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Along the Tokyo Track

Who knew that such a short story would need 17 years to blossom? It turned out nothing like I imagined, but that’s fitting.

The train sped along the Tokyo track. It blitzed local stations, moving him along, moving him away.

Far away, a world away in New York City, his heart had once grown full. Diminutive as she was demure, she had seen a light in him, and he in her. Half her ancestry originated in Japan. And drawn as he was to the Land of Yamato, he had easily seen in her almond eyes his lineage blending with hers.

They reflected each other, brightening their part of the world.

But it wouldn’t be. Instead, heartache, distance, confusion. Longing for what had been, and for what could have been. Finally, acceptance of what was. Eventually, gratitude. 

Their parallel lines diverged, hers arched away, returning her to her family’s origin

The train picked up speed, glancing side to side. 

Each time he visited this Land, each time he took this trip between Tokyo Station and Narita International, his eyes would scan the trackside apartment blocks, hoping to see her looking back at him from one of one million balconies.

Perhaps, while watering a plant, a woman with a face that he couldn’t forget would glance up at just the right moment, her heart pulled to the passing train for reasons she couldn’t understand.

Perhaps, while airing a futon she shared with another soul and another body, she’d feel a lost, familiar vibration—echoing from the tracks, rippling on the cotton matting—and seek its source.

Perhaps, while hanging out to dry her children’s clothes—children not his own—she’d see one of one million trains that passed by, but this time she’d be unable to look away.

It wouldn’t be, but he, his heart now healed and full, still looked.

The train sped along the Tokyo track.

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I posted this on LinkedIn, but wanted to give it a little more exposure than a blip on oft-skimmed news feeds. So here goes…

Thanks, Delta Air Lines. 19 years and 1 day ago, I walked into my first training class, arriving somewhat early and severely overdressed.

Before I left Delta 7+ years later, I’d realized, thanks to my friends and experiences there and literally around the world, that I wanted to be a writer. Now, I write, therefore, I am (summin like that). I’m very grateful.

And thanks, Gary, James, Mario, Leslie, Juan Mario, Ryan, Larry, and so many others for the support, opportunity, and encouragement.

I’ll have to share the story of how, after the Santiago flight pushed back around 10 p.m one night, I found myself in the International Concourse break room, typing away on an article, and coming to the realization that, yeah, I wanted to write for a living.

Keep dreaming stuff into being, y’all.

Delta 747

At Narita, I saw what musta been an old Northwest 747, painted in DL livery. One day I’ll fly in the upper deck…one day…

Dang I miss those flight benefits…there’s nothing like flying BusinessElite and only paying international taxes.

 

Set up your next kick

A friend of mine* was having heart palpitations today, waiting on an overdue call from a potential employer. The job? Doesn’t matter, aside from it being one they “really, REALLY want.”

We’ve all been there. And it ain’t fun.

The chat churned up the “What do I do?” quandary. My advice was simple…

Set up your next kick

Check out this gif, then follow my explanation and logic below.

I wish I could give the creators of this video credit, but all I got is an Imgur link I favorited months ago. If anybody knows the source, drop me a line in the comments so I can drop some proverbial props.

I shared this gif with my friend to illustrate what I meant by “set up your next kick.” Let’s start with some parallels:

  • The kicker is you, the job seeker.
  • The ball — the kick, really — is a job opportunity.
  • The slide-tackling a-hole is you not getting that job.

Now watch the gif again with that knowledge. What do you see? See any patterns?

Reset and try again

If you look at it in order, for the first kick, the dude is all excited. He’s jazzed. He’s got the moves. Oh, he’s GOT this, alright, until Numbknut McGee takes him out. And then he don’t got it.

Laying there on the grass, it looks like you feel when you find out you DIDN’T get a job offer you were expecting, doesn’t it? It does to me.

Copas

Keep them laced up until you can kick them off under your new desk

Ankles heal. Grass stains wash out.

But the guy gets up, perhaps a little less showy before the next kick, and he tries again. And is taken out again. That to me is one of the lessons here: Get up. Place the ball. Try again. Do the same with your career.

There’s nothing new in that advice.

However, what I’d offer is that unlike soccer or any sport that revolves (See what I did there?) around a single ball or object, your career doesn’t demand that you focus on one opportunity at a time. There’s no need to wait until one set piece is done before setting the next and kicking again.

I’m suggesting that you put more than one ball in play and kick at every one you can.

Translated into job-searching terms, I’m suggesting that you don’t wait to see how one opportunity pans out before striking the next. In particular, when you think you have one in the bag, keep kicking, because there’s no telling if you got it until you got it.

No time to showboat

I’ve been in the running for roles and it didn’t pan out in the end. Roles for which I thought it was just a matter of time before I was given the job.

I can take the disappointment — didn’t say I like it, but I can take it — but what gets me is the fact that I stopped kicking.

For one opportunity in particular, I recall that once interviews progressed to a certain point, I visited job boards less frequently. I networked when I felt like it instead of when I saw the opportunity. I went from lean to lazy, and that was a self-inflicted foul.

When I got the word that the offer wouldn’t materialize, I realized how far behind I was. What roles had been posted that I’d missed? What content had appeared on my LinkedIn feed that I might have pounced on?

Heading back to the job boards and my network was like the DIY walk of shame. You know…when you shuffle back into Ace Hardware to get the materials you need to fix the project you botched earlier in the day, the materials for which you purchased from that very same Ace.

Kick and kick again

So following that lesson in losing and losing ground, I resolved to keep kicking. And that’s what I suggested my friend do: go look for another role. Don’t wait around for this one.

What’s the worst that could happen? You’d have options and have to turn one down? Sounds like a pretty sweet position to be in.

*Honest, it’s a real friend, not me under the guise of “a friend” 

 

I found this writing while going through old files. While I wrote it when G was entering 1st Grade…he just entered 7th…I thought it timely to post this at the beginning of the school year.
– DDH

We made sure to arrive early so we could get a good seat right on the aisle in the old
church. Although we’ve been here many times before—holiday sing-a- longs, school
performances—today is different.

 

This morning’s Rose Ceremony holds special significance for us as 1st grade parents. As your children have done before, our child starts his or her journey through the grades.

The Rose Ceremony

The ceremony is simple and joyful, framed in anticipation—perhaps solemnity—that
doesn’t diminish the brightness in our eyes or lower the raised corners of our smiles.
Seated here in the first few pews—not unlike parents in years past—we’re here to
witness the start of a new song of sorts, poised at that ever-important first note.

The first note

We’ve all been there. We can relate. To me, it’s like the year—or years—of kindergarten was like an orchestra’s warm-up, each instrument finding its own notes, tone … and volume. But the 1st grade is when you can start to discern some sort of rhythm, some pattern, some melody.

What’s happens next?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Regardless of where your children are on this WSA path,
you can answer that question much better than our troupe, gathered together in silent
anticipation.

As 1st grade parents, we’ve come together as a class, all with varying experiences at and
outside of Waldorf, bringing different understandings of what lies ahead, and, of course,
unique reasons for being here of all places: these few acres with more than a few trees
in Decatur.

Kinship among strangers

I can’t help but think about how interesting it is that we all ended up here. As we get to
know each other, we learn about our reasons for being here and why we chose Waldorf.
Many of us want something more for our children. And some of us aren’t really sure what that “something” is, but feel we can find it here. We see the possibilities inherent in this environment. And we trust in the opportunities that are abundant in Waldorf education.

For others, being here is a reaction to public school. To a greater or lesser degree,
there’s dissatisfaction with what public education offers. For me that hits home.

My father—a lifelong educator and recipient of the California teacher of the year award—saw his health decline dramatically when classroom sizes swelled and disrespect ran rampant.

For others, Waldorf was a second choice. Fair enough. One parent wanted her kids to attend another local private school, but could only make the waiting list the first year. There was space at Waldorf though, and after a short time, she knew this school offered what her children and her family needed.

Regardless of our reasons for being here, our reasons are valid. It’s fascinating that
although the reasons that brought us here are across the board, we come together in what we seek to gain from this education: a whole education.

And that’s what Waldorf seeks to give.

If you work in corporate America, you’ve been subjected to not just the opinions of others, but their weight. Ooph, that’s heavy.

Leia

She was not a committee. Be like Leia.

Consider your last project. Chances are you didn’t make it to the end without thinking, “What about my manager’s approval? Will she like this new direction I came up with?” Or “Maybe that other department will have an issue with the creative elements like they did last time.”

The illusion of “your” work

And don’t pretend it doesn’t weigh on you. Because it does. Even if you have a bullet-proof, bite-me veneer, you gotta admit it affects your work. Even if you end up taking the new direction or those creative elements, damn your boss and the other department and the torpedoes. You spent the time worrying, and that’s time wasted.

At its worst, you may find yourself unable to consider your work done until you’ve satiated others’ opinions…and egos. The lower down the food chain you are, the more satiating you gotta do.

Pay (attention to) yourself first

There’s a point where you should consider the opinions of others, sure thing. I’m not arguing to the contrary. But the more credence you give others opinions on your work — whether you have to or not — the less genuine it becomes. The less true. 

Each of us, particularly in the creative field, have to feel out when another perspective might help our creation shine and when it might take a sledgehammer to its foundation, sending its quality sliding down the hill and into the reservoir.

Personally, I’d rather have a work that’s all my own, even if it’s not all it could be, than wedge in the wonky and detrimental if good-intentioned “If I were you…” or “How about if…” or “Have you considered…”

You aren’t.
How ’bout not.
I haven’t and won’t.

WWKD?

Stephen King advocates writing the first draft with your door closed.

That is, write the first draft for yourself, deaf, dumb, and blind to the opinions of others. Then, made manifest by virtue of your own creativity, that draft is shared with a trusted few, after you allow them in through the open door.

Professionally, you can’t always do that, especially if you’ve a client to please. But when it comes to personal work. Be true to yourself, to your work.

To be of service

Today marked the conclusion of my third and final year on the Waldorf School of Atlanta’s Board of Trustees. In the capacity of Marketing Committee Chair, I’ve been privileged to contribute to our students’ and school’s success.

Happy to help

I do consider it a privilege, because it’s afforded me the chance to be of service in a unique way.

See, my father was a teacher — a lifelong California public school teacher — and my mother, though not listed as such on her CV, was an educator. I’m not, but I recognize the important role and responsibility that teachers have.

“That’s Professor Hambrick. I didn’t get a Ph.D. in Education just to be called Mr. Hambrick. Oh wait…I didn’t get a Ph.D.”

I knew I’d never teach (at least in an official capacity). But being on the Board of Trustees at our son’s school provided an avenue through which I could, in some small way, be of service to students and our school.

WSA-path

More service, more Board meetings, more walks along the mulch path, more little treasures like this one

Altruism made manifest

Being of service, no matter how you do it, is something we all should do, because it’s how we can help others. It’s altruism made manifest, I’d argue. Concrete kindness, if you will.

I think, had I been given a minute to speak at today’s assembly, I would have thanked the school for the chance to be of service. And I would have suggested that the students seek ways in which they can:

  • Younger ones could help set the table, bring in groceries, and keep house.
  • Older ones could volunteer through their faith and in the community.
  • Graduating 8th Graders, moving out into a larger world, could seek to create a future built on the notion of serving humankind.
  • And all of them could be of service by bringing a little more love into the world; I guess they’re one in the same, in a way.

I’m just happy to have served on the Board, though I do feel it’s time for me to move on…to another kind of service.

It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it. And I’ve found that’s the norm for things that are worth your while.

Giving it away: Prelude

giving-it-away

Note to self, scratched in the back of “On Writing” by Steven King.

Lemme go ahead and put this out into the world: the prelude to my book.

It’s not perfect. It’s not edited (at least to any degree that I, as a professional editor, would admit). And it probably ain’t final. But it is. So there. Here. Read it, free of charge and with my compliments.

Early this year, I warned that this blog might not be pretty, so I guess this is one way of delivering on my word.

If you want to share your thoughts or impressions, feel free to comment and feel free to push it further into the world. With the caveat that I’m doing this for myself and my muse and not for others, I thank you in advance.

Prelude

Spires of smoke rose above the city of Kigaru, wedged between the twin mountains of Mizuyama and Kayama. Thicker, darker columns – from the larger kilns and blacksmiths – reached the greatest heights before dissipating in the cold winds of early autumn. Lower, lighter threads of smoke spoke of more humble origins, of temples and family hearths.

Surrounded by the mountains’ mist and the fog of the bay, Kigaru bore a shroud about and above it. The tops of its tallest trees were bare, exposed to the whipping winds – all but the ancient ginkgo tree inside the Himeji Temple grounds. Leaves yellow and gold clung to its branches, holding fast against an approaching winter. Proud, perhaps, but no less resplendent, they’d eventually succumb to the rhythm of the seasons, falling, with few exceptions, together.

One fan-shaped, yellow-gold leaf floated down, just missing the top of the temple wall and coming to rest just shy of the gravel footpath. It landed amid the ceramics covering a ragged tatami mat.

“Aren’t you lovely?” asked the old man, picking it up and studying the leaf. He cast his gaze over his shoulder to the 1,000-year-old tree in the courtyard. “And no doubt lonely,” he added with no hint of sadness. “Not to worry. You can stay with me for a time.” Between a weathered thumb and forefinger, he rolled its stem back and forth, back and forth before tucking it into a pocket inside his coat.

Voices and commotion rose on the other side of the wall. The throng of temple visitors, moments before meandering through the gate and along the pathway, quickly split apart at the insistence of three horsemen. The old man and other seasonal vendors like him gathered the goods at the edge of their mats, trying to keep their wares from being trampled by pilgrims who were trying to not get trampled themselves.

After the riders passed, the crowd reunited. Another vender, a younger woman – a potter, a novice as judged by her crafts – leaned toward Jinbei, who had already brushed dirt of his tatami and began setting out his crockery.

“Say, weren’t those Nakagawa riders?” she not so much asked as confided.

“Mm-hmm,” he mumbled an answer an agreement. “Didn’t expect to see them this early.”

“What? Early in the day?” she asked. “I hope I don’t have to make a habit of saving my goods getting crushed.” The young woman righted a set of thick teacups. “I thought I’d be less dangerous here than on Sochira Street,” she said with a bright laugh that reminded him of the leaf in his pocket.

“The season. I mean early in the season,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see their family crest before the Autumn Grand Ceremony, attended by all noble houses – the Nakagawa clan and lesser estates. That’s not for another three weeks.”

She arched an eyebrow. “And so?”

“And so, they don’t enter this holy ground except on such occasions, except when it’s expected, when it’s required of their station.”

The young potter had stopped setting out her goods to look at and listen to the old man. “Then why were they here?”

He was quiet for a breath. “Beats me,” he answered, then returned her attention. “But whatever the reason, it was important, judging by how quickly they left took off.”

She kept watching him as he got back to work.

“Who knows?” he said, allowing himself a grin before feigning reverence. “Maybe they all achieved simultaneous spiritual enlightenment, satori, and each of them wanted to be the first to brag about it to Lord Nakagawa.”

Such a jibe could get him struck down – he knew it, as did she. Yet she chuckled, covering her mouth with her hand and trying in vain to muffle her mirth, like the yellow-gold leaf in his pocket.

Until the end

Steal like an artistIt’s National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as #NaNoWriMo … I think. Otherwise known as 30 Days of Self-Inflicted Anxiety for would-be, could-be, perhaps should-be writers. I’m not in this year.

But serendipitously, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I found myself finishing up “Steal Like and Artist,” which I had started months ago, stopped to blog about at a low point (with myself/career, not the book), and never completed reading.

Write between the lines
One thing that stuck was the idea of being creative within confines. Of time, of energy, of space.

Net: confines can foster creativity. So I gave myself a page and decided to fill it up with long-hand — no more, no less. What follows is what happened next. And what follows that is a typed, altogether more legible version.

until-the-end

…scribble, scrabble, drabble on the memo pad I babble…

If you start, you may not end where you wanted to go. But when you stop, you’ve reached an end. Not the end, perhaps not your intended end. But you’ve gotten to the Omega to your Alpha.

Maybe for this, it’s here.
Or here.

Apparently not.

So the push comes from the scratch inside your head. That in turn scratches the pen across the paper. Dang, my arm is tired already. Just this far in.

But there is an intoxicant at work here – it’s blue ink, lines no longer barren. Thoughts reaped, harvested across the line like bundles of wheat across a valley floor – gathered together. Upright, spent, but with life-giving power.

There’s an opportunity in each line. Tabula rasa is it? Blank slate? I dunno.

So as I scoot toward the end of the page – cresting halfway – between accomplishment and anxiety. What I’ve said vs. what I’ve written.

But I’m only pushing myself to fill the page. To reach that Omega.  This is my constraint. This is my Incredibly Shrinking Goal – not to be feared. It should fear me.

Stare long enough into the Abyss and it will stare back. I am the Abyss. I am the unfathomable. I am without limit. The lactic acid builds in my arm, as the ink drains in proportion. Here – take this last line and absorb my ink, my words, my creation, and retain it until the end.

This post sprung from a conversation with G’s new teacher, who asked if there were any German restaurants in Atlanta. With a single question she immediately endeared herself to me, which helped offset the inevitably depressing response: “Not many.”

There are a few, however, and I’ve sought to detail them a bit here for your dining pleasure and general entertainment. If you know of any others that are worth dropping some Deutschmarks…well, let me know!

 

Le Petite

Petite Auberg offers a lovely dining experience, including comfortable booths reminiscent of early ’80s hot tubs.

Petite Auberg
(3/5 Schnitzels)

There’s a venerable restaurant in Toco Hills under the name Petite Auberg, which I believe is French for “Just enough German dishes to occasionally bill ourself as a French-German restaurant but not enough to reflect it in our name.” Established in 1974, it’s been an Atlanta fave for four decades and then some.

We’re lulled there perhaps every two years, inevitably ordering in a manner that would make my Germanic ancestry proud. This holds true despite the fact that there are more escargot in a serving of their (tasty!) escargot than German dishes on the dinner menu.

What it lacks in authentic Deutsch grub it makes up for by its eastside ITP (inside the perimeter) proximity, a well-appointed environment, and warm ambiance.

 

Biergarten

Der Biergarten is true to their name, replete with open-air seating. Garten outside. Bier throughout.

Der Biergarten
(3/5 Schnitzels; 4th schnitzel pending sit-down dining review)

There’s another one in downtown that draws a more direct line to the Schwartzwald. Though I’ve only been to Der Biergarten once as part of a massive work/social gathering, I’d wager that the food would be worth the trip.

The beer selection truly impressed me, though the snack-type fare we were served wasn’t memorable enough to spark visions of Julie Andrews and the chorus of “Edelweis” when I recall my visit. Though any spot that offers a Konig Ludwig Platter for 6 automatically gets three stars, taste untasted!

 

Village corner

The Village Corner will help you forget — or perhaps not even care — how ridiculous you look in those Lederhosen.

The Village Corner
(5/5 Schnitzels)

I feel a bit ashamed that I didn’t first and foremost mention The Village Corner, which for all the right reasons secured the URL germanrestaurant.com. It’s fantastisch, charming — hands down it’s my fave, my Lieblingsrestaurant (if that’s indeed a word or a thing … if not, it should be).

Rumor has it that I once consumed their Wurst Platte fur zwei. Mind you, sometimes rumors are fact … at least in part. Located near Stone Mountain, which is eastside OTP (outside the perimeter), it’s close enough to Decatur but far enough from the urbanity to make you think for a minute you’re in Bavaria.

Zum Bratwurst … or was it Zur?
(6/5 Schnitzels)

I’d love to say that the little residence turned restaurant on Atlanta’s southside was still in existence. Even before I began the first of four years’ high school German, we frequented the restaurant for special occasions. Throughout 9-12 grades, the German club would visit regularly.

What once was a gem of a Deutsch Essen destination in College Park is now a pawn shop.What was the name? I think it was something off-kilter like Zum Bratwurst. That sounds right. Can’t recall for sure, but I have to thank it for fostering a love of German fare and folk and culture and somehow planting the seed for this post some three decades ago. I’ll still raise a glass to it. Prost!

Animaniacs

Animaniacs. Warum? Ich hab’ uberhaupt keine Ahnung!

And here, for no good reason that I can think of, is The Animaniacs singing their version of “Schnitzelbank,” featuring Professor Otto von Schnitzelpusskrankengescheitmeyer.

 

A good story

Screw this and all sane approaches. Just start writing.

“So how’s your book coming along?”

 

An old friend asked me that question yesterday as we stood around avoiding farewells before he headed up to Virginia, where he’d recently relocated.

The answer I used to give was, “The draft is moving along at a good clip, if you overlook the dust it’s collecting.” But it’d been so long since someone had asked that I stumbled over my once-rote reply. That gives you an idea how much dust we’re talking about.

I told him as much. And added in peripheral excuses: “Y’know, work’s taking a lot of time, and I’ve been occupied with our recent move and what-not…”

He knows I’m a writer, but I’d forgotten that I’d told him about my book. And his asking kinda took me by surprise.

George UHaul

George could write about cold oatmeal and spark a fire in your soul.

Foot perched in the wheel well of the UHaul trailer, another friend of mine, who’s more like an uncle than anything, shared that what works for him is just barreling through that first pass.

And he’s right, though bless his heart, George’s likeness doesn’t come to mind when I hear “barreling through,” as methodical and glacial as he is. One thing’s certain: the world’d be better for more of George’s writing.

The Virginian is a craftsman by trade, so the conversation turned up the analogy of roughing in a structure — slapping together a few 2x4s with 16-penny nails and calling it a shed and a day. The first draft … in 3D … real, there, existent.

Steven King even campaigns for powering through that first draft without self-editing. It’s true; he’s tried it; and it works. After that, you then open your office door to the world of opinion — yours and others’.

I don’t have mine at that point yet. It’s kinda like my own albatross; instead of hanging around my neck, it’s sitting on my desktop, ancient like a mariner. It’s tough to put this truth out there without having put the book out there.

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