Pulling the string on the neon sign

On Main Street one would see an open sign.  The sign would be on and you would see it and know Jill business operator had come to work.

The window display was changed and you’d know they were thinking about what was new and special.  You knew that when you walked in that you would see a familiar face that could answer your questions and discuss your concerns.

Walking and moving about you would see people and they would know what you were up to.  How you were doing.  What was going down.

When people and businesses moved online, it was hard to let the passers by know you had the open sign on.  That one was getting on in the world.

Until one grew an email list and spoke to them.

At first. And even now, to some degree. It didn’t matter what one said to let the passers by know how you were keeping. So long as one let folks know something.

But one can do more than that.   One can help others.  Deliver value.  Enormous value…just by sharing their own life experience.

Pulling the string on the neon sign, via emailing those in my life, has been a great asset to my life.  I hope it has been for other, too.

Annual Report – 2015

Aaron ‘AD’ Davis here and I just rounded the sun for the 38th time.  This is my 2015 annual report (2012, 2013, 2014 didn’t get a personal account…only via my company). It is more of a life and times of Aaron than anything else and you’re receiving it because our paths have crossed at some point.

Please do get in touch if it has been too long since we shared a laugh.  

The past couple of years have been exciting to say the least!  Highlights featured here include:

  • Exploration – I’ve founded a new media company with a friend
  • BusinessFrame – I continue to operate this software consulting company
  • LA Hacker New – I continue to organize the LA Hacker News Meetup
  • How to Start a Startup – I facilitated a class via Stanford University and Y Combinator
  • Traffic Light – An 8 year project is reaching culmination
  • Travel – Morocco, Chile/Peru, London, New York, San Francisco, Miami, Black Rock City
  • Rugby – The ball still bounces
  • William – I adopted a most furry and gentle beast, known to the world as William the Terrible
  • Resources – Blogs/podcasts/videos I’m loving – tools that will save you money  

Exploration

Exploration is a media management and technology company.  It exists to help media companies get the most from the copyrights they control.

My friend Rene Merideth and I co-founded the company and officially fired up the engine on January 6th, 2014.

The short story is that she (Rene) brought me a round of beers immediately upon my arriving home with a very broken leg.  I was thrilled to see an old friend and we immediately got into all of the goings on of life.  In addition to all of the excitement of life in general, she informed me of her work managing the efforts of music publishers on YouTube. The process utilized by the industry to find these videos involved a room of humans searching YouTube.com. There was no software to aid the process.

I had a bit of time on my hands and with the help of an engineering friend, decided to build it.  

The software initially was pretty janky, but it worked!!  The core functionality was syntax based search at regular intervals. The idea was to use software to identify videos that might contain the music controlled by the publisher, as they were being uploaded. A person could then confirm and apply ownership and then tell YouTube to place ads on the video in order to generate revenue as a result of that video being viewed.  

I reached out to several of the players in the space and no one wanted anything to do with my janky robot.

**scratches head**

Perhaps a bit of context helps…

A song has a few layers of copyright to consider.  Take Jailhouse Rock, for instance.  It was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1957 and made very famous by Elvis of that same year.  Those written lyrics, melody, and notes of the song are what is referred to as a composition, which is owned by a music publisher.  The unique recording that Elvis made in the studio is called a master recording, as they go in and make sure all of the levels are just right and mastered.  Master recordings are owned by record labels.  A ton of other folks would go on to cover this song, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Motley Crue, and Queen, wherein new master recordings were created using the original composition.

In the past, one would find it very difficult to create a cover of material value. The home studio was rare and getting a song on the radio or performed was a task left to only the “Stars.”

You see where this is going…

Then YouTube and the iPhone happened.

Everyone on planet earth can create a cover or interpret a song and distribute it globally to produce real money with the click of a mouse.

YouTube’s Content ID system works similar to Shazam, the popular iPhone app.  It uses a known digital signature to identify, claim, and apply a match policy to any video that contains matched media.  YouTube knows about that particular version of Jailhouse Rock because the original owner previously uploaded Elvis’s version and told YouTube – “Hey!  This is Elvis!  If you find another title with this same sound please claim it to our benefit with all of these particular settings.”  

Here’s where it gets funky.

I don’t sound like Elvis so that cover might not get identified by YouTube’s system.  And rightfully so! I have created a new master recording, so I likely have no obligation to Elvis’s label.  I’m an indie artist.  However, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller still deserve to be paid and attributed.  The same is true for remixes, mashups, remashes, and mixups.  

And all of this media is making it’s way online.

That’s where the simple syntax based search application came in.  I architected the software to continually search YouTube’s database using words – in the titles (ie Jailhouse Rock Cover), descriptions, tags, and comments of videos to locate those titles missed by Content ID’s digital fingerprint search.

We realized we had a tiger by the tail, Rene gave her notice, and we began to plot world domination. I mean, why not?

Rene had literally grown up in the music business and has a wealth of knowledge about the industry, those in it, and specifically the nuances of the music publishing business. I committed to architecting the software and selling the idea.

Bing bang boom! We’re open for business!

It wasn’t very long after announcing publicly that we were a growing concern before we were offered venture capital. We thought that if someone were keen to give us real money before we even had clients, even though our technology was pretty solid, that perhaps we were on to something. We turned the money down and it has proven to have been a good decision.  

My apartment morphed into an office, as couches were replaced with solid core doors set atop filing cabinets.  Several kids from Music Institute came on as interns and we ate ramen noodles more than once.  Looking back, I’m not sure of many friends that didn’t lend a hand in the attempt to help me breath a bit of life into the beast.

2 years later and we are one of the largest managers (by # of copyrights and play volume) of music publishing rights on YouTube and SoundCloud in the world.  A week rarely goes by without adding new clients and we have now added master recordings, film, and TV to the asset classes we control.  We are being considered thought leaders in the space.     

The coolest part is that our best days are yet to come!  

We are very close to debuting completely new software that we believe will be a boon for the entirety of the music business and beyond – all will benefit. The digital media creation and consumption sector is relatively young yet continues to explode globally.  We are enjoying solid growth in revenue and profits in addition to market share and brand equity.

I wrote an Annual Report for the company last year and have another set to be published in the next couple months.  

In any case, I find it incredibly exciting to be working with creators, artists, and writers as well as their managers from the periphery and behind the scenes. I get a rush being able to help them better manage their businesses and get the most from the creative assets they own and control.

The future looks extremely bright for this company.  

For inquiries about Exploration, please visit us online or reach out via email to [email protected]

exploration-logo_small_2x (1)

BusinessFrame

BusinessFrame is a software development and digital marketing company founded in 2009.

Software development dominates about 80% of our business and concentrates on PhP, Python, and JavaScript web based applications/interfaces.  Marketing consulting is typically a very short (2-3 days) project based consulting engagement.  We no longer execute on marketing projects as I believe business operators are much better at telling their story than we might be.   Plus it’s a dang lot of work!  I have a very small subset of clients with whom the majority I have worked with for many years.  I am the sole owner and have a reliable team that works with me on a per project basis.

This business has contracted significantly since the founding of Exploration and will likely continue to do so moving forward.  I keep the lights on as the company remains a solid channel to discuss gigs, ideas, and events that I have a capital interest in, but are not directly related to my core business.

Despite custom work not scaling very well, the fees are still great.  I also expect an intimate knowledge of software development will prove to be valuable moving forward.

***

Story time and a free tool that will save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.

Aaron once used WordPress to quickly build a few mockups and test sites.  

One day he got an email that a few of these test sites had been hacked and the automatic backups had been overwritten with corrupt files.

Then Aaron was angry and wanted to break all the things.

**Proceed to scream expletives at all animate and inanimate objects for the next 30 minutes at top of lungs followed by silence for several hours followed by gorging on all food I get my fat hands on followed by depression for the evening.**

The enormity of the task was not lost on him.  It was going to take FOREVER.  But he had to do it.

Aaron restored all of the sites from piecemeal folders on his computer, Dropbox, Google cache, and the Way Back Machine.

It took a long time.  Aaron was sad because he wanted to go outside and play.

It was extremely expensive, extremely time consuming, and extremely soul sapping.

Then he resolved to never have to do this again.  

Aaron feels no one should have to do this either.

And they don’t have to.

https://wordpress.org/plugins/backupwordpress/

If you have a WordPress site, download and install this plugin right now.  There is a free version and takes about 4.3 minutes to set up.  It takes all of the files (text, pics, etc.) and databases (file organization of your WordPress core and theme) and backs them up in their entirety at regular intervals.  (I backup my sites weekly and monthly where there is a copy that never gets overwritten and versioning on other copies that don’t start to get overwritten for 6 months).  It will send you an email with all the files on a regular basis.  

If you ever get hacked, delete your files accidentally, install a theme that has crummy code, your host isn’t all that good, or any number of reasons that read ‘user error'(and you will) then it may be a good thing to be in control of a copy of your site.    

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to install this plugin and it costs exactly zero dollars.  

If you personally don’t have the tools to backup your business websites and critical files, perhaps zap your IT gal or web designer that link or a quick note:

***

Piggie,

Where do we have all of our files backed up?  Mind sending me a copy of the databases and files in a zip file to my email?

Thanks a lot!

Kermit

***

I am very keen to learn more about data backup and redundancy.  It’s no surprise that businesses and professionals are creating files and data at rates that are simply staggering.  To me, being involved in the data storage industry is fascinating!  Expect more on this topic in the future.

***

For inquiries about BusinessFrame, please visit us online or reach out via email to [email protected]

 

LA Hacker News

LA Hacker News is a salon for interesting people to connect and learn.

Y Combinator is the most prolific startup incubator in the world.  They are the funding source/advisor to a few companies you may have heard of – Airbnb, Dropbox, Reddit…and about 800 more that are less known.

Hacker News is their online community and news aggregator portal.  It is one of the most respected destinations online to learn and discuss the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship.

I am the organizer of the Los Angeles Hacker News meetup.  We meet every so often to hear, learn, and debate with an expert on a particular topic.  Most commonly about building a tech company or having created technology / art.

Andrew Cholakian created the group about 6 years ago.  Originally, I was a volunteer and took over the leadership reigns after about 3 years.  

In fairness we haven’t met a whole lot this year.  I was on the clock facilitating a class twice a week for four months in the fall of 2014 and found myself a bit burned out in the wake of the experience.  At the time of publishing this report we have 1,598 members!  These are some of the most brilliant and focused software engineers and entrepreneurs in the greater Los Angeles region.

If you are keen to hire an engineer or are looking for work, these meetups can be a good spot to find a fit.

The events we create and organize are really only contingent upon finding interesting speakers to discuss compelling topics.  If you would like to speak or know of someone who is, please do not hesitate to reach out!  

I buy the beer and soda and attendance is always free.

Join the group for updates.

http://www.meetup.com/LAHackers

 

How to Start a Startup

How to Start a Startup was produced by Y Combinator and taught at Stanford University in the Fall of 2014.  I facilitated the Los Angeles class at General Assembly in Santa Monica and nearly 250 people participated.

The course highlights many aspects to breathing life into an idea.  Each class was filmed and shared online for free.  All of this material is highly recommended for anyone curious about what it takes to build a technology company, focusing mostly on software.

Date Speaker Topic
9/23/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator

Dustin Moskovitz, Cofounder, Facebook, Cofounder, Asana, Cofounder, Good Ventures

Welcome, and Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part I

Why to Start a Startup

9/25/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Ideas, Products, Teams and Execution Part II
9/30/14 Paul Graham, Founder, Y Combinator Before the Startup
10/2/14 Adora Cheung, Founder, Homejoy Building Product, Talking to Users, and Growing
10/7/14 Peter Thiel, Founder, Paypal, Founder, Palantir, and Founder, Founders Fund Competition is For Losers
10/9/14 Alex Schultz, VP Growth, Facebook Growth
10/14/14 Kevin Hale, Founder, Wufoo and Partner, Y Combinator How to Build Products Users Love
10/16/14 Walker Williams, Founder, Teespring

Justin Kan, Founder, Twitch and Partner, Y Combinator

Stanley Tang, Founder, DoorDash

Doing Things That Don’t Scale

PR

How to Get Started

10/21/14 Marc Andreessen, Founder, Andreessen Horowitz and Founder, Netscape

Ron Conway, Founder, SV Angel

Parker Conrad, Founder, Zenefits

How to Raise Money
10/23/14 Alfred Lin, Former COO, Zappos and Partner, Sequoia Capital

Brian Chesky, Founder, Airbnb

Culture
10/28/14 Patrick Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe

John Collison, Co-Founder, Stripe

Ben Silbermann, Founder & CEO, Pinterest

Hiring and Culture, Part II
10/30/14 Aaron Levie, Founder, Box Building for the Enterprise
11/4/14 Reid Hoffman, Partner, Greylock Ventures and Founder, LinkedIn How To Be A Great Founder
11/6/14 Keith Rabois, Partner, Khosla Ventures How to Operate
11/11/14 Ben Horowitz, Founder, Andreessen Horowitz, and Founder, and Opsware How to Manage
11/13/14 Emmett Shear, Founder and CEO, Twitch How to Run a User Interview
11/18/14 Hosain Rahman, Founder, Jawbone How to Design Hardware Products
11/20/14 Kirsty Nathoo, Carolynn Levy,Partners, Y Combinator Legal and Accounting Basics for Startups
12/2/14 Tyler Bosmeny, Founder and CEO, Clever

Michael Seibel, Partner, Y Combinator

Qasar Younis, Dalton Caldwell,Partners, Y Combinator

Sales and Marketing

How to Talk to Investors

Investor Meeting Roleplaying

12/4/14 Sam Altman, President, Y Combinator Later-Stage Advice

 

Traffic Light

I’ve lived in Venice Beach for 10 years and for 8 of those I have been urging the city to install a traffic light in front of my house.

I finally got it 🙂  

Thank you Venice Neighborhood Council for giving me an opportunity to speak and supporting this good idea! #keepvenicemellow

The full monty can be read here – https://www.change.org/p/mike-bonin-install-traffic-light-on-pacific-ave-sunset-ave-venice-ca-90291

vnc_light

Travel

My Facebook and Instagram profiles are the best records of my travels this year.

The capsule summary is here:  

Miami – 100% work – Billboard Awards and Conference – Speaker – Facilitated workshop

New York – 100% work – Multiple visits to Google offices and clients

San Francisco – 80% work – YouTube Offices – Tech partners – Phage

Ensenada, Mexico – Yacht race – Aboard Merlin with a bunch of bilge rats that deserve to be in Davy Jones’ locker

Morocco – 100% vacation – Marrakesh, Fancy party, Atlas mountains hiking, Essaouira, Casablanca

Black Rock City – 100% vacation – Burning Man. Saw all the things.  Had all the fun.  Danced to all the songs.

London – 60% Vacation 40% Work – 2015 Rugby World Cup – WeWork Soho – Piccalilli Circus – Devon – Londongram

Chile/Peru – 100% vacation – Pan American Maccabi Games – Coach – Machu Picchu

 

Rugby

You may know that I love rugby.  I fell in love with the game the very day I learned of it and not a lot has changed since.  As the years have swept by, my relationship with the sport has changed.  I really do consider my career to have been amazing! This included winning championships and traveling the world as a player, making friends with guys that are truly some of the most wonderful humans that exist,  and learning about life through an oval ball.

Then I got hurt.

I wrote about how gutted I was when I broke my leg in my final tournament over two years ago. Reading it now makes me cringe a bit as I b!tched and moaned all grades of displeasure.  I wished I’d had a bit more patience and gratitude for what was right instead of focusing so much on what was wrong.  Alas, hindsight is 20/20. In a fraction of a second, I went from being an avid player to not.

Writing about the experience did have some positives.  I was able to organize what happened and observe why it bothered me so much.  I also got tons of feedback and advice on ways to move forward.  My perspective might be different were the same thing to happen to me again today.

In any case, I shied away from rugby after my injury.  I came to grips about not being a competitive player anymore and that made me sad.  A lot of my best friends were players so I didn’t see them all that much and the discussion at the pitch to watch on Saturday wasn’t exactly unicorns and kittens. Santa Monica Rugby Club has been having a rough time at the office and been in a bit of a slump the last couple years.  It was a gloomy period for Aaron and rugby.

Sunnier skies are upon us now!

I sometimes join the Beachboks for a dash of touch rugby on the beach.  Tuesday, Thursday @ 90 minutes before sunset, Sundays at 11am.  All are welcome.  Expect to be shredded by the lot in attendance if you are a car door or have flippers.

Robert Knox has a knack for convincing me to participate in activities that some might consider bad for one’s health, but I’ll join that whirling dervish just about anywhere.  We met as a result of my frequent closeness to his excellently shaped posterior, as he was my prop and I was his lock.  Our first two seasons together at Santa Monica RFC had us winning back to back National Championships.  

Our shadows now weigh more than we did back then.

In any case, Rob and I set the island on fire at the Catalina Old Boys Tournament and broke records / nearly drowned in an international yacht race aboard Merlin.  We would also meet up for tea and crumpets in a most fancy castle in Devon and big belly roll laugh at Twickenham during the Rugby World Cup finals in London.  So much fun!

I went to the RWC with Dallen Stanford, naming the adventure the #poisontour.  The sheer volume of shenanigans we got up to was unprecedented.  It was perhaps the best trip I’ve taken in a very long time.  “It’s going off like a frog in a sock!!” ~ DS

I will be coaching for the very first time!  I have accepted the head coach position of the United States team to compete in the Maccabi Pan American games this December in Santiago, Chile. The Maccabi games are a multi-sport event for Jewish athletes from around the world held in Israel every 4 years, with ancillary events taking place in the the Americas, Europe, and Australia.  I have competed as an athlete 3 times and this will be my first as a coach.  We leave in less than 3 weeks as of this writing!!!  Mayhem!!

If you’d like to contribute to our effort I would be most thankful – https://www.gofundme.com/rugby-chile

Here is a quick video (2m) with a special thanks!

 

William

It’s been two years since this beautiful and gentle beast nuzzled his way into my life.  I rely on his kindness on a daily basis.  He’s awesome.

IMG_4940

Blogs/Podcasts/Reading

I’ve been enjoying these resources.

Tim Ferris Blog – Lifestyle design and personal performance enhancement – Weekly

Radio Lab – Incredibly well produced radio show on interesting topics – Monthly

Brain Pickings – Beautifully constructed reviews of important books and articles – Monthly

Hacker News – News and think pieces on technology and entrepreneurship – Daily

Okdork – Marketing – As often as he publishes

Andreesen Horowitz Newsletter – Macro level economics and business guidance – Weekly

The Macro – Curated topics from partners and founders of Y Combinator – Its new…

Paul Graham Essays – Some of the most valuable advice on building a software company – Every few months I like to revisit this catalog

Kalzumeus – Transparent perspective on running a small software company – As often as he publishes

Gatesnotes – Thoughts from Bill Gates – As often as he publishes

SOMAFM – The best ambient electronic station around – Groove Salad – Daily

 

Conclusion

I’m thrilled about life and ever grateful for the journey!

My health is good.  My circle of family and friends is interesting and diverse and supportive.  My work is meaningful and making an impact.  Several really good ideas are percolating.  Adventures abound.  I’m still learning.  I’m listening more.  

In the spirit of being transparent, it’s important to note that the contents of this report are the highlights.  I do my best to leave the lowlights out, as focus on them tends to exacerbate depression and fuel prolonged rumination.  My life is anything but sunshine and rainbows but I’m proud of my rather recent ability to better acknowledge and compartmentalize those facets that are unfortunate and cause the blues.  I’m also choosing to leave out some of the more intimate details of my life including particulars about my family.  If you’re really interested in those bits, I’d prefer to share in person.  

I really appreciate you for your interest in the musings of my life!  If you are curious to learn more about any of it you’re welcome to reach out.  You can simply reply to this email, ping me on Facebook, or drop me a line – 310-663-2865.

I hope that all that is beautiful in this world is illuminated for you and yours and that it will not be too long before we’re able to share a laugh in person.

Stay close,

Aaron

PS – Here’s the link to the fundraising drive to take my team to Chile – any support is greatly appreciated  – https://www.gofundme.com/rugby-chile – we’ve nearly reached our goal!!!

PPS – Here’s a link to 3 bulldogs surfing to some Ethiopian jazz  – https://www.facebook.com/TheInertia/videos/1057424477630703/

 

Aaron Loring Davis

aaronloringdavis.com

 

On Love and Hammers

I was talking to my mom when she asked about my weekend.
***
It was late. Maybe 10:30pm and I was oblivious to anything apart from the materials in front of me.
I had met with Dan Busby, Holden Bonwit, and Laurent Pelletier, down at the Brewery to take another night of abuse from the task master, Dan.
You gotta understand, Dan, is brilliant, fun, and patient, but every human has their limits. Between the confederacy of dunces that he had been voluntold to work on the Moveable Feast that evening, he would on occasion fly off the handle.
Before and after pacing about, he would repeat, “Where is are the pliers? Hummmff.  Same place last time you grabbed em.”
He would ask, “What do you mean you don’t know how to make that there 50 year old lathe create a cone with the measurements derived from the delta of these hypothetical braces out of a solid piece of steel?”, whereby everyone in the room knew damn well he could absolutely tackle that task.
I…we all…would try to find tasks that allow us the minimal amount of sheer terror that he would inflict upon us.  Oh, the dread and misery.
I tease.
When tasked with a job that allowed for extended immersion, it was fun to get lost in it.
In any event, there I was, working away on some bit of metal and had my hammers laid out in front of me. A brad hammer that was about as big as my pinky. A ball pean hammer resembling the size of my thumb. And a 16oz framing hammer that I feel could easy knock the doors of hell off their hinges.
Over my shoulder leans in an older man. He startled me a bit, hovering over a little closer than was comfortable. I could see a week old white gruff on his face and nose hairs that were obtuse and characteristic of old men that lean in a little closer than is comfortable.
“Aaron! It is ‘Aaron’, right?”
Before I could answer..
“You’re using the wrong hammer there.” He said very matter of factory and rested back on his heals to invite conversation.
I snickered.
“I’m not sure I caught your name…”
No response
“Well, perhaps not. But frankly, I think I can do anything I need to do right here with these three hammers.”
Awkward staring.
I could see his mind twining around, not so much to what I was saying, but in the direction of the tools I was using. It was as if I was only a hook. A hook to hold and utilize these tools, hammers, that were one of the human race’s oldest known.
I asked how his day had been going. No response. It wasn’t so much that he ignored me as it was that he didn’t even hear me.
He stepped around to get another vantage of the project and he leaned in closer.
Finally, I got up. It was unnerving to just be sitting there with him shuffling about.
I got a cup of water and grabbed a cigarette.
He followed me and postured up to chew the fat.
Engaged, I took a drag of my smoke and asked again. “How was your day, man?”
“Oh, it was good. Solid afternoon. Had some good food late.”
“Oh, cool.”
Another drag.
“I’ve been working with metal for a good many years.” And his gaze drifted down. It was as if he boasted his experience as much in pride as in embarrassment.
My mind raced to my home, North Carolina. It wasn’t uncommon for old men to come up just to talk. Not about anything in particular. Just to share stories.
But I was in downtown Los Angeles. A 100 year old brewery that was only the second Edison substation in the country had morphed into an artist colony.
And now I was drenched in the yellow light of a street light sharing stories and a cigarette break with an old man that just wanted to talk. Not about anything in particular.
“Want to come over over and see my  shop?  I’ve been fascinated with hammers for a good long while.”
“Well, sure.”
I was due for a break anyway.
As I walked in to his shop, about 15′ x 30′, the walls were covered.  Hammers everywhere.  All different types, hung on peg board taller than I could reach, and I’m 6’5″.  The materials the hammers were made out of were listed – wood, leather, polyethylene, steel. The applications the hammers might be used for were labeled – metal work, leather tooling, hammer repair.
It was overwhelming, all of the hammers.
My thought was “Get me the hell out of here.  This guy is bonkers.”
But then I stopped.
I thought “This guy is passionate.  He loves hammers.  He has something that keeps him up at night, even if its strange to me, its something.”
For that, I loved him.
I spent the better part of the next couple hours getting schooled on the ancient tool and all of its marvelous glory.
I finally headed back to my project smiling.  I had learned something interesting.
But more importantly, I was reminded that there are folks out there that have a restless mind and do something about it.
Old man whiskers has passion.
***
Mom laughed at me…with me.  In retelling the tale, I had to chuckle as well.
“So, Aaron, you went out with that girl a couple weeks ago.  You said she was fun to hang out with.  Any new developments?”
“Nah.  I don’t think so.  I kind of let it fizzle.”
“Why is that? I thought you liked her.”
“I did ma.  She was fun, but she is sort of just floating through life.  She didn’t have any hammers.”

Helping

It was 6:32pm.

I was sitting at my computer writing.

I heard a small screech, a couple loud thumps, and then a really loud crash as my building shook.

I knew what had happened.  It happens every few days at my house, but just not to this degree.

There was a wreck outside my house on Pacific Ave.

I rushed downstairs and ran as fast as I could around the corner to help.

An SUV had been traveling north on Pacific Ave. had jumped the curb, taken out 2 street signs, a few trees in front of my place and slammed head on into my neighbors house.

No skid marks.  Full on at probably around 50mph, which is how fast the cars travel down this stretch of road.

I was the first person on the scene and I assessed the scene.  The vehicle did not look as though there was fire danger so I approached the car to find the man driver convulsing and seizing, still in the harness.

I got certified as an EMT last year and the training came back quick.  I knew I needed to stop his head from moving as he very likely had a broken neck so I opened the rear door and tried to hold his head to secure his cervical spine.  As I began, other people came over to help and I told the first person, Simon (my neighbor), to take my place so that I could asses him.  We made the transfer and I began to check him out.  He was sweating profusely and bleeding from his forehead.  He began to seize harder and we were unable to hold him still.  He wasn’t responding to verbal or painful (rubbing the chest) stimuli and his eyes we uncontrolled.  Ultimately, his seizures became so violent that we were forced out of the car.  I continued to stay by his side and try to communicate with him as he he came and went.

Ultimately, the paramedics got there and then the cops and then the crash truck and the wrecker and about 30-40 congregated around.  Camera men were taking pictures and traffic was at a standstill on Pacific, where rush hour had it packed to the brim with the entire north bound lane shut down.  They had it under control.

They got him on a stretcher and our of there as quickly as possible.  That made me feel good.  That they were there to help.

I walked back in my house.  I paced in circles for a few moments and I called my roommate to tell him.  My rugby coach called as he had driven past the house and explained in a voice mail “There is wreck in front of your place and I have a feeling you were involved.  Call me back.”  I did and spatted who knows what, but that I was ok.  Another friend text me to see if I was ok.  Reply – Yes, thanks for asking.  I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t sit down.

I needed to get some air.

I started on a walk to the beach and as I walked across Pacific Ave. down the 2 blocks to the sand, I started feeling weird.

I veered from feelings of excitement to sorrow.  I thought about my girlfriend from college that had died while we were dating.  I thought about my loving girlfriend, Lea, that I spend so much time with now.  I thought about how much I love to be able to help.  I thought about how powerless I felt as there was nothing I could do when.

I needed to walk more.

I took a seat on my favorite bench as the sun was setting over the pacific ocean and took a few deep breaths.

I thought about my mom and my sister and her baby and my dad.  I thought about Lea.

I thought about how there was nothing that could’ve changed the events that had just taken place.  It was determined that he started having a seizure while driving, jumped the curb and never hit the brakes as he hurled his truck into the house. Nobody at fault.  No one to blame. A seizure.

What if someone had been waiting at that bus stop, like they do all day long.  What if someone had been walking across the street. What if the girl in the house that he hit had been close to that wall?  What if instead of veering right, he had gone left into oncoming rush hour traffic at 50 mph?

The thoughts made my stomach turn.  I thought it was good no one else got hurt. I thought that he likely could die from the injuries he had just suffered and that was not good.

“Is there anything else I could’ve done?”, I asked myself.  I didn’t like asking that question.

I called my Mom and as the first ring started, an angel appeared.

I met Whakapaingia David Luke 6 years ago when we both joined Santa Monica Rugby Club.  We won our first of back to back national championships that year and we probably spent 6 out of 7 days together.  Eating, training, partying, praticing, traveling..living together and we became fast friends.  I was there the afternoon he met his wife on the beach and I was in the house to help deliver his daughter.  To say he is a brother is an understatement.

Right when I needed someone to talk to that could hear me, in spite of my uneasiness and discomfort, there he was.

As I dialed my Mom, I looked up and Lucky, as his rugby buddies affectionately call him, said “Fancy seeing you here” with a great big smile behind the stroller a beaming Tahi, his darling daughter.

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to hug him.  I wanted to kiss his little girl.  I wanted to be alone.  I wanted to be next to my friend.

I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted..

But seeing him made it all better.  We talked for a while and retreated into my favorite restaurant, where I eat nearly every day for breakfast, but had never visited at night, and had a beer.  He called his wife to meet us and she was on the way.

He spoke to me as my friend.  While about 90 minutes had passed since I first heard the loud crash, I was only starting to realize the progression of time..that is, the time where we live.  Minutes are minutes and hours are hours.  For the past hour and a half, it had been a blur.  Lights..sirens..cars..horns..people, of all stripes, coming..going..looking..walking..muttering.

In all the words of empowerment he told me as he bounced his little girl on his knee, I only remember one thing.

“The universe doesn’t make mistakes.”

It made me feel better.

If I could have chosen anyone in the world to show up at that precise moment, it would’ve been him.  His smile and his overtly positive persona.

Perhaps the universe doesn’t make mistakes..

I felt I should probably call my Mom back, as she would’ve seen the phone dial earlier.

In speaking with her, her voice eased me.  Her tone and her tangible concern could be felt.  We talked about hope and loneliness and the path of a warrior.  We talked about how part of what makes me, me, is that it was my only instinct to run as fast as I could to help.  She went on to remind me that while that has great value, it comes at a tremendous price, for I would always be there first to witness the bad as well.  That was part of the deal but that I was equipped to deal with it.

My life has been always been full of the “front lines”.

We shared a laugh and she closed a much needed conversation with a quote from Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

I felt put back together.  I felt capable and proud of myself, however still drained from the experience.

I walked back to my place with Waka, Sara, and little Tahi and made small talk.  Soon after we got home, Chris got home as well and we all shared inthe joy of watching an 8 month old look around the room and giggle.

Life.

Waka and his family soon left and Chris and I had a chance to talk.

Chris’s Mom was an ER nurse so he has first hand knowledge of the effects of witnessing human suffering and sickness.  We sat down for a few minutes and he eased me with his advice.  He always has a way of rationalizing things.  Breaking them down into separate parts so that they are more manageable.

We talked about accepting life and all that comes with it is in fact a part of life.  How accepting that fact can help one to understand and move positively through events such as those that just took place.  We talked about how part of my purpose in being able to help was “just being there at the man’s side, so he wasn’t alone.” We talked about how being emotional in the face of emergencies is important, especially when it involved another person.

Him talking to me was calming and comforting.

I suppose his ability to be a great listener and willingness to give sound advice is part of the reason I call him one of my best friends on this earth.

Its been nearly 5 hours now. I’m calm and tired. Drained.

I hope the fellow is OK.

I feel thankful for my Mom and my friends and my girlfriend and my rugby coach and little Tahi and this world.

I’m thankful I was able to help.