Thursday, June 27, 2013

Go West, (Young?) Man

In addition to Thanksgiving, hand-me-down cars, and Old Navy shopping sprees, one of my family’s most esteemed traditions is road trips. The tradition dates back many years, rooted in the conventional minivans-and-forced-smiles adventures we took to Disney World and Washington, D.C when I was a kid.

But over the years, the Stoller Road Trip has taken on a new look, evolving into something more focused, something more purposeful. This change was borne out of necessity, as my brother and I have lived in a bunch of different places since college, and thus, we’ve had to move. A lot. And because we’re from Texas, we always have to have a car (what is this public transportation of which you speak?), and the only way to get that car to where you’re going is to drive it. When my brother signed on for his first year of rabbinic school in Israel, it was only after he found out that Triple A didn’t make a cross-Atlantic TripTik that he conceded he couldn’t drive to Jerusalem.

And so we hit the road, on numerous operations through different states, different time zones, and different haircuts. Houston to Denver. Denver to Chicago. New York back home. And given the outrageous distances these operations have typically demanded, my brother and I have often required a wingman.

Enter our father, Joe Stoller.

The kindest, most devoted father a son could ever ask for, Joe gives Izzy Mandelbaum and Morty Seinfeld a run for their title of World’s Greatest Dad. He’s blessed with that parental endurance that allows him to handle any situation involving his sons—and this is never more apparent than when he gets behind the wheel of a car that’s loaded with everything my brother or I own.

It’s been said that clutch athletes and cold-blooded serial killers have ice water running through their veins; my dad has pure iron pumping through his—meaning he’s a true Ironman in every sense of the word. There is no mileage count too high or hour count too obscene. Just give the man the keys, and let him do his work.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Best Laid Plans

This whole “Get busy livin’” thing sure is a lot of effort—and it hasn’t even really started. There’s just a ton to prepare for. Where to live, what to pack, what route to go, where to stay along the way, how long it’ll take to get there. I even had to decide whether to cut my hair, or just let it flow Tim Riggins-style (I’ve tried the Riggins look before to unceremonious reviews, so I chose short). Plus, once I’m there, I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to eat—which will be no easy task, considering the closest Chipotle will be two-plus hours away.

But just as important as figuring out all of that is figuring out the best way to approach this whole thing when it comes to my writing. That is, after all, one of the pillars of this experiment—putting myself in a situation that can be a source of ideas to write about, and in a position that will afford me the opportunity to write about them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

“The Shawshank Redemption”

Some people sing in the shower; I recite movie lines. And the quote above has always been at the top of my rotation. (You know how your voice sounds better in the shower? Turns out it also sounds more like Morgan Freeman.) I memorized it long ago, sandbagging its YouTube clip’s view count when I probably should’ve been doing something more productive. It never gets old, and not just because "The Shawshank Redemption" is one of my favorite movies, but because the quote itself touches all levels of emotion inside me. It inspires me by demonstrating what is possible. It depresses me by revealing what is present. And more than anything, it galvanizes me, if only for a moment, to locate the guts to do something as courageous as Red—to give up the security of a job at the local market, violate my parole, and buy my own bus ticket to Ft. Hancock, TX.

Unfortunately, these moments have been far too fleeting, and too few and far between.
Shawshank Redemption,Morgan Freeman,Red
Here are the facts: I’m 35-years-old. I love golf, and I love to write (or, more commonly, I love having written something). I have a family that’s always there for me, and a beautiful girlfriend who wants to spend the rest of her life with me. I have goals, I have dreams, and buried somewhere beneath all of my insecurities, I have an unshakable sense that I’m capable of achieving every last one of them.

And yet here I remain—stuck, standing in place, unable to move.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to break free of this inertia; there have been occasional flashes of progress. I’ve dabbled in different career fields, explored multiple corners of the country, and bravely (stupidly?) lived with complete strangers in shared houses I found on Craigslist. I even spent two years chasing my childhood dream of playing competitive golf. But the biggest risks I’ve taken—the ones that have been the most in harmony with what I’ve wanted my life to be about—have inevitably resulted in the biggest fallouts.

About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?