look that makes me think they think I’m sick or something. They tell me ‘good luck’, but in their eyes? In their eyes I see pity. It’s the same thing that led to an infuriating conversation I had with a coworker a few weeks ago. He honestly didn’t understand why I’d want to leave corporate America; why I’d want a job that took me away from middle management and out from behind a desk. Buddy, the fact that you can’t understand that is exactly why I want to leave.

And so, soon enough, the things from the last eight years that are worth bringing along will be packed in a 8×22 box that says ‘Office Max’ on its side. I’ll walk around the building and shake hands and say my good byes. Then I’ll come back to my desk, email my good byes to the people on vacation. I’ll shut down my computer for the last time, hand in my security badge, and walk out.

I’ll call my wife, tell her that I love her, and tell her that her husband is now unemployed.

Then I’ll go to the NTB and have my tires rotated, realigned, and balanced. (I have a big drive ahead of me.)

And then; then my life begins.