Word of the day, Day 1, is overwhelming. Please refer to the second definition below.
Goodness, where does one begin?
I’ll start by saying that the Walk to the Park has begun. I started officially at about 10, give or take a few minutes, I don’t think anyone that knows me expected it to start on time, at 7:00 AM, though I was at my tree at about 6:15. Gave it a last thought over, gave my thanks, for I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be able to do this,
So yesterday I had a very nice and unexpected surprise! Earlier this week, my buddy Jimmy said I should write a press release, to which I said I’d never written a release, had no idea how to proceed, but we wrote together, kinda got something decent, and he insisted I send it. Send it to who? why? With my instructions sent to me, I did just that, sent it to local media, never expecting a reply, and indeed there was no reply on Friday, when stories are supposedly assigned for the weekend. Next. I had a lot to do without messing with press releases!
Saturday morning, I’m starting to figure out what goes in my backpack, what stays, how much it weighs, running around the apartment, completely disorganized. Then there’s a call from the 512… didn’t recognize the number, and I am one of those maybe one in fifty answers for unknown numbers, but this one I answered. All I understood from the original hello was kvue, huh? really? KVUE is Austin’s ABC affiliated station, and then the super cool Leslie said she was interested in this story! Very neat, very unexpected, and I’m kinda humbled that she is. More on this later when I have some more info!
This had a little something for the delay, but I also really wasn’t in this huge rush to walk away from my kids and friends for three or four months!
But walk away I did, and it is one of the coolest moments of my life, for a whole bunch of reasons. It is probably one of the toughest steps I’ve had to take, not so much the step itself, but everything that has led up to this day. You know some of the background from the Intro, but getting here has been a constant struggle with enormous self-doubt, questions, naysaers… all the scenarios, all the what ifs? I’m going to admit I’m a little bit proud of myself today for having taken that first step, and I started. That doesn’t guarantee anything going forward, but I guarantee I started!
And it started from a tree, my tree, in Zilker Park. And now is as good a time as any to tell you about this tree. It is kind of a puny tree compared to the big majestic ones among which it sits And it really has nothing to do with the tree itself; it’s what happened under the thing!
Rewind about 4 years ago, making it October, 2015. I don’t particularly like going back there, for I was going through some really tough stuff, but something really cool happened under that tree. I have had five or six months feeling miserable, for reasons irrelevant to this story. Suffice to say, I was sour, I was mad, I was depressed and my attitude really smacked. It was weekend 2 of Austin City Limits, ACL duh for those that know :-)… I had been acting as chauffeur and cook for Isabela and her friend Jessi, chaperone as well, knowing exactly where they were at all times as they roamed among 50,000 happy festival-goers! But on Sunday, I really wanted to go watch Halsey. Halsey is a super cool New Yorker who back then wasn’t quite what she is today, but Isabela and I were early fans! So I managed to get a bracelet/ticket for the day, and lugged my sour, mad, depressed, oh, and shitty attitude self to go watch Halsey.
And as I watched her sing and bounce around, knowing she was like in her second week of being 21, and here she was, dominating a crowd of 20-30,000 people, exuding enthusiasm and just overall cool. And old sour mad depressed… that guy, got really mad at himself. I had walked in to the park with this huge dark cloud surrounding me. Of course no one smiled - I wasn’t smiling at them.
So I bought myself a Fireman’s 4, nice local beer, and went and sat under the underdog tree. I recalled something that Sandy, a friend of many years (you should never say “old” friend at my age) had told me when I was going through the grief of losing my father. She had gone through the same process years before, and she told me about the day she just told herself she was tired of feeling the way she did, and that had led to process that got her out of it. Well I was really tired of feeling the way I did at the time. And I started untangling, and unraveling, and dug in to some places that really don’t like company. But after a couple of hours, I emerged with a decison, a Chairman of My Board Decision, and that was… I DECIDED to be HAPPY.
I got up and joined my happy festival-goers. People started smiling again, and they asked me about my cap, and we clunked cans, and walked a few yards together small talkin’… watched the amazing Of Monsters and Men from Iceland, sweltering in the Texas heat, super chill, fantastic music and energy. And then stupid stupid me, skipped Hozier to get a good spot to watch Florence & the Machine… Stupid stupid only because Hozier has become one of my favorite singers since, but back then I hadn’t even heard of him… sorry dude. But then Florence… I was right up against the center barricade on my right, and somewhere in her set she sang a song directly to me… Shake it out… If you don’t know it, I’ll quote one line, “it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake it out” (Google the lyrics if you’re interested, there’s much more to the song). So after she finished the song, she asked the crowd to turn to their right and give the person next to them a hug.
I kinda chuckled at myself about me (I was feeling happier remember?).. here I was alone, standing against the barricade, no one to my right. But I did turn to my left, and the most beautiful woman at the festival gave me the warmest hug I’d had in a long, long time. And it was loud around us, but she very softly whispered “thank you for being here”, to which I say, thank you for thanking me. We walked out in a group, never knew her name, didn’t matter, but her five little word meant more than she’ll ever know. And to her I say, thank YOU for being there!
So happy at full bore, and starved, I bought a pizza on my way home and within 3 steps of the door, box was open and I was eating as I walked up the street. Just then, from nowhere, another beautiful person walked by me and said “couldn’t wait huh?” to which I answered “no, want some?”… she accepted, and the two of us sat on a bus stop bench and devoured a large everything pizza together, talking about any and everything. Don’t know her name either. We parted ways, content and full.
That was my first happy day, and they’ve continued since then, consciously and consistent with my decision. I try to avoid negativity, I avoid conflict when I can, I try to help people more. I will not say that it is every hour of every day, but it is most hours of most days.
So you see now that it’s not about the tree, but it serves as a great reminder of a great decision. It was only this morning that I noticed it was kind of a puny little tree, but only because Bob, dear Bob, asked me why I’d picked the skinniest tree, to which I say, maybe it picked me! I will obviously keep an eye on lil’ puny when I visit, make sure he’s OK and thank him once again!
By pure chance, I found this in the console of my car when I rummaged through it a couple of weeks ago… I didn’t even know I still had it! It is the ACL Program, 2015…
So back to the walk, that thing I’m on. So of course started at the puny tree. Exhilarating… was being followed by Bob and Thomas’ drones, capturing some cool footage. Passed the stage setting where Halsey kicked, near where Monsters and Men killed it and right up to and through Florence’s stage, down to the river, over the red bridge, Thom’s Market, Gatorade, said bye to my peeps, over the Lamar bridge for the last time in a while, past Whole Foods where I’ve literally eaten hundreds of salads, then past REI, where I’ve literally spent hundreds of dollars prepping for this jaunt. Special thanks to Lisa for not only being very patient with my questions, but outfitting me with the perfect backpack and assorted accessories. And north I went, on streets I’d walked many times, somewhat routine.
Several times I caught myself thinking, OK, when you’re on the walk you’ll have to do so and so, then had to remind myself, dude, you are on the walk.
At some crossing, I passed the northernmost point to which I had walked, think it was during the marathons, and suddenly it got more interesting due to its unfamiliarity. Not altogether pretty, but interesting. Only walked about 12 miles today… late start crept me into the heat, and hot is was! Drank 5 quarts of Gatorade, the three liters of water in my pack and another, and I was still dying! Might have had something to do with the fact that I only slept for about an hour and a half last night, in two 45 minute chunks. I was pretty nervous. And my pack is still too heavy - sending five pounds back home, shame if what I wear is a tad wrinkled. And it was hot, it was brutally hot - showed it was feeling like 104, to which we add 10-15 more from radiant heat off the concrete. I quit walking today because it wasn’t safe, this heat can damage. Wanted to take a nap, impossible, adrenaline pretty high… my problem now is remembering six hours of walking thoughts to put into words. I’ll figure it out.
Next… who do we believe below? I promise I didn’t walk different paths for different devices… and notice the sleep stats on the fitbit… awesome night, awesome rest.
Googling 12 miles north of Zilker Park will place you near or within The Domain, a relatively new hip Austin development with nice shops and restaurants in a little village setting. That’s where I am. And ironically, that’s where I was last Wednesday, great dinner with Page, Shari and her sons, Thursday when I took my laptop to Microsoft, and last Friday, to pick it up, & thank you guys again, after which I went to Whole Foods next door to pick up a couple of things. Guess where I had dinner tonight? Yep… Whole Foods! Last Thursday and Friday seem like three weeks ago, and having walked here, I feel like I’m in a totally different world, and I just went with it… took my laptop over and had a really nice afternoon writing your story.
But oh Whole Foods! I am so going to miss them along the way. Had a 2 lb. salad, water, a cider, but realize that when I get out of Austin, if I ever do that is, I’ll miss my WF. I’m increasingly concerned about finding really good food along the way. Maybe I could just circle around 183 and 360 and up and down I35 and do that for four months? Not.
So tonight I bid you farewell from Austin… maybe I’ll be outta here by tomorrow!!