tokyoliving

I wonder if I will ever really run out of ideas or topics to write about. It does seem as long as I am alive ideas will come to mind. I like this idea of living in the now to “find out”. I have a whole slew of mantras I say in the morning and evening as reminders all pointing to the moment: what is life asking of me now; If death alone is certain and time of death certain what should I do now; Yes to this moment; I vow to meet others on equal ground; Freedom is knowing I can go to a different window to experience and respond to life; Am I at ease and the last one – Let’s find out!

All of these are different ways of practice and bringing me back to the now. I wonder how many times per day I am brought back to it and how much I live in my thoughts without even realizing it? Each one of these sayings may point to the now, but offer up a practice in a slightly different manner.

What is life asking of me now? That is a question I sit with and being present the answer comes in time in that moment of readiness. The answer comes.

If death alone is certain, time of death uncertain, what should I do now? I am reminded of the word squander in this passage. Death is inevitable and we don’t know when that will be, so why allow oneself to get caught up in the pettiness of life, the self created dramas, emotional entanglements, and other things that we use to squander our life. I do, but far less it seems. Yes to this moment.

When I get an extreme feeling of emotion of some kind, one in which may just be a natural occurrence or one in which is self created, either way, Yes to this moment informs me to breathe, and is a reminder that just like when I am sitting in meditation observing this phenomenon to simply let it happen, don’t grasp and let it pass. And inevitably it does.

During those times that it is an all day event, I say these over and over which is very much in line with Buddhist mantras reminding us that there are things that can be changed and others that happen outside of our grasping.

Is there ease? I have not used this much, but like all of these I know that there will come a time in which I will need this saying for my practice. Is there ease? A question that signals me to search within to determine where there is dis-ease, or suffering. And I may ask the question after that, What is life asking of me now to figure out the cause of the dis-ease. Maybe I am holding on to something or creating drama. Whatever the cause, scanning for dis-ease and asking the question are the practice.

The newest “Let’s find out!” I put an exclamation point after because I am excited and passionate about life. This saying reminds me that there is no need to have expectations. Expectations are a sure fire setup for suffering. Because most likely nothing comes the way we exactly envision. And also that takes us out of the moment and into the future.

Living in either places future or past creates a fertile ground for suffering. Let’s find out is about living in the moment, be in the journey and what’s there later is out of our grasp. It also has an implication of wonderment and curiosity. I awaken in the morning. Whereas many dread the day or get right into their thinking and plans, I prefer to sit, get into the moment and then with a sense of vigor greet the day with a let’s see what’s in store attitude. The same goes with writing, life plans and goals. It is in the doing, that “first foot forward” that will inevitably lead us somewhere.

We may have a sense, but it is never exactly what we envision.

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I coined a phrase, the “Star Wars Principle.” I googled it and nobody has used the phrase. Sure I know what you are thinking, some obsessed fan. Well truth be told, I am not a fan and in fact I have only seen the first three. The reason why I came up with this phrase is because I have been pondering for quite some time the idea of the phrase made famous by the franchise – “the force.” In my humble opinion this is nothing more than an embellishment of a simple concept for the sake of drama and the continued storylines. Don’t get me wrong I think the earlier stories were brilliant, however over time it has become convoluted and contrived.

In real life, the force is nothing more than an understanding of how to shape the moment. In order to be able to have the skill to call forth the force one needs to be present and have a keen understanding of how human character, including one’s own works. This is not an easy undertaking. It calls for one to practice some form of meditation for long periods of time, in addition to studying character and mind. This then gives a sense of clarity to determine what you need to do to get out of your own way in order to be present enough to have the skill to shape the moment.

This force is really something that we all have the ability to do, but do not because we go about our day on autopilot not living in the moment. When someone does realize they have this ability and use the “force,” the other person is unaware on a conscious moment-to-moment level that something is happening. As is clearly stated in the Star Wars films, with this ability comes responsibility not to abuse the powers that have been cultivated, and in fact work to helping others to achieve it. This is very much in line with Buddhist vows that “beings are numberless I vow to save them.”

At this point it all sounds so esoteric, which is why the Star Wars storylines about the force is so brilliant. They have taken this concept and turned it into a tangible form for entertainment. But this force can be used in very simple day-to-day ways. One such example is working a room. When working a room full of people it begins the moment the moment you step through the door way or onto the stage or any other place that one encounters a group. It starts with how you see the moment, how you connect with others, how you let the nervousness and habits fall away to make room for the moment so that you can see with utmost clarity and subtlety. What you say and how you say it is never the same, because if you are truly in the moment, you will shape how you say what you want to say consciously. And what you might have planned on saying is not what is being called for in the moment.

This still may be unclear. Let’s try another tact – the individual and a handshake. The moment you shake a hand or greet someone, that moment it is in your hands (pun intended) to be able to shape how you want it to go. Ironically, it is a difficult thing to do while at the same time simple because all you need to decide is how you want to convey that moment and occurring moments afterward. I used to say that when I was living in NYC and dating I could tell just from the introduction, usually a handshake with a woman how the date would go. If it felt masculine or hard, then it was something that would not go beyond one date or in some cases cut short.

Also it is not just a one-way street, rather it goes both ways. What I mean by that is that one must also make room for the other person’s feeling and experience knowing that they too are playing a part in the shaping. There is a sense of responsibility to shape it, which is being open to the moment between the other, not just from one side. Controlling comes when other people are not taken into account and just comes from one side. There is no room for the other person to move within the moment to be shaped. Control has sharper edges and far less malleable. Shape has soft softer rounder edges and moves with the moment on an organic level.

I am reminded of this during an acting exercise back in my days in NYC. We each had to stand up say the line, “to be or not to be, that is the question” multiple times. And each time it had to be different, because no two moments are ever the same. We had to feel out the moments based on simple movements like taking a step or raising a hand up while we spoke the lines. This is nothing more than the force, shaping and being present with each moment.

May the force be with you all.   

In times like these a level head is needed now more than ever. And yet we have the opposite running countries. If you were to survey citizens across the world what it is they want in life, it would be food, education, health care, shelter and a fighting chance for the next generation or two to have the same things. And yet is it really human nature to make it so complicated that we have to struggle to maintain an even adequate standard of living? Why is it acceptable for the few who have amassed both money and power to continue to make more and more money so the rest have access to less and less? Is greed and power so much of an aphrodisiac that people lose sight of their humanity? I have news for you – we will die.

Death limits what we can take with us and makes things equal in the end. This begs the question how can one enjoy in a lifetime that amount of money totaling in the billions? And why is this acceptable? I remember the day when making millions was quite an accomplishment. Billions would take multiple lifetimes to spend. It’s not like that amount of money can stave off the inevitable. It will happen no matter what, and leaving a legacy at what cost? What makes this unacceptable is that there is a cost to be paid when individuals become this wealthy. Someone somewhere down the line that you and I will never see pays the price. Actually many are paying the price, whether it is in the form of low wages, child labor, unfair labor conditions or all of the above. Nobody is immune to paying the price when someone makes that much money – nobody!

What makes matters worse is that average folk think if that person can be rich so can I. People get sucked into the myth of, “I can be if I just say it is so and do it.” Truth be told it – it isn’t true. The unfortunate consequence is it becomes a dog eat dog world at the cost of humanity. A free for all where we step over one another and get what little pieces are left at whatever cost. And if you cannot hit it big, then the least you can do is put on airs by literally adorning yourself with the accouterments of the rich by buying name brands that proudly send a message of wealth or upward heading mobility – a facade. While at the same time amassing mountains of debt. Actually, if you think about it you are most likely simultaneously creating debt for yourself and paying the wealthy more and more. While you both will be leaving a legacy, the rich in an obvious way you will be leaving a negative legacy. And that is required to be paid off because thanks to the rich you have been paying have influenced politicians to enact laws that make you have to repay any debt accrued on a credit card or unpaid loan you may have taken out before you up and died.

Initially they will memorialize you and talk up a good game at the funeral. Funerals bring that out in people. When the food stops coming and the friends who were there for your family move on with their lives, your wife, husband or significant other are stuck with not only the memories of photos during poignant times in your life, but also with what starts out to be monthly credit card and loan bills. The legacy continues with unpaid bills accruing interest while they continue to grieve having lost sight of life. This is normal, but not to the bill collectors who begin to call weekly. Calls are answered to explain the extenuating circumstances. At first they lend a sympathetic ear. It is a false empathy meant as a form of manipulation as they connect to the grief. Really they are taking notes so that each time they call they wear them down. Over time the goal is to get them to pay so that they too can get their commission for a job well done. You see they are in debt just like your mourning family members. But they will never say anything because they pay their bills on time, they tell themselves each time they make a phone call.

No savings left and the calls are daily now. When will they start knocking on the door? Soon they repossess the car, then the furniture. I didn’t know my deceased rented the furniture. Makes sense in hindsight it looks too nice. The car, no not the car! Once that is gone there’s very little left except the house. Bankruptcy is the last option – A word that connotes disgrace and shame. Thing is they can no longer get out of it that easy. Thanks to your friendly neighborhood politician who come knocking on doors during the election season to get votes has voted not in their best interest. He sided with the rich who own the companies that make the most off of your still grieving family members. Declaring bankruptcy is not an option because the rich want what’s theirs – more money. The only way out is to follow in the footsteps of what you have started this in the first place. It’s killing them one way or another.

In the end how do you want to be remembered? By building a mountain of debt? Or living within your means?


IF I like this word. A simple two-letter word used in a myriad of ways. I think it has a deeper more poignant meaning than the other two-letter word IT for example. It is kind of a lazy word to use. People substitute it instead of explaining something in details. IF like my friend said the other day is an active word. It, the word IF that is, can be used in mathematical equations, one of my least favorite school subjects by the way. That still does not prevent it from being used in equations. For example, if 5 is added to three what is the answer, of course 8. Now that is a very simple example and the word can be used in much more complicated math problems, but the problem is the moment I start to get into those types of problems I break out in a sweat and my breathing becomes shallow – the beginnings of a panic attack. So I will leave it here with one simple math example.

The real reason I wanted to bring the word IF to your attention is that for me it is related to life. In fact as I typed it I noticed they are the two letters in the middle of the word life. how cool is that? Much like a math problem except it is not an equation in that sense, rather in the sense that there is an IF equation in our lives, and each person has their individual equation for what I call a life of well-being. What does this possibly mean you might ask? Well I will answer that question for you in the form of an IF example that pertains to my life. If I make health, creativity, community and spirituality a priority in my life I can live a balanced life of well-being. Now on the surface the equation seems quite simple, but like many things it is more complicated than that. Let’s break each one down. If I want to live a life of balance and well-being and if I make health a priority then I need to eat healthy food, exercise daily and get a decent amount of sleep. Let’s go even further. If I want food to be part of the equation then I would eat less carbs, more natural foods such as veggies and cut out any form of processed foods and refined sugar. If I want exercise to be part of my equation, then I need to ride my bike, run and go to the gym or any other form of exercise. The IF to the equation of health is also sleep. And that is at least 6 hours or more of sleep. Then we add to the equation of spirituality, this part of the equation is very personal and can be in the form of organized religion, meditation or just a personal philosophy and relationship with the world. My equation consists of daily meditation and a few interesting readings related to Zen and other thought provoking books that continue to help me find balance. And the final equation to the IF word is community and friends. Recently I wrote about community and had a count on the number of communities that I am connected to and the total is 14. I will not list them here, but the point is that community is very important for many reasons besides just well-being. And of course nothing more need be said really about friends and how that fits in the equation.

Now I have laid out a a simple IF equation. The main word here is simple. It, there’s that word again, is really that straightforward. Seriously, it is not rocket science. And yet so many of us complicate it or put obstacles in the way. Our ego is a tough nut to crack and cracking it is the key to well-being. And that key is to not listen to it. Just do it! That is IF you want to.


It is quite amazing how our past experiences inform what we do and who we are today. We are not the same people and yet they do collectively make us into some sort of character. After watching a four part series on Punk Rock I was taken back to the days in which I was a punk and realize in many ways still am. Outwardly I struggled as a teenager with the usual being uncomfortable in my skin and internally with the raging hormones and philosophical battle of having grown up in a catholic family with all the guilt that came with it.

Along comes PUNK just at the right time. The words and energy conveyed in the music, and countless number of shows I attended were just what I needed to break free of the rules and all that shit that was bogging me down internally. It needed to be expressed. Fueled with music, energy from others and alcohol it was a perfect concoction. I still felt uncomfortable in my own skin, but I could blend in and let the music take me away. I spent countless hours lying on the floor of my bedroom with headphones on cranking and disappearing into the music. It was freedom. After a period of time the lyrics and attitudes associated with the movement sunk in and really became a part of me. I still had to sell out and do all that one needs to do to sort out what fits best in life, all the while being informed by my punk rock roots. I still had it. I had to go through the phases of feeling too young to be a punk, but knowing deep down I still had the attitudes without the look.

Fast forward many decades and the roots of my character are still connected to punk and have informed my decisions to not participate on certain levels any longer in the American dream, which I tried, corporate life, which I tried, car culture, which I have not done in quite some time and even paying taxes. I pay them, just not in the country of origin. I was on some level informed by the experiences of my punk days and the decision to move to Japan and no longer participate in the American culture. In Japan, as ironic as this may sound, I can blend in and not participate in the way that one would be expected if living in the US.

While watching the last segment of the punk series I was moved to tears (I know, how punk rock. In my defense I’ve softened with old age) listening to the older punks of my generation who still have the attitude, albeit with maturity. Some still look the part, not my cuppa tea, although I am by no means typical in the way I dress. As they were speaking I could hear how punk continues to inform the way in which they choose to live their lives, and on some level not participate in the typical way. I was also moved when I realized that I too am the same way with a modicum of wisdom and a whole helluva lot of life experience between then and now.

I would not have traded my punk rock experience for anything even knowing in hindsight how difficult and awkward it was at the time. I am grateful it continues to inform my life and besides that it is still great music I listen to.

What experiences inform your life?


I have been thinking about instinct lately. We all have it in and it comes in different forms. For some it is a feeling, others a voice and others see it in words or pictures. It really depends upon the type of character and how we are wired. I am sure most have experienced it and never knew what it was. I do think it is something that comes from the heart. And yet so often we all live in our heads intellectualizing everything. This may in part have to do with habit, and rather than feel it out, wait for an answer and guidance from the heart we go to our heads – a direct line to our egos. The result, we allow our egos to guide our lives. Then everything we do reinforces the stories of who we are, and we hold on to them throughout our life building up a fortress against instinct.

Instinct is a part of our lives and yet so often we squelch the feeling. Even if we get that inner urge, we turn away from it and put ourselves up in our heads. We get the feeling and then boom up in our head to intellectualize, justify, rationalize or defend. Of course I am speaking from direct experience. I realize these days that I really do not want to speak of anything I know nothing about. I used to be able to talk a good game about anything. I am finding it is more skillful to just speak of things I have experience with. It serves others because they can feel the place in which I am speak from. Just like building up a habit of avoiding instinct, we can find a way to get back to the place of the heart and develop a skill of paying attention to it. It takes work, practice and presence in order to be in that place. The key is to know how to discern when you are in your head or not. For me it starts as pressure and a feeling in the heart that eventually leads to words, but on occasion it can be visuals as well. And when it comes it feels like jumping into a river and riding the wave for as long it is meant to be. It is an invigorating feeling being in touch with the heart. It is a place I would like to live in as much as I can, and wish this for everyone. There is on occasion experiences of weak moments in which I want to please the intellect or what my friend in NYC would say, “the lower chakras.” I find that if I want to continue to do that, and it is my choice, then I would over time slowly squelch instinct by constantly overriding it.

I believe that many are out of touch with instinct for a variety of reasons. Everything from having dug a rut of habitual routine day after day and feel that is all there is in life and given up, others find that change is too difficult and say this is who I am and some have issues that need to be addressed to clear the wreckage of the past in order to let instinct see the light of day. It could be anyone of these or a combination. In my experience long ago I had to put down an addiction in order to start the process of getting in touch. It was a spiritual crisis at the time motivated by experiencing death first hand. Scary at the time, but in hindsight it was what was needed to wake me up. After settling down, I realized early on that it was all about the head and heart. Everything I have done up to this moment has allowed me to open up that portal to allow instinct to direct me. I must be in the moment and once I am out of it I drift ever so slightly away. And when I am off that beam I care just a little less for the world around. And who wants to live a life of not caring?


We are never alone. We never do anything by ourselves. We are all connected. If you think about how much we are all inter-connected we would be much kinder to one another. Take something as simple as a one single food group from a meal and trace the lineage of how it got to your table. It puts things into perspective. We have never ever done anything alone without someone’s help.

Let’s trace the path of the broccoli that I ate last night. First, there is the person who brought the seed to the farm. Next there is the person who planted the broccoli seed. How about the family who raised the person who brought the seed and planted the seed? If it were not for them these two people would not be doing what they are doing. Then there is the person who picked the broccoli and someone had to box it. Who made the boxes where did they come from? Then there is the shipping, whether local or from overseas, either by truck of plane. Who drove the truck or flew the plane? Then there are the people who made the truck or plane. Finally it arrives at the supermarket. Somebody unloaded and placed the broccoli on the shelves of your local supermarket. Oh and don’t forget the check out person. Think about all these people involved in broccoli!

I’ve tracked one food group on the plate that I had for dinner. Think about tall the food groups on the plate and every single meal you have eaten up to this moment of your life. That’s food. What about things? Try tracking the lineage of one thing. You begin to realize that nobody in the grand scheme of things is any more important than anyone else. And we are all in it together helping one another along. Most people do not think in these terms. I would say it is one of many reasons why there are so many narcissists and ego driven people in the world. As a result end up exploiting others for their gain knowing that they can get away with it. A person picking the broccoli to bring to the supermarket is as important as a CEO of a company. The only difference, the CEOs wrote the narrative in their favor.

Now I do not go around tracking the lineage of every item I come across. It is humbling knowing the truth that I have never done anything on my own and I am not important.

This brings me to the next point. What we do is not important. Yet, it is important we do it to the best of our ability with the fullest attention to mind and heart. Knowing we did the best we could makes the outcome less important. Putting so much attachment to being important both defines us and reinforces our story. What happens if a situation like a job changes? Because we were so wrapped up in the job we lose the story line and become lost. This is in large part the cause of depression, disease and the unwillingness for people to change. You can hear it in individuals if you pay attention to the words they choose and how they say it. You can hear it coming from that place of ego. It’s what I call the voice of attachment. Knowing that our true place in the world is on level par with everyone else, then it does not matter what happens. We are here to support one another. We cannot hold on to what defines us because it will change. We may mourn the change for a bit and then move on knowing something else will come along. And there will be others there to support you.


Do we just delude ourselves on a daily basis? How much of what we actually do has any meaning to life at all? And yet we must do it. Are the choices we make just another way to reinforce who we think we are? Who do I think I am?  Is there I in this equation? So many questions and yet even as I reread these questions I think how contrived they feel. I really begin to feel that there is no I and that it is being in relation to the world and people that really creates experience, and to think that there is something that exists inside is really not it. We just make moment-to-moment choices, grab those things to help reinforce who we think we are. But that is not to say there is anything wrong with it. I think that is part of the human condition.

I may be writing in such a manner that feels like judgment, but in fact is really more just an observance and acknowledgment of something that is very much a part of life. I look around and observe people, letting the feeling and notice the little things in people, and you can see just how much of their character shines through. Everything from the way they walk, look in their face, clothing and if it is someone I know the way in which they speak, the choice of words, mannerisms etc. Most people do not notice these kinds of things as they are all caught up in their own little world on the inside or outside, me included. We all do this, caught up in our thoughts as we walk, multi-task, or are ready to answer a question or speak instead of listening and feeling out what the other person is saying.

I just want to be present as much as I can throughout the day. There is a simple richness to being awake to the moment without getting caught up in the thoughts or emotions. It is like a river flowing from moment to moment. Some images are just apt for a description and do not need anymore explaining than that.

Living in the place of the heart is a really different experience when walking through the world. And one thing I am beginning to understand is the sense that we need to be responsible if we are awakened to the world, responsible to helping others to awaken to the world and help them to realize their own delusions. Each person is different in how this is and so there is not a one way for all. Some people may be ready to hear it and others will not or may fight it or intellectualize it or do what it is their character is designed to avoid. If awake to the moment you can begin to feel that out and not go too far into delusion and very quickly awaken yet again.


High noon Tokyo, two men fifty paces stare each other down like a scene from the shoot out at the OK Corral. One dressed in black tights resembles an engorged tick with a silver phallus shaped weapon at the ready. The other short and frail is dressed in a white workman’s outfit with a bandaged right leg, holding a cane concealing the octogenarian weapon of choice – a mini Samurai sword. Squinting like Clint Eastwood, the centenarian sizes up his opponent – who at half his age happens to be me the tick. Tension mounts while waiting for each to make the first move. As cruel as this scene looks, odds are in my favor that I am about to check off a bucket list item I had no idea existed.

On my trusty steel steed enjoying an early morning ride around Tokyo, I am closing in on a red traffic signal. My joy is short lived and shattered by the deafening sound of a car horn. It’s not one of those polite short beeps signaling, “I am here be careful.” This was a long blare implying “get the f __ ___ ___ out of my way or you will die.” At least that was my interpretation of it.

I now would like to justify my next series of actions with the following: The sidewalk width road was packed with cars going in both directions, I got a glimpse of the grim reaper in my rear view bike mirror so swerving into oncoming traffic was a bad first choice. To avoid experiencing the sounds of bone crunching and metal on metal, I opted for slamming into the fence – The offending car just missed me by a grain of rice. A tangled mess, my anger welled and I screamed, “What’s the point of the horn?” My only conclusion, this was some old geezer having a massive heart attack and the weight of his limp head hitting the steering wheel caused the car to swerve and horn to blow. The quick thinking passenger grabbed the steering wheel and took control of the car just in the nick of time. In hindsight I wasn’t too far off.

While untangling myself I immediately went into NYC mode. NYC stands for New York City, and if you have ever been to NYC then you will know what I am talking about. If not, I will ask you to imagine life on the streets as an urban wild west – where humanity meets the road. Instead of gunfire and hoots it’s horns and insults. Think of it as a modern day gunfight in which split second verbal and finger reactions are fired off in response to car horns.  Who wins, depends on the mettle of one’s character. This lethal mix of bikes, pedestrians and automobiles makes for an incendiary combination in which tempers flair at the drop of a hat. And having lived in NYC for 8 years I was well trained relying on my voice and middle finger – The chosen methods of response in this current situation.

Freed from the fence, I was back on my bike quaking with anger. Thanks to the narrow road I was within arms length of the car window of my offender and yelled at the top of my lungs the good ole “You Mother F__ ___ ___ ___ ___ ” followed up with a “F___ ___ ___  you,” to drive the point home. Even if English wasn’t there second language, there was no doubt the driver and passenger understood what was being communicated. In tandem with the verbal reply, my well-trained middle figure really put the cherry on top. I thought to myself, “It’s like riding a bike, you never forget.” Suddenly, I was filled with rapturous moments of NYC rage! I loved it!

Enjoying the waning moments, I rode my bike towards the cross walk and stopped to wait for the light to change. Out of habit I turned around to make sure that the driver or passenger were not coming my way. This move is also part of my NYC tutelage. You see in NYC it was not uncommon that the driver of a taxi or car would get out and start yelling in hopes of a physical altercation. Not being a fighter by nature it was always a yelling match for me. To my surprise when I turned around the driver was walking in my direction with a sense of brave purpose. Stopping fifty paces apart I sized him up as he squinted in my direction. “If we were to duke it out I could use his limp to my advantage,” I thought to myself. His emanating rage evidenced by clenched fists threatened my existence as I reached deep inside to call forth my evolutionary need for survival. Readying myself for a rumble my body trembled. However, there was one problem, I am a MAMIL – A Middle Age Man In Lyrca, or the tick if you recall. From his vantage point I must have looked like an easy mark considering my cycling garb. That is until he got a closer look at my face and beard.

Seeing I was a foreigner and not yet backing down he looked over his shoulder to his car and stoplight to confirm it was still red. I surmised that he was using this fact that there would a driverless car if the light turned green to save face. He reluctantly took a step backward in the direction of his car. This was indeed his excuse to back down in order to save face rather than to start a street brawl with a gaijin (Foreigner). Tension released after retreating to our respective corners – car and cross walk, I waited for the light to turn green. As the light changed I darted across knowing he was turning left and could have easily clipped me had he timed it right. Within a safe distance I sat up on my bike with a feeling of satisfaction soon followed by disappointment thinking to myself, “I could have made Wyatt Earp proud.”


The topic of global warming came to me during an early morning bike ride along the trustworthy Tamagawa River. Tucked in behind a not-so-powerful moped reaching a speed of 40 km (25mph), in an instant the image of my life as a 16 year old in my hometown of Edina, Minnesota popped into my mind.

My first decent bike was a 10-speed Trek and main mode of transportation. While I was excited to have a cool bike, all of my friends had mopeds. Edina was a middle, upper middle class community and at the forefront of cool and fashionable items to have – mopeds, Adidas shoes, Ralph Lauren and Levi’s. I had a bicycle, Adidas knockoffs and JC Penney Garanimal brand clothing. Consequently, for the longest time I felt I had the short end of the stick. Over time I reconciled the poor me syndrome and even came to see that it was a good life and learning to appreciate what I had.

As often is the case, my friends would call me up, “hey Al,” they called me Al (like Al Gore) in those days, “we are going to so and so’s house, wanna go?” I was glad to be invited despite having a ten-speed bike. We gathered at a prearranged meeting place. Arriving with their spiffy looking mopeds resembling heaven’s angels off we’d go.  Before hitting the road, my friends would have to first start up their mopeds. I on the other hand got a head start with my bicycle. After a few minutes they would catch up and zoom past without slowing up. The onus was on me to stay close. I quickly learned the best way was to jump in behind one of the mopeds and use the draft to maintain speed. Often my friends would gun the moped to try and drop me, but the faster they went the easier it was for me to lock in my position. They were quite impressed.

As I reflect on this period of my life I realized just like the other Al that I was combating global warming long before it was fashionable. This must have been just around the time Al Gore started to make global warming his life’s purpose and long before “Inconvenient Truth.” Everywhere I went I rode my bike. Not only was I an unsuspecting pioneer, but this was also training for when I would eventually become a semi-professional bike racer a decade later. Unbeknownst at the time, the experience would also influence my thinking and choices later in life.

I lived in NYC for eight years without a car and now Tokyo for nearly fourteen. That’s a combined total of twenty plus years of not having to participate in the slow degradation of our planet and paying for gas, maintenance, car loans and insurance. Of course I cannot put a number on the effects automobiles have on the planet over time, I’ll leave that to the scientists, but I can on the tangible costs. If I bought a car every five years at the cost of $15,000 – conservative total price = $60,000. Monthly maintenance costs including oil changes and tune-ups = $40,000. Gas based on daily use – $20.00 per week for another conservative cost = $50,000. Insurance – $400/month is equal to nearly $100,000 provided I was accident free. The grand underestimated total of not owning a car for 20+ years, drum roll…at least $250,000 without taking into consideration inflation. Needless to say, what a racket! Before continuing, I do want to state for the record that each time I return to the US once a year for summer vacation I rent a car for a week or two at a time, but that is the extent of my participation.

Now many will say, “but you do other things that contribute to climate change.” This “do things to perfection” argument is just a way of justifying choices one makes and in my opinion does not hold up – we have a choice. Riding my bike, not owning a car, walking, taking the train, air drying my clothes, using pocket size hand towels instead of paper towels to dry my hands, buying locally, the list goes on and on. I am not perfect and I am always tweaking my life in order to minimize my footprint.

Let me ask you, what are you doing not to permanently destroy our future?