I was born in England but moved to the US when I was very young. My parents held onto their British culture in many ways, one of which was continuing to watch British comedy.
When I was in elementary school, I remember walking in on my dad watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” I watched it with him and thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen.
The sketch I walked in on was the Upper Class Twit of the Year, which I found even funnier because one of the “twits” had the same name as one of my brothers.
My brothers and I continued to enjoy Python for decades and followed the cast’s post-Python work as well, especially John Cleese’s (in fact, my wife and I re-watched “A Fish Called Wanda” just last night).
So I was thrilled to discover John Cleese on Cameo, offering to create personalized videos for a fee. My oldest brother had a birthday coming up, so I couldn’t resist paying John Cleese to insult him as a birthday gift.
In my early twenties I met a wonderful girl named Melissa. In previous relationships I felt like an outsider, but with her I was so at ease. We were young & stupid and let it slip away, but I always looked back on her as the one that got away.
Thirty-ish years later I was walking my dogs in a nearby park and I ran into Melissa. I couldn’t believe it was her, and I couldn’t believe she lived just a few miles away.
We walked and talked for a while that morning, and continued to walk and talk for weeks after. We pretended to be platonic, but I knew I loved her. One day I held her hand and it was the most connected I ever felt with someone.
We went through a lot to get to this point, but on January 1, 2019, we married. “Here Comes the Sun” played as she walked down the aisle, because that’s what she is to me. Our wedding dance was to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which was when my friends and family learned I really can’t dance.
We love doing so many things together – hot yoga, running, hiking, martinis, and so much more – but our favorite thing is live music. In the past few years I’ve seen more concerts than I’ve seen in my entire life.
Roger Waters, Metallica, Buddy Guy, Beck, Primus, Rolling Stones, Trombone Shorty, Hamilton, Tool, Dweezil Zappa, Wilco, Aerosmith, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr, Anthrax, George Clinton, Jonny Lang, Foo Fighters, the list goes on.
These days, of course, our concert-going has been put on pause. But we’re still having fun.
To keep us sane in lockdown, my wonderful wife filled the yard with toys. We have a badminton net, bean bag toss, croquet, hoppity hops, and a tiny kiddie pool to cool off in. We also bought inflatable paddle boards and kayaks so we can enjoy a nearby lake.
We don’t know where things are headed in this country, but we do know that we’ll continue to live a life of love, laughter, and music. I’m so glad for that morning in the park, and so glad I’m finally sharing this story with you.
They treat their employees the same way I try to treat the end users of my software. As a developer, I’ve tried to provide a great experience to those who use my software. As a company, Automattic tries to provide a great experience to those who work there. People stick with you when you provide a great experience.
Seven years later, I still feel this way. Among the benefits they provide is a three-month paid sabbatical after being with them for five years, and today is my first day of sabbatical (I delayed mine a couple years for personal reasons).
Of course, when I planned my sabbatical I had no idea it would be during a pandemic. My incredible wife and I had big plans to travel during my time off, but we have vulnerable parents so we’re not taking any chances and are staying put.
I really have no idea what I’ll do, but one thing I want to do is blog more often. It’s been almost three years since my last post, which is pretty ridiculous for someone working with the company running WordPress.com!
Over the years I’ve shared my life with seven dogs and I’ve loved them all, but none has meant more to me than Bella. Today I had to let her go, and I’m remembering what an impact she has had on me.
She possessed a fiercely independent spirit that I connected with in a way I never have with any other creature, and that connection was so deep that it forced me to confront how we treat animals as mere product. I gave up eating meat in part because of the bond we have shared.
She was unique, she was beautiful, and she was loved. It hurts so much to let her go, but I’m so glad we shared each other’s lives. I like to think we were both better off for it.
Each year at the Automattic Grand Meetup, everyone gives a four-minute “flash talk” on any subject. Here’s the talk I gave this year.
I’m sure we’ve all had this experience: you’re sitting around with a group of people when suddenly there’s a lull in the conversation. Everyone ran out of things to say, and now you’re all just sitting there awkwardly.
When this happens to me, I break the lull by suggesting we share embarrassing moments. Everyone tells a story about something embarrassing that happened to them. It’s a great ice breaker, and it’s especially good when the people don’t know each other very well. You all admit to something stupid you did, and suddenly you’re the best of friends.
This is exactly what I did a few years back at a mobile meetup when a bunch of us were sitting at a table staring at our phones to avoid eye contact. To break the lull, I said we should each share an embarrassing story, and I volunteered to go first.
The story I told was from age 16. Despite being an atheist, I was a member of a Presbyterian church youth group. Because there were girls there.
There was one girl in particular I had my eyes on, and one night at the youth group I was able to sit on the floor next to her while the pastor talked about something. I really wanted to impress her, so I leaned over to cooly whisper something in her ear.
And suddenly let out an enormous, completely unexpected fart.
I was shocked – I had no idea that was in there!
I hoped that nobody knew it was me, but that plan was foiled by the pastor. Right before my outburst the pastor said something like, “And Jesus said…,” and then when he heard my outburst he pointed at me and said, “But not like that!”
So everyone knew I was the guilty party.
From that point on, the girl I wanted to impress started calling me “Nicky Poot.” Twenty-five years later, I ran into her on Facebook. One of the first things she said was, “Hey, do you remember Nicky Poot?”
Who knew a single fart would have such a long shelf life.
So, there you have an example of an embarrassing story. If you’re with a group of people and there’s an awkward lull, just ask everyone to share something like that, and suddenly everyone is having a good time.
But take my advice: when you tell your story, don’t lean over. You never know what might come out.
“Look out you rock ‘n rollers … pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.”
One of the downsides of getting older that nobody tells you about is you live to see some of your cultural icons die.
My first hint of that came in eighth grade when John Lennon was murdered. Even though the Beatles were before my time, their music was my soundtrack back then. John’s work in particular resonated with me, and his death came as a shock.
It’s weird losing these people I’ve never met whose creations have touched my life as deeply as only close friends have. Kurt Vonnegut, Carl Sagan, Frank Zappa, Jim Henson, George Carlin – when I heard of their deaths, I felt like I’d lost an old friend.
I feel a bit of that today with the news that David Bowie has died. His music has traveled with me all the way from the days of FM radio and LPs to these days of smartphones and streaming audio.
I never really connected with the various personas that Bowie adopted over the years, but I admired his ability to transform. Because another downside of getting older is we tend to forget we can still change.
We’re an odd hodgepodge of traits and beliefs we’ve tried on over the years and continue to wear even after they no longer fit us. Trying on something new seems dangerous compared to the safe comfort of lackluster familiarity.
That Bowie was able to change himself in front of us – multiple times – is almost as impressive as the body of work he created. Like all the icons I never knew who touched me all the same, I’m glad his time here intersected with mine.
He certainly didn’t inherit this talent from my side of the gene pool, but my 16yr-old son Isaac is a pretty incredible dancer.
This weekend he performed in front of his high school classmates, most of whom had no idea of his gift for movement. Seeing and hearing them react to his moves was a great experience, and the standing ovation he received at the end was well-deserved.
Nice one, Isaac – I’m proud of you not just for your skills, but also for having the courage to get on stage alone and do what you love.