This week I've been going through the seven plastic boxes of stuff that I've had stored in my dad's garage. I thought I only had two or three, but when it's not stored at your own place, it's easy to lose track. He asked me to consolodate it into fewer boxes, which is a pretty reasonable request for a minimalist.
So I went through it all, and it was an amazing trip back in time. I found old notes, an unopened time capsule from 1993, an MC Hammer casette, and a bunch of other stuff I'd forgotten about. I also found a bunch of stuff from my first girlfriend, Allison.
Allison wasn't the first girl I ever called my girlfriend, but she was my first girlfriend. The first girl I went on dates with, the first girl I loved, and the first girl I slept with. The whole thing should have never really happened, statistically speaking. If we each have a certain amount of luck in dating, then after her I probably should have been single for the rest of my life.
I was sixteen, a sophomore in high school, and totally clueless. She was fifteen, very attractive (I feel creepy saying that now, since, well, she's fifteen in the photos I have of her, but that's how I felt), and, most importantly, a fellow classmate in my tech theater class.
Part of tech theater was building sets for the school plays. One day we were in the big shop behind the stage, cutting a plywood circle, and our teacher, Mr. Gotuaco, asked if anyone knew what the value of pi was.
"It's 3.141592653," I said. Bored in math one day, I had memorized the limit of my calculator's display.
"Actually, it's 3.1415926535898."
I turned my head and saw Allison. A pretty girl knew more digits of pi than I did. That was unacceptable. I'm not sure if I was motivated by pure nerd pride, or if I knew that I was flirting, but I went back home and memorized.
The next day I came into class prepared. I managed to sit next to Allison, who had probably not actually noticed me until that moment, and I tapped her on the shoulder.
She was impressed. The next day she came back and knew over thirty digits. This was heating up, I thought. Homework got skipped that night, and I printed out the first ten thousand digits of pi. I actually found the printout today when I was going through all of my boxes. The three pages of tiny text seems awfully optimistic now. I memorized a hundred and forty five digits of pi, and opened the next tech theater class with guns blazing.
"Wow. Do you want my number?"
I swear to you that that's how I got my first phone number. My next memory of her is calling, being terrified, and walking her through how to set up an FTP server on her computer. At the time, that seemed like the right thing to do. I was too clueless then to try to act like I was cool, but there's a lot of charm in being earnest.
I remember our first date, too. It was pouring rain, and the date was scheduled for the day that I would get my car back from the repair shop. I had nearly totalled it by rear ending someone badly enough to deploy my airbags. This was my first time driving in the rain, and my first time driving since the accident. To make things worse, her mother insisted on coming as a chaperone, but made me drive.
In retrospect, this makes sense. I mean-- if I had a fifteen year old daughter, I guarantee that I wouldn't let some car-crashing sixteen-year-old take my daughter out alone either. At the time, it was a nervewracking situation.
I got us safely to the restaurant. It was called Lone Star Cafe and served really thick slices of margarined toast with everything. Allison's mother paid for the meal, which made it feel more like an interview for the position of daughter's boyfriend than an actual date. Oddly, I remember just thinking that it was a foregone conclusion that she would become my girlfriend. Maybe we'd discussed it and the date was just a formality, or maybe I was so inexperienced that I thought every date guaranteed a relationship. I don't remember.
Either way, we began dating. After a month or two we were inseparable. We had dinner together over two hundred and fifty days in a row, which is pretty crazy when you consider that we were really just kids. Usually we'd go to her house after school, because there was an hour window before her parents got home. Sometimes we'd go to my house or go out for dinner, usually at TGIFridays, which I thought was excellent.
One day, after dating for almost a year, we sat in her room and talked. I forget who brought it up, but one of us asked the other if they really wanted to keep dating. The other said, "No, not really," and that was that. Neither of us was angry or sad-- for some reason we both just knew that the relationship had run its course. We stopped contacting each other entirely and I didn't talk to her for years, until she spotted me on the highway and we reconnected in the breakdown lane. That's not a euphemism.
Allison was the first girl that I said, "I love you" to, and I didn't say it again until I dated Katya, almost ten years later. By that time Allison seemed like puppy love, and I had mentally discounted me thinking I loved her as a mix of hormones and naivete. In the memory boxes I've sifted through in the past few days, I've found photos from our trip to Hawaii (with her parents), polaroids of the kitten her family rescued that we considered to be our jointly owned kitten, and love letters. I'd forgotten about those.
One valentine was meticulously crafted out of construction paper. On it she wrote:
Eres el ladron de mi corazon...Por favor ser mi valentin? Que hermosos tus ojos son....Que vacio mi vida seria sin...tu! Te quiero, Allison
In English it means "You're the thief of my heart...please be my valentine? How beautiful your eyes are.... how empty my life would be without...you! I love you, Allison
(Neither of us are native Spanish speakers, so I'm not sure why it's in Spanish or how the Spanish is so grammatically correct.)
Reading that today sort of melted my heart. It reminded me of an aspect of our relationship that I had totally forgotten about, and haven't really experienced since her. We never judged each other. The valentine is corny, and she would have known that. But she loved me, so she wrote it and gave it to me, and knew that I would appreciate it. I wouldn't think that she's trying too hard or think it's cheesy that she wrote me a little poem in Spanish.
Our whole relationship was like that. We told each other everything, even when we knew the other person wouldn't like it, because we knew it would be accepted without judgement. One Valentines day I had a silver ring made for her that was a heart with a pi symbol cut out of it. It never occurred to me that it might be too sappy or too try-hard. I just loved her and thought that she'd like it, so I got it for her. Looking at it from an adult perspective, it almost seems unreal.
Since then I've become more judgemental, and have dated girls who are judgmental as well (maybe not as much as me, though). I think it's part of becoming an adult, at least if you don't fight it. I don't lie to girls, I don't omit the truth, and I say the things that need to be said-- but I do it with a deliberation and caution that used to be absent. I hate to admit it, but if a girlfriend tells me something significant, my first inclination is to adjust my opinion of her.
It's strange to learn something from yourself, and even stranger to learn it from a fifteen-year younger version of yourself, but I'll take lessons from wherever they may come. I'm not in a relationship now, but next time I am, I'm going to really make a point to keep judgement out of it.
All of the pi digits were from fifteen year old memory, so they might not be exactly right, especially the longest one.
I got my seven boxes down to just 2/3 of a box. Lots of stuff donated (like my precious box collection I started when I was around 7) and lots thrown away, but I also scanned 200+ things and took photos of a lot of other stuff.
So sweet. I'm in the beginning of a new relationship and so far, it's kind of precious...like young love. I'm trying to stay vulnerable but not too vulnerable. And I'm trying not to be judgmental as I'm learning about my guy but still look out for myself. I'm hopeful.
Tynan, just read (again) the posts about publishing a book. I thought of posting a comment there, but didn't know if you'd see it. This time I'm actually writing a book, as opposed to just reading and re-reading your post! I don't think I can do it in 48 hours though, that's pretty amazing and cool that you did that. While in the midst of writing, I started wondering if I should just publish it only as a Kindle ebook.
Can you give a rough breakdown of how the sales are divided between Kindle ebook and physical book sales in a month, e.g. 500 ebooks and 250 physical books.
Does it change drastically from book to book?
I am wondering which version sells more, and if it's a big difference, and if it depends on the title.
I also want to thank you for writing those posts, they are among my favorites on tynan.com.
Things have shifted dramatically, and now most of my sales come from Kindle.
Wow, that was a super quick reply,thanks! Sett does work well for comments, I can see now. Wishing you the best with Sett! Would you have seen my comment immediately even if I had posted it in one of the old posts?
I thought I should make a comment on this post. This was a really interesting post, and in my mind much more the sort of quality posts that you used to make in years gone by. I had started to check your site only every few weeks lately, but I can see myself checking a lot more frequently again now. (disclaimer - I find the PUA stuff painfully boring to read about. This could/probably is the biggest reason I had stopped checking your site frequently. Equally though, I am sure that lots of people love the PUA stuff, and those readers probably love the posts I hate and vice-versa). You can't please us all, nor should you try.
Cutting your 7 boxes down to 1 resonated with me. I recently did that. Scanned and photographed all the old letters/journals/etc that I had wanted to keep. Quite a relief not to have the physical boxes of stuff around any more.
A quick note about SETT - I like it, and I think it holds a lot of promise. Currently it does seem quite slow across browsers. Not sure if this is a function of the server hosting it, site design, a combination, etc.I hope it keeps improving though because I think it could be really great once the wrinkles are ironed out.
Thanks... I like to mix it up now and then. The PUA stuff is over for the foreseeable future, since I'm not going out any more.
Beyond just not having the stuff, it's nice to have photos and scans of everything. The physical object isn't really as important as the memories it recalls, which the photos are just as effective in producing.
Can you tell me how fast/slow your computer is and what browser you're running?
Ever think you'll get back together with her again? Or are you two just fundamentally different people now? How and why did you know the relationship had run its course? What changed? Or did the love just end and there was nothing else to hold you guys together?
You lucky rat bastard! How in the God Damned Hell did that happen?!?! A pretty girl giving you her number after you reciting pi to her?!
You magnificent bastard.
This is the one part of minimalism I struggle with. A lot of your experiences are not easily accessible over time without these memory aids to get it to come back from the offline backup tapes in the corners of your brain, and not everything is suited to digitizing. I am conflicted by an aversion to destroying unique hand made things (like that Valentine's card) while not wanted to be responsible for them anymore either. Are there any details of your relationship that you would not have remembered if something in this stash hadn't trigger it?
Yeah, I think the solution is to just scan/photograph everything. I got rid of a bunch of objects (boxes, books, clay sculptures, etc), and just taking pictures is enough to jog the memory. It took me hours do record it all, but I'm glad I did.
Just thought of something. Why would you throw out old art that you made? so you have more room for emptiness?
That's kind of the feeling I get from Leo's minimalism. You have gotten rid of so many things you start losing your humanity. Leo is great, but his writing has no passion, no emotion, no art. You trash your art! Whyyyyy....
I wouldn't call it art. One piece was a cat... I had hoped to make a frog, but when I smooshed the clay in my hand, it looked like a cat, so I added some ears to it. Anyway, the pictures of it are better to me because they're more accessible.... I'll actually see this stuff now.
I did keep a bunch of stuff... instead of my whole box collection, for example, I chose two boxes that were my favorites. I also kept most photos.
I just realized you went to my high school Tynan. You graduated from mcneil before me though.
Interestinly enough, I memorized pi to the same amount of digits as you recalled back in the early 00s. You got it all right except for the last digit, it's not a 4, but a 1 (if you aren't rounding). This was an awesome post, hit close to home as I can relate to almost everything.
This story is one of the first really interesting and bizarre things that happened to me. It's a tale chock full of twists, crime, and deceit, guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating BtyB reader.
It takes place when I was a sophomore in high school, before I had any clue whatsoever regarding women. Despite my objective inexperience, I had managed to attract my first real girlfriend. I'll write the full story some day on how I met her... believe it or not, I won her over by memorizing more digits of pi than she memorized. Let's all pretend I didn't just admit that. Anyway, she was very attractive, super cool, and perhaps the most compatible girlfriend I've ever had. Now she is a fighter (like amateur UFC or something) and a stripper. Her name is Allison.
One of my good friends at the time was a fellow named Charles. There always seemed to be something a bit odd about him, but I wasn't sure what it was. Later I would learn that he had been sent to juvenile detention for attempting to stab his stepfather.
Life would be great if I only knew the lesson of an event before the event. If I knew that my wife would be angry when I complained about Disney food, then I just wouldn't voice those opinions operatically. What I'm finally seeing is that life's lessons happen all the time, we just need to see them.
Two experiences, one yesterday and one fifteen years ago reminded me of this. First the more recent one. While sitting in the gymnastics waiting room earlier this week I was talking about books with one of the other parents there. She was well read in different areas of fiction and I found myself noting book after book. She had me excited to read and that night I logged onto my Amazon.com account and nearly ordered some of the Kindle copies - because she read them on her Kindle.
At the start of the year I decided to limit my book purchases and except for a pair of un-regrettable slip-ups, I haven't missed having the books. Her hour long influence on me almost led me to buy a book. She didn't make me do anything but our conversation had shifted my framing of the world, from my goal to her norm.
The second episode I thought of was in a driver's education class. In this class - which taught me more about talking to girls than driving - the students would talk about what kind of cars we thought were cool. We pined away in our wood-paneled station wagons. One night the conversation turned to luxury cars and I declared that my luxury car of choice was clear, the Pontiac Bonneville
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="320"] The Pontiac Bonneville[/caption]