I don’t remember exactly when it happened. Somewhere along this journey that is both life and the process of songwriting, I adopted a writing mantra. Find your vulnerability. I’ve championed it to myself and any who would listen. I stubbornly maintain it to be good advice. Mostly because it works.

It’s a slight modification to the advice I received back in high school when I tried my hand at writing a sports article. “Have a take,” the anonymous internet user said, “and don’t suck.” He liked the article though and I never forgot it. Essentially it meant be yourself and do it right. It was kind of a revelation for a super-creative but super-competitive high school kid who wasn’t sure of himself but had to put on airs that he was.

But I wasn’t.

I started writing songs around 9 years old. On a $10 truck stop guitar, I learned how to play and songwriting was a natural progression from it. I still remember the first real song I ever wrote. It was called “Two Ways to Go” and our family still references it. I couldn’t sing worth a darn and only knew 4-1/2 chords but I kept at it. Somewhere along the journey I found songwriting to be the outlet that I needed to express myself. I still wasn’t sure of myself but I was just stubborn enough to keep going.

Somewhere in that awkward time of being a squeaky-voiced teenager wallowing in the throes of puberty, I was still writing but singing was a problem. So I submitted my lyrics to an online critique group in an effort to get better. Something deep within me knew this whole songwriting thing was where I was most “me” and I needed to get better at it.

They ripped me to shreds.

It was a little shocking but I decided right away I was going to take any and all advice they gave me about a song with a grain of salt and immediately apply it to the next song. I was still a kid. I was learning.

High school was a weird time. I was always kind of the independent first-born child who paid his own bills but was deathly afraid of making big mistakes. Aside from trying to figure out the whole being an adult thing, jobs, navigating newfound interest in girls and relationships, starting a punk band with your buddies (true story), there was also that whole idea of adopting theology and life principles for yourself.

It didn’t go well. I kept those airs going pretty well but inside I was spiraling. Like when the tub water is just low enough where it starts draining faster and creates a little hurricane effect down there by the metal ring that’s supposed to be silver. The sickening sound of that last bit of sludge being pulled into the dark abyss of a tub drain was where I found myself at the ripe old age of 16.

If you’ve heard my testimony, it was a song that pried me out of that quicksand. “Redeemed” was the title and I grabbed hold of that like nothing ever before. The follow up to that whole nightmare was a time of healing and restoration in a little room above a garage that I turned into my first little home studio. I spent a lot of time up there. I wrote a lot of songs. I had them all critiqued. I learned about the tenets of songwriting. And then somewhere along the way, somebody told me I’d have to at some point, just like in real life, throw it all out and adopt those tenets for myself. If you want to be real and honest you can’t follow some formula, there’s no “recipe” for success. The only way to be true in songwriting is to emote with no barriers of preconceived ideas in the way. You gotta let go. Let it fly.

I nodded yes but I didn’t fully understand. It wasn’t long after that when I started uploading recordings of myself to other songwriting groups. There was a couple of a good ones in there but the overall response was mild. I think they all saw what I hadn’t discovered yet. Just a kid who doesn’t know who he is yet. It was a little frustrating. I just wanted to be taken seriously. That’s what I needed, right?

No.

What I understand now is it doesn’t matter if I’m taken seriously. It doesn’t matter if the whole world knows my name. Am I honest? Am I true? That’s what really matters. Anything else, anything less is ultimately inconsequential. I guess that can be a difficult pill to digest. At least for a stubborn son-of-gun like me, who is still battling those airs that like to stand in the way of finding himself.

But there was some turbulent tub waters still in the way. Somewhere along the way I was discovering that I needed to be myself, but learning how to do it right was becoming more and more challenging.

What do you do when all that supposed confidence is smashed to smithereens and all that’s left is some fragment of your identity that you don’t even recognize?

OK, this whole finding your vulnerability thing might be harder than I thought.

(to be continued)

I want to be a hipster. Not that kind of hipster. A new kind of hipster. The original hipster.

You might say, “What in the non-mainstream world could you be talking about?”

The hipster subculture typically consists of white millennials living in urban areas. The subculture has been described as a “mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior” and is broadly associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility (including vintage and thrift store-bought clothes), generally progressive political views, organic and artisan foods, and alternative lifestyles. Hipsters are typically described as affluent or middle class young Bohemians who reside in gentrifying neighborhoods. – Wikipedia

Just like every new generation of young intrepid souls, a sector of the current “Gen-Y millennial” has created a lifestyle vibe in an effort to stand out and be unique. At the core, it’s the natural inclination and desire to make a mark on the world, but as each one before it, the “hipster” culture is just another fad that will eventually fade away and morph into another fad as a new generation arises. But who was this “original hipster?”

Jacob was the original hipster.

Not yours truly, but the Jacob of Biblical times.  Oh you thought he was just a lying crook who stole stuff that didn’t belong to him? His brother Esau would probably agree with you, but you’d both be missing the bigger picture.

Aside from being misunderstood, Jacob was stubborn. He was passionate. He was a fighter. How do we know this? Here’s the account from Genesis 32:

“And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall be no longer called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. – [Genesis 32]

What would it be like to be able to say that you literally wrestled with God and then He broke your hip? But you were persistent, weren’t satisfied with the ordinary, wouldn’t give up until He blessed you, and wouldn’t give up until the breakthrough was made.

I’ve often wondered at what point during that epic all-night showdown that he began wondering, “Who exactly is this guy?” Historical Hulk? Ironman? Captain Canaan?

Jacob had just finished preparing a massive “don’t hate me” gift to his brother Esau out of fear for his life and family in hopes that Esau wouldn’t kill them all. Jacob gave explicit instructions to his servants to butter Esau up as much as possible before they arrived face to face. It even says that Jacob was “greatly afraid” and packed up his wives and kids and sent them across the river for protection while he stayed and waited for the arrival of Esau.

Isn’t that just like us? Fearing for our livelihood and making plans to thwart our imminent ruin as best as humanly possible? How many times have we done that in our own lives?

Then the crazy part happens. God shows up. Of course, like many of us, Jacob didn’t immediately realize it wasn’t Esau trying to strangle him to death. Only the fight or flight instinct kicking in, propelling him forward to fight for his very life.

Suddenly, after an entire night of wrestling he feels a sharp pain in his hip and realizes that his socket is out of joint. I’ve never dislocated my hip, but I’ve got to imagine it must be pretty painful. And that’s when he goes for broke and declares he won’t let go until he gets blessed.

That’s an incredible story. Jacob limped for the rest of his life as a mark and reminder of having encountered God face to face. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards once said:

“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” – Jonathan Edwards

It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings of the next big thing, but how do we anchor ourselves in the midst of the many shifting trends of our time? I believe it’s a matter of being intentional about where we set our hearts and affection. Every human on the planet has to choose where their affections will rest. For the believer in Jesus Christ, our highest affections must rest in Him.

I want to be known as this kind of “hipster:” the one marked by the uncompromising pursuit of God.

 

(Disclaimer: This post is not intended to bash hipsters or those who proclaim themselves to be such. I too drink only black coffee and wear beanies and plaid shirts. miffed? Inspired? add a wonderful comment below!)

(Originally published July 10, 2008)

Kevin Durant was all-smiles last year. Drafted number two overall, Durant was heralded the savior of a franchise lost in the dregs of the NBA. His mission was to rescue the floundering Seattle SuperSonics from their playoff-missing 35–47 record of the previous year and spiraling descent of the previous decade.

He did his best.

Averaging 20 points-per-game while earning Rookie of the Year honors, Durant showed the league what everyone had seen in college; the calm, cool Kevin Durant who just goes out and scores points. The Sonics only won a dismal 20 games, but there was hope in the form of a Top-5 draft pick to bring in extra help for their budding star. If not the present, at least the future seemed bright. After all, they had Kevin Durant.

Had?

It happened quickly. There are some things even a 22-year-old, rookie superstar can’t save. After a confusing, chaotic ordeal, order was finally made from the mess of court dates, trials, and a judges’ decision. The people of Seattle were chagrined, those of Oklahoma City, elated. The team name, colors and history would be staying in Seattle; the rest of it would be headed to Oklahoma City. As a sort of reward for enthusiastically embracing the homeless New Orleans Hornets from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Oklahoma City would finally have a professional team to call their own.

It happened quickly. There are some things even a 22-year-old, rookie superstar can’t save.

Even amid cries of foul play and stealing the franchise through back-handed, sleazy dealing, new owner Clay Bennett is excited to own a team in his home state. He tried everything in his power to make it happen, and he did it. Sonics’ fans feel cheated and misused, but the simple fact remains. The Sonics are no more, and Oklahoma City now has an NBA team. Granted it’s still nameless, but they have a stadium, coaching staff and players; and of course, Kevin Durant.

He’s still all-smiles, but you can’t help but almost see the determination within him. He had it before, but it’s different now. Everything is different now. Now, his mission is to carve this new franchise’s very face of existence out the red Oklahoma dirt and forge history from a clean slate.

He’s not alone this time either.

Some may laugh and ask why they’re all not in high school. They certainly don’t have immaculate beards like Baron Davis, or the aura of Kobe Bryant, or the hardened muscles of LeBron James. Nor do they have the giant banners of 17 championships hanging from their rafters, and the history to go with them, like Kevin Garnett and the rest of Boston’s Big Three. Who then, are these young pipsqueaks from OKC? Aside from Durant, most probably couldn’t tell you their names. Jeff Green? Russell Westbrook? Second-year player hotshot? Rookie from UCLA? They have merely two years of professional experience between the three of them, yet, in all certainty, they are Oklahoma City’s Big Three.

Without a doubt, they realize the seriousness of their charge. But, like the fresh-faced young men that they are, having loads of fun playing pickup games and dominating the summer league seems like a good way to spend a few months. Perhaps older, wiser veterans would admonish them for not spending every available hour in the gym working out and pushing their bodies to the limits with exhaustive training regimens in preparation for the new season.

“But we are preparing!” they’d say. They’re bonding, they’re learning to play together, and developing the chemistry they’ll need to lead this team to greatness. Theirs is no walk in NBA-park. Ask them what they think and they’ll shrug and maybe grin, not saying much of anything, but that doesn’t matter. You can see it in their eyes. Jeff Green’s icy determination. Russell Westbrook’s desire to prove himself in the big leagues. And of course, Kevin Durant. He just smiles, but he knows it better than anyone.

There are no greats from the Oklahoma City past, no heated playoff battles for championship rings. No winning seasons to be proud of, not even any history to model after.

They’ll have to make the history themselves.

(Originally published August 16, 2012)

Ike Taylor gingerly pressed against the swollen gash under his right eye and grimaced.

The 32-year-old Steelers cornerback wasn’t upset though. He’d recently fielded a punch while engaged in another fight with close friend and teammate Antonio Brown, their second of a training camp seemingly more ferocious than usual, and once again they’d both played it off as merely a product of their competitive personalities.

Even with the respected captains of the team stepping in to diffuse the situation, for all the speculation regarding the possible cause of their disputes during practices, neither man would offer an explanation, saying they were on good terms with each other.

A band of brothers, said Brown. Nothing personal.

Brothers get into it, said Taylor. That’s how it is.

Perhaps Taylor was being emphatic.

He’s been a rock for a vaunted and storied Pittsburgh defensive unit in this modern era of the forward pass. It’s a quarterback-friendly, pass-happy league now, creating a greater demand for defensive backs to keep pace with the influx of wide-open offenses catered toward multi-receiver sets. And few have stepped up to the challenge the way Ike Taylor has.

Now entering his 10th NFL season, Taylor climbed the ladder from special teamer to shutdown corner with little flash or frill, only hard work, determination, and solid performance. The main knock on his skill set is having hands of stone, notching only 13 interceptions in 9 years. But those looking for the splash plays miss the point. He’s a gamer. He gets assigned the opposing team’s best receiver and told to hold him in check, a task he’s completed efficiently time and again. Ask Chad Johnson for the gritty details. What Taylor lacks in splashiness and accolades, he makes up for with consistency, serving as the unheralded anchor in a secondary that includes All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. Taylor’s posted well over 100 consecutive games-played through the 2011 season and playoffs, and hasn’t missed a game since 2004.

To be a brother, you gotta fight. For yourself. For each other.

And more recently, with the departures of the much-maligned William Gay, and oft-injured Bryant McFadden, it’s up to Taylor to not only again be an anchor but also a guiding light to the trio of young guns battling for the No. 2 spot. On a team laden with knowledgeable veterans who enjoy the process of taking the young hopefuls under their wings, it’s Taylor who will be the example to guys like Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown. It’ll be up to him to model the Pittsburgh standard at cornerback for them.

They’re all guys like he himself once was: a big, strong, fast, extremely raw talent. They have a combined five years of mostly special teams experience and only one official start between them, yet one of them is likely going to be called upon to man the left corner spot opposite Taylor and another for the nickel slot when the 2012 season starts.

Keenan Lewis, entering his 4th year, has the most experience, including that one lonely start, and seems to have the inside track toward nabbing the starting job. But Lewis knows if he looks over his shoulder, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, even with their limited playing time, are right there behind him ready to snatch it from his grasp. They’re all young, hungry, ready for their big break. And they’re watching the in-house veteran of their craft, observing, dissecting his every movement, his every step.

Ike Taylor knows it too. And perhaps in his own way he’s embraced it. Fire is started by friction, and maybe he got a little carried away, but to those young men watching him so closely, he sent a subtle, slightly skewed message addressed to Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown from that vacant No. 2 spot:

To be a brother, you gotta fight. For yourself. For each other.

That’s how it is.

It was an odd and unfamiliar feeling as the world’s most powerful man sat transfixed by helplessness.

With his chair tipped precariously at the head of a long table inside a tiny makeshift war room high in a Dubai skyscraper, he stared unmoved as the world erupted before his cold, calculating eyes. Two massive banks of flat-screen TV’s blared simultaneous live news coverage from a dozen different global networks. All had subtitles. None were muted.

The chaotic jumble of excited reporters and shocked newscasters rose in a roar of sound that was almost deafening but the superpower sat in stone-faced silence. Hope and desperation could be manufactured, utter helplessness was something new altogether.

The BBC news channel switched to a shaky live cut of a shouting young American woman and the French-born media mogul at the head of the table snatched up the master remote and muted all but the captivating image of the young woman. Her high-pitched yet surprisingly strong voice sliced through the suddenly reduced volume in the steamy room.

“Martin Luther King had a dream!” she screeched through a hiss of feedback from the reporter’s mic. “Martin Luther King had a dream! But I have a scream! I have a scream! This is my scream for justice!”

The crowd picked up chanting the phrase. People of all ages were rallying behind her in droves and she didn’t seem to know or care that it was happening.

The shaking camera panned back and zoomed toward her. She had a pretty face, delicate features engulfed by a mass of windblown auburn hair. She was wearing a flowing white summer dress with a pair of low red heels, and gorgeous by all counts.

And those eyes.

Her gray-violet eyes burned with a dangerous mixture of passion, rage and patriotism as she carried on in an unrelenting fury. And it was a candid shot of her sheer intensity and those enrapturing eyes that became the image of the century and the face of a pauper’s revolution.

When asked by the rumpled reporter what her name was, her reply was firm and steady and resonated across the world’s airwaves.

“Rosie,” she said. “Rosie the Revolutionary.”

This is a little creative writing piece that I did quite some time ago.

The night was dark and dreary. Even the moon failed to bring much light to the dismal conditions that encased the English Channel. To most honest folks, the weather left much to be desired; to the ten men huddled in a light assault craft, it meant everything. They sailed silently, staring into the murky darkness guided only by a small hand compass. Nobody spoke, only listening to the soft purr of the motor and the crashing of the turbulent waves. Nothing moved except ten pairs of eyes, and these told the whole story. Stubbornly, each man strove to pretend he wasn’t as scared as the fellow in front of him, but underneath the blackened faces and dull green uniforms, all felt the strain of the mission at hand. The bad weather was merely the camouflage, the real test lay dead ahead by two miles.

Lieutenant Maxwell knew his job. Get in, get the stuff, and get out. It was fairly simple, but completing the task would be a horse of a different color. The German radar station was heavily fortified, and everything depended on secrecy. The fact that these nine men were newly trained greenhorns going into their first combat played but little on his mind. Reaching the landing zone, and on time, was a more important issue.

And time was slowly slipping away.

Where was the landing light? It should have been there by now. Looking at his watch, Maxwell frowned. 0021. One minute late already. He glanced at his men closely huddled in the tight quarters of the boat. They all looked as nervous as he felt. If the light never came, how could they land? In the dark, they’d never be able to hit the selected landing zone. Shaking aside the first inclination of possible failure he finally broke the silence.

“See anything?” Maxwell whispered, glancing forward.

Without answering, the big burly Sergeant in the bow peeked over the top, his sharp eyes quickly penetrating the sheer wall of oblivion. “No, Sir,” he grunted quietly, and slid back down.

Lieutenant Maxwell sighed, shoulders slumped. They were going slower now, to lessen the impact in case they hit the rocks instead of the beach. He could only hope now that they’d land near the right place. They’d be late, but at least they’d be nearby.

“Lieutenant, we’re grounding.”

Lieutenant Maxwell looked up quickly. A small wiry Private named Tuck had his ear half-cocked, listening intently. He was an ex-sailor, who knew his stuff. Maxwell didn’t doubt his prediction. He looked at the man expectantly.

Pausing for what seemed an eternity, he finally spoke. “It’s sand.”

The entire boatful of men breathed a sigh of relief. Maxwell flipped the kill-switch of their faithful motor and again the boat was immersed in the eerie stillness, save the light scuffling and clinks of boots and men readying for landing. His watch read 0024; they had six minutes. He could feel the bottom of the boat scraping against the sand, the tide and momentum pushing it along. Slowing down, it came to a grinding halt. Everyone looked at the Lieutenant for orders. Maxwell moved silently to the bow and quietly climbed out. Wading gently in a few feet of murky water, he moved up the beach. The rest of the men looked on anxiously, and those in the bow slowly eased magazines into their Thompsons.

Furtively glancing around, Lieutenant Maxwell un-holstered his automatic pistol and crept up the small beach. Sweeping the area with his pistol, he could see nothing. And none of the landmarks he’d memorized. Retreating back to the water’s edge he gestured with his arm to signal the men to disembark. The soft splashes of water and popping of magazine clips were barely audible as they gathered around their leader and stole up the wet sandy beach. They were here, but not at the designated place.

Maxwell’s watch now read 0028. Two minutes. Gazing around, he wondered where they were. He hoped they weren’t east of the target; that would mean they’d have to fight their way to it. Unbuckling his radio from his gear, he turned on the volume to its lowest setting. The men crouched behind a small sandbank, rifles poised and ready, but none daring to speak yet. One of them waved his hand, and pointed at a barely visible roof-peak directly inland.

Maxwell followed his finger, a blank look on his face. Searching his brain for what this was supposed to mean, he suddenly remembered. Nodding at the scrawny Private, he stood up slightly for a better view. Thunderation! His fear was confirmed; they were east of their target. Pressing a small yellow button on his radio unit, he squatted back down to wait, glancing again at his watch. 0031. One minute late.

Suddenly a short buzz and pop came from the radio that Lieutenant Maxwell was unconsciously squeezing tightly. He jumped nervously at the violent interruption of the quiet stillness. Quickly muffling the speaker with his hand he held it to his ear. A crackly burst of static issued forth.

“Daisy needs milking”

Maxwell grinned slightly for the first time since the day before. In a low tone he gave the long-awaited order. “Let’s go a’ milking lads, shall we? Roll out!”

The eyes of a heart awaken from a deep respite made mandatory by the perils endured in recent conflicts. Great were the obstacles to be climbed, secured, and overrun. None would allow themselves to be removed easily, giving back in full the measure by which they were assaulted. Scars and battle wounds were mere trifles in the light of the raging fury by which they fought for supremacy.

But the bear, the lion or the giant cannot prohibit the Warrior Heart from beating the drum of war and declaring the sound of a victor; the sound of a courageous man who is ready to conquer his fears and stand for his beliefs. He is not strong in strength alone, but in the strength of his will to never back down or retreat; a passion to protect his kingdom from the advances of his foes; a desire to drive his neighboring demons into the sea until they are vanquished; and a resolve to conclude every battle as the unquestioned victor.

The Warrior Heart is not a ferocious warmonger only; he savors the simplicity of a morning sunrise as a symbol of his own dawn of a new day. He appreciates the beauty of the turning leaves as a new chapter of his existence. He sings along with the melodies of the wind and waves, lending his own baritone mark to the script of their brilliant symphony.

But not for too long; on the distant horizon the battle flags of the opposing army are seen emerging above the hills. The Warrior Heart is not afraid though. Rising slowly from the lush foliage of his own hill, a grin of subdued yet eager anticipation spreads across his still ruddy yet war-beaten face. Much slumber is not a thing of the wise. The Warrior Heart knows.

It came quickly and deadly. Like a tiger crouching in wait, it sprung with such ferocity that few were prepared. Most were caught off-guard. Perhaps it was a testament to the unpredictability of nature, perhaps more so a fresh reminder of the unreliability of the national weathermen to keep track of the biggest storm ever seen in this modern age

And nobody saw it coming, or at least nobody bothered to care.

What began as a joyous celebration upon the sighting of rain clouds forming toward the east, ended in some sort of incomprehensible hellish nightmare that dashed newly raised hopes and buried them in mountains of rubble and ruined dreams.

It was odd how despair could breed desperation enough to drive a man to his knees to implore a deity he didn’t believe in to save him, yet after he surfaced and began treading water again, sent that same deity to the back of his proverbial burner.

Odder still, were the widely different reactions the same adverse circumstance could produce in those it affected. Some responded well, others poorly, but few ever just gave up outright before the fight began. Perhaps it was the freedom to shake a fist and roundly curse their own existence that generated strength to persevere. Perhaps it was merely an indescribable inner resolve that could never be explained but always could be counted on to rise up in the the hearts of at least a few brave and courageous souls in the hour of affliction.

Courage was that rare commodity of which very few had in abundance, yet in the hour of affliction it only took one determined stand to infuse the hearts of the weak. In the same manner that evil arose, so also did the hero with enough faith to stop it.

It was strange how calamity could knit together. Disaster made for strong thread. It was more a question of who could work the needles.

Stranger still, was how some could see light where only darkness stood. Fire attracted to itself. Perhaps it was more a question of who had the willpower to kindle it.

I’m in Houston. It’s three miles from the apartment to the coffee shop that has internet and the white chocolate mocha that I’m craving, but it’s raining during 5 o’clock traffic which has only exonerated an already pushy crowd of drivers.

These drivers are different than those found in Dallas. I’ve determined that they’re most likely second cousins with New York City drivers; they’re unafraid to use the horn for even the most minor annoyance. It seems an accepted practice though. Nobody sweats or loses their cool, and once disembarked they’re the genial, calm and collected classic Texan with plenty of Southern hospitality to spare.

Several wrong turns later, I finally arrive at my destination. The proclamation that ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ seems to take more precedent the further south you go; this coffee shop could easily house three of the shops from Dallas.

There are a few outdoors-inclined customers outside in the patio enjoying the light mist while seated under the oversized white table umbrellas. Inside, I’m greeted by the greatest expanse of bean community that I’ve yet encountered; a regular mecca of coffee drinkers, business people, laptops, and shoulder bags. A long narrow bar-like table spans nearly the length of the large open space, outfitted with electrical outlets underneath and two-dozen stools surrounding it. Nearly half of them are occupied on either side, almost all with an open laptop and a stack of study books. It seems summertime isn’t all fun and games.

I merge to the left side of the long bar to enter the line and look across the room to take stock of my surroundings. One half contains a large conference table and many smaller tables all occupied by clusters of suits and shorts. The suits are decked out in finely tailored jackets, gelled hair and and actively gesturing toward the spreadsheets on their laptops in intense discussion. The shorts are sporting hip arrangements of designer t-shirts, flip-flops and canvas shoulder bags as they chill on their own laptops that are heavily decorated with stickers.

The other half of the room is set up in several circles of stuffed leather chairs, love seats and side tables with a large ottoman in the center. This crowd is of a wide age range, some of the younger wearing headphones and earbuds, some of the older relaxed with a cup of steaming espresso and the day’s newspaper. All, however, have one thing in common that I’ve come to realize is part of the essential nucleus of the bean community: a cellphone.

Every culture and race is represented, but they all are either on their phone or just recently pocketed it after checking for new messages or notifications. It’s the “handshake” of this modern dialup connection, it’s what drives this whole central indoor crossroad.

I give my order to the smiling cashier who passes my yet-to-be-filled cup to the easy-going guy running the espresso machine. He confirms my suspicions of the Houston traffic relation to New York City, even though he’s from Kansas and claims that they win the award for the craziest drivers. Every city I’ve ever visited makes that same claim though so I just smile and laugh in agreement as he puts a lid on my drink. Coffee in hand, I navigate to a nice just-opened chair in the back corner; a perfect vantage point.

I look up from my own laptop several minutes later and find almost an entire new crowd gathered in their respective clusters and corners. Looking around for awhile, I notice others doing the same. It’s hard not to gaze around at the gamut of people here, it’s what makes this world so interesting. Every race, tribe, and color; all partaking of the coffee bean. It’s a viable peace treaty.

Take note world.