The Dirty Water Segment

In which precious little was spent in Boston. This blog post somehow seems quite boring to me. Probably because I’m trying to remember what I did a few weeks ago. I need to play some serious catchup. Apologies in advance.

I may or may not have mentioned that I woke up Wednesday morning (this was August 10th!) with a sore throat. This was a shame full stop, but a double shame because I had to drive a few hours down to New York City for a meeting with a social venture capital company, and then my plans involved hitting the Boston hash that evening (i.e. running and drinking).

Long story short, I did drive down to New York and I was lucky enough that my meeting was close enough to Grand Central that the logistics were super easy. Very interesting meeting with some interesting folks: one was based in New York and the other in Geneva. Neither were American. It was quite interesting to hear the perspectives of foreigners, working in social enterprise, on America. Yes, the infrastructure in New York is old compared to, say, Dubai. On the other hand, this leapfrogging is a well-known phenomenon. I still marvel at the subway and the London Underground, but then again there is something about both those cities that appeals to me at the same time as it scares me. The sheer vastness and density of them kind of blows the mind.

Along the lines of trying to make better decisions, I decided to bail on the hash and instead went straight to my friends’ house in North Reading where I was staying (first a pit stop at Blue Ribbon BBQ …). Turns out to have been a good decision given that apparently the hash was disorganised and ran very late … neither of which are a good thing when you’ve been up since 4am and are feeling under the weather!

It was great to catch up with Laura (one of my dearest friends from my MBA program), and her husband Arthur. I wasn’t planning to but I wound up staying up late into the night talking with Arthur about a variety of things: South Africa (he’s spent a bit of time here but a long time ago, and much closer to the apartheid years), love, marriage, children, divorce, alcohol, sport, relationships. It was a great conversation and I’m really glad we had it because I wound up not seeing him again the rest of my trip. It was also great to get yet another perspective, but one from someone I don’t know well, on my life and decision to move to SA.

The next morning I woke up feeling mostly better but still a little tender. I had planned to train at CrossFit Route 1 with my friend Jenny whose blog is an amazingly personal chronicle of her weight loss experience. Speaking of personal, as I’ve said before this blog is mainly for my own personal reflection and benefit but sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of putting down all the random thoughts that are in my head. It was an interesting experience on this trip to have a number of people tell me how much they enjoy my blog posts. A few people even told me how inspiring they find either a) what I’ve done to follow my heart and up and move, and b) to chronicle my experience in this way. Not sure what to make of this, actually. Still processing. But hey, if you’re reading this and I inspire you from time to time: bonus, but please do something with it. Potential without follow-through is only potential.

I was still feeling sick so I went to see Jenny but didn’t actually train. Had a nice long conversation with Jared, who runs CrossFit Route 1. They finished 17th at the CrossFit Games, and also have some war stories to tell. It’s a funny thing: obviously we were frustrated at our own performance, but sounds like other teams had their own demons! Super nice guy though, and great facility. I was tempted to do the strength portion of the workout because I never bench press … but thought better of it.

My goal for these two days in Boston was also overly ambitious, as it turned out. I wanted to ship my boxes of possessions to South Africa, and sell my car. I accomplished neither. Apparently the USPS got rid of parcel post shipping (i.e. shipping very cheaply very slowly) a few years ago. I called I think UPS for a quote and with my boxes it would cost about $5000 to ship them! This is insane; the contents are barely worth that much. I am sure there is an easier way but my attempts to investigate ran up against a time barrier, so I stored my things with Austin in Chelmsford, and Rob is going to sell my car for commission. Works out better anyway, actually, because he knows more about cars and Subarus than I do, really.

What I did accomplish was catching up with friends! On Thursday night I had planned a bar crawl before I really thought through the fact that I don’t drink that heavily any more. Oops. Happily, the crowd that showed up was happy to be quite chill about it and I think we wound up going to maybe four bars, starting at The Lower Depths and ending at Bukowski (unfortunately The Other Side was at capacity which was really shame because that’s the site of one of my best memories from the 12 Bars of Hashmas pub crawl in late 2009). It was really great to see this crowd again although one of the many challenges, as alluded to above, is that when you move away for a long enough period of time you miss out on common ground. You no longer have the same circle of friends and common frame of reference on which to build a conversation. Which doesn’t, of course, mean there aren’t plenty of things to talk about but it does add a level of complexity, especially in a group.

Friday I did, in fact, train at CrossFit Route 1. The workout was a fun one involving kettlebell snatches and v-ups. Actually, that was more consistent practice at kettlebell snatches than I’d probably ever done, so it was good practice, and gave me some good experience opening that darn hip. Afterwards I mainly went shopping: I had a shopping list for myself and others (not that I would do anything like smuggle electronics into South Africa).

That evening I had dinner with Craig, one of my best friends from my Exit41 days. We ate at Gibbet Hill in Groton which was an interesting experience because although they have their own cows on property, the steaks we ate were from Texas. At least they were grass-fed. And well cooked! Craig has been at Exit41 for a long, long time, and it is in some ways quite inspiring to me to hear how dedicated he still is after such a long period of time. I think the challenge he faces is that the company does have a lot of potential and talent, but a lot of really strong and talented personalities have also left (or been asked to go) in the meantime. I’m not sure how it is now, but it actually does seem to me in retrospect like the company jumped the shark sometime along during my tenure. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next, but that the no-longer-so-new CEO is really listening to Craig is to me a very good sign. He and Katie, who had between them many years of on-the-ground experience running quick serve restaurants, were always my go-to people when I had questions on new features. They could always give an insight that others could not, usually around how staff could manipulate any new feature we were designing to their own advantage (read: theft, known in the industry as ‘shrink’).

He also got me thinking about how the way that you do something is as important as what you do. Similar to the best thing you can do to show someone you care is to be with them, and not be busy checking your phone or with your mind elsewhere but to be in the moment, and listen. Well, it’s a good reminder for those of us in social enterprise. We must not only focus on the commercial bottom line or the operations. These are the tip of the iceberg. The actual social impact we are having, and also the way that we go about doing what we do is important. There must be heart, and caring; the appearance of being good is as important as the substance because hey, perception is reality in a lot of ways. But there is also a fine line between being kind in what you do and being, perhaps, a bit foolish. Balance in all things.

It was really great to catch up with Craig, though. Unfortunately Katie was unable to join us: she got all the way there and was called back to work on an emergency. That’s how things go sometimes I guess, when we’re dedicated to something, no matter what that something is.

• “We don’t want to infect your mind with our realistic point of view.” – Gabriel
• “If you don’t know where you’re going when you get there you’re lost.” – Gabriel
• “It’s not just a question of what, it’s a question of what price.” – Itshak
• “That’s what I mean when I say the heart is gone.” – Craig

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