Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Best Places In the World You Should Travel to Next and Where You Should Avoid

A lot of people ask me about my travels and for suggestions on their own travels, which I am more than happy to oblige with tales of my glorious conquests. I like to regale with hours and hours of dizzying, unnecessary detail – from the wait time of the airplane bathroom following the inflight movie to the amount of hotel towels stolen – that leaves the askee wishing someone would put a bullet in their head. It's just all part of the joy of loving my own voice!

In an effort to avoid ever talking about myself again, I have made it a goal to write about all questions posed to me in daily conversation. Fortunately, for you, this post is not titled, "What the hell am I doing with my life?!?!" Or, "What time did I sleep until today?" Or, "Did I cry myself to sleep last night again?" As those are the other most frequent questions posed. I'll save those ones for once I've completed rehab and therapy. When people ask me questions, I plan to just respond with, "I'll send you a link to that question," and then turn back to staring into the bottom of my well whiskey with nary a thought of it ever being "half full" as tears stream down my face.

This is my "best/worst/favorite/most list". (There shall be no semblance of organization, consistency, or structure here!) Some of these questions will be answered with short stories and descriptions; others will have no explanation. Some will be written as if I were Hunter S. Thompson. Others will be written as if I were channelling Billy Madison. (I like to practice my stylistic plagiarism.) I call my own style, "conversational basic rudimentary english for new speakers who can't read good, yet also have poor study habits." (It kind of rolls off the tongue, no?)

Drum roll... please!

BEST BEACH


I consider myself a beach connoisseur (and, no, I did not know how to spell that word). I cannot go on a vacation without spending a few days exploring a beach – no matter how crappy it is. For my discriminating criteria, I'm not just choosing the one with the clearest water and softest sand, but for the overall ambiance and tranquility. Almost all of the beaches in southern Europe are out of the question for top billing. As stunning as the backdrop may be, I cannot support beaches with (majority) no sand, substituted with pebbles and jagged rocks that hurt my precious feet that need to be protected for my future life as a concubine. As for others, most of Hawaii is too commercialized and refined. Mexico too loud. Jamaica too sleazy. Central and South America too dirty (water). Asia too European backpacker.

Flamenco Beach on the small island of Culebra (a part of Puerto Rico) is my favorite for a number of reasons. It's almost completely secluded and free of development – except for one amazing, unassuming, inexpensive villa rental complex. (If you look in the top picture of the collage, you'll see the lone villas amongst the greenery.) The water is exceptionally clear and the sand white and soft. I dream of being able to eventually take a loved one here and maybe a burgeoning family. Hopefully it won't be overrun with development by then.

Honorable mention: Lanikai, Hawaii and Phi Phi Island, Thailand

BEST SURPRISE AND SELF-DISCOVERY

I guess it's best to segue into how I ended up on the island of Culebra and Flamenco Beach. Almost all of my most cherished travel memories have taken place without an itinerary – mostly armed with only a few sparse words of the language and my charming smile. Which means I ended up getting robbed, beat up, raped, and urinated on a lot while laying in a fetal position on the ground. Sigh. Good memories.

There's something about walking down a street in a foreign country without a map and choosing to go straight, left, or right, and there being no wrong answer. In the movie Cast Away, after Tom Hanks returns home, the movie ends with him looking in four different directions, wondering which way he should go. And he smirks. He knows that – finally – he's free and has the world in front of him. There is no wrong choice if you have an open heart and mind.

Traveling to Puerto Rico was one of the first times I would go on a trip on my own with no itinerary. That trip was culminated by new friends, a bottle of rum on the best beach I had ever set foot on, darkness and stars over head, talking more deeply and openly than I ever had in my life. I loved it. For all the Motorcycle Diaries, Under The Tuscan Sun's, and Eat Pray Love's out there embracing solo travel, there's a reason those books aren't fiction. It truly is one of the most amazing ways to discover new things about yourself and to find peace.

BEST CITY TO LIVE

I love the vibrancy and energy of certain cities I've visited. Some had me never wanting to leave. With Buenos Aires, I was truly amazed, as I (naively) assumed that most South American countries were relatively poor and lacking in rich history. (I mean, who can top the U.S.'s impressive run of over 400 years of uninterrupted development and history!??!) Buenos Aires combined European style, flair (and confidence), with Latin passion and culture.

I loved the time spent enjoying people's company during siestas and the lack of urgency to go out at night, as bars, cafes, and clubs stayed open until the early-morning hours. I loved the architecture, the pride, the diversity of food, the steaks, the Malbecs, the camaraderie, and the exchange rate! (Although you can keep the Fernet).

Honorable mentions: Hong Kong, Medellin

MOST BORING CITY

Frankfurt, Germany. I had to stay here, because for some reason the city is a major European airport hub. I desperately searched for photo ops, culture, or.... anything of interest. Fail.

MOST DISAPPOINTING COUNTRY

Many people will tell you Germany is their favorite, but it just wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong, the people are nice, polite, and pleasant, but the country just lacks enough culture to shock my senses. It might be because they have all the amenities of the United States, share many of the same customs and habits, and offer the same food found on any street corner in the States. Plus, I'm not a huge beer fan, so that probably hurts its ranking.

MOST UNIQUE CITY

Las Vegas. (The U.S. made this undistinguished list!) You will never, ever see anything remotely close to what Las Vegas has done. There's just nothing like it. I'm not saying it's "unique" good or "unique" bad, but it is one-of-a-kind. It's crazy, debaucherous, sinful, consumptuous, celebrated and, yet, never fails to surprise.

Honorable mentions: Amsterdam

MOST UNIQUE EVENT

Running of the Bulls. Pamplona, Spain

FAVORITE DESTINATION


Croatia has probably already hit the tipping point of tourist discovery, but it still has everything I look for in a trip – starting with uniqueness. While the walled city in Dubrovnik is amazing, my favorite had to be Hvar Island. Exploring the island on a scooter, almost every place turned out to be my new favorite place! Whenever we felt the urge, my friend Vince and I would park, get out and take a dip in the sea. Old world charm, customs, and pace, without the crush of commercialism and the hustlers that come with it.

Honorable mention: Greek Isles

MOST AMAZING MONUMENT/STRUCTURE/"WONDER OF THE WORLD"

I've been to the Great Wall of China twice now and both times I've been awestruck at how grand it is. Oftentimes quoted as being the only man-made structure visible from space, it is simply amazing that humans built this without cranes and machines. And in 200s BC!!! I can barely tie my shoes in 2014 AD!!!! As far as the eye can see, it is a revelation. If I go back a third time, I will still climb those giant steps with the giddiness of a school boy.

Honorable mention: Machu Picchu

MOST AMAZING NATURAL WONDER

Great Barrier Reef

BEST FOOD

Italy (where "al dente" is perfection)

Honorable mention: Thailand

BEST NIGHTLIFE

I can't pinpoint a place where I had more fun than the others, because I pretty much always have an amazing time (before blacking out and waking up in a gutter). I loved the uniqueness of Shanghai, where ordering a bottle (much more affordable than the U.S.) is the standard, even if you're sitting at the bar. I loved Taiwan and the private karaoke rooms where you could order any type of alcohol or food and have it brought to your room. I loved Medellin, where people gathered in parks to pre-drink. I loved Rio, where there was probably the greatest ratio of people making out in the club to people NOT making out I have ever seen. There's joy to be had everywhere.

BEST MEMORY (TIE)


Armed without an itinerary in the French Riviera, I met two girls on a beach in Monaco – one of whom would turn out to be one of my favorite people I've ever met. Over the next two weeks, we would decide each day what we would do, where we'd go, and eventually rented a car in Nice, drove to St. Tropez to stay with one of their friends, before ending up in their home country of Switzerland. There were so many great moments in that spur-of-the-moment trip, I don't even know where to start... but it started and ended with so much laughter.


After spending an incredible few weeks traveling Croatia and exploring Germany with my best friend, Vince, he had to head back to Rome. I decided I would go to the train station in Berlin and take the next train out. Either north to Stockholm, west to Vienna, or east to Budapest. It ended up being Budapest, where I hopped on the overnight train and ended up in a compartment with two other people – both strangers. We ended up talking over the next few hours, and during a stopover, decided to get a couple of bottles of wine for the last leg of the trip. In the morning, Kinga asks me where I'm staying in Budapest. I tell her that I don't have a place yet. She tells me that I'm staying with her then! Which turns out to be the top floor of an apartment complex overlooking the Danube River. Over the course of the next four days, we go to a local farmer's market (not a tourist in sight!), she cooks me a traditional Hungarian cuisine, and I learn about Budapest through the eyes of a local.

Honorable mention: Riding on the back of a scooter (without a helmet and shirt) through the French Riviera with my boy, Ryan.


Because of all the goodwill bestowed upon me in my travels, and the way I was raised, I have and will always pay it forward. If I have a room or couch open in my house, it is always available. And when friends I've met around the world come and visit, it is no burden at all for me to drive them to my favorite places around Northern California. The reward is in their faces. (And the forced sexual favors. Thanks, Philip, for encouraging me to find that "happy place" and that it would "all be over soon." You lied about that last part though, you SON OF A B*TCH!)

I honestly don't know how I've been so fortunate to have met such amazing people during my travels. I'd imagine that it started with putting down whatever was in my hands and giving the world around me a chance. And whether the world leads you north, south, east, or west, know that blindly following your faith and opening yourself up to the possibilities of the unknown is more rewarding than the destination.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
The SVB

P.S. If you're ever in Australia, you can visit this post's sponsor in search of a friendly escort!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

20 Things I Learned from 20 Years of Dating


A startling revelation occurred to me the other day – Del Taco has been selling a version of California Burritos for over two weeks now and I STILL haven't gone to sample it!!! And my other revelation was I've now been dating for over 20 years!!! TWENTY! While others have settled down, had kids, and moved on to adulthood with grace and class, I've devolved into a slightly less refined version of my 14-year-old self. For years now, people (both male and female) have turned to me for dating and relationship advice. Why? I have no idea.

Common questions include, "There's a discharge from my penis when I'm urinating, what STD do I have?" Or, "How can I tell if the person I'm dating is an awful person like you?" Or, "How can I sabotage the brakes in my lover's car?" Or, my favorite, "Can you shut up and jump off a bridge? Stat?"

My readers love me.

You can probably ask me about any aspect of dating and I will have experienced it. If I took a class on dating, I'd get a B just for showing up, right? Probably more like an A-.

Alas, here are the things I've learned about approaching, dating, sustaining, and being better at relationships. Some of these I've always preached, but others I had to learn the hard way.

1. Learn to break up with a girl. As an extremely empathetic person, I still struggle with this one. I wish I possessed the ability to look a girl in the eye and say, "I don't think this is working out." I did that once in the 8th grade and it was the most awful feeling in the world, but it was the right thing to do. Too many people string someone along until they find someone better. Cut your losses and save your time for someone you're meant to be with.

2. Have a short-term memory. Most guys are crippled by the fear of rejection when going up to a girl. EVERYONE gets rejected. If you can conquer that fear, quickly forget and move right on, you are now better than 95% of the guys out there.

3. Don't talk a big game. After the fear of rejection, the other reason guys are afraid to approach a girl is the fear of being rejected in front of their friends. Find friends you can be real around – ones that aren't impressed with gloating.

4. Have girl FRIENDS. Sometimes there can be no better wingman than a wingwoman. Not to mention, some of my favorite, most rewarding friendships have been with girls. You don't have to worry about macho, testosterone-filled guys who frown upon the expression of vulnerability. We all need to be honest with ourselves sometimes.

5. Be a gentleman. It's never too late to adopt habits of opening doors, pulling out seats, helping a lady put on her jacket, and offering your own jacket when it's cold – these acts go a long way. If you're not considerate in these realms, I'd imagine you're probably horrible and one-sided in the sack as well.

6. Dance. If you've spent ANY time with me at an establishment with music, you know that I like to dance the night away. It wasn't always so. In high school, I was definitely mortified at the thought of my loose limbs flailing around. Dancing, no matter how bad, is always better than NOT dancing. It's the best way to break contact with a girl.

7. Wait to buy a drink. Don't ever use buying a drink for a girl as the prerequisite for talking to to her, especially if the girl is the one who asks you to buy the drink. I only buy a girl a drink if we're having great conversation and/or I'm getting a good vibe. You'll save yourself a lot of money and the needed brain functionality to remember the conversation you have with someone who actually matters.

8. Be kind to service industry professionals. They put on a show everyday by smiling and cleaning up after the worst of you. The least you can do is smile back, help clean up your own stuff, and tip. Your date will notice more often than not.

9. Read current events. If you want to have a conversation with anyone, you'll need to expand what you know of the world. What better way than to read the news everyday, so that you can talk about a broad range of topics. Who knows? Reading may even be able to help you figure out the daunted "your/you're" and "they're/their/there" – it's not that hard, people.

10. Live in your skin. Katy Perry (yes, I listen to Katy Perry) sang, "I fell for everything, because I stood for nothing." Too many people only know themselves as part of a relationship – never taking the time to find their own interests or be comfortable with who they are. The more you know about yourself, the more engaging you can be with others.

11. Communicate. I don't think any girl I've dated can say that I wasn't a good communicator. Don't let things go unresolved and allow them to fester. Handle your business by communicating and enjoy a much more productive relationship with fewer issues and probably a more open, fulfilling sex life.

12. Listen. Be interested in people. Ask questions. Really get to know someone.

13. Don't play games. Real men don't play with people's emotions. Sure, there's still some subtlety that goes into when to text a girl and what all you can say at the beginning of a relationship, but if you know you don't like a girl as much as she likes you? Cut her loose. Even if the sex is amazing. It's not right to her. (This goes the same way for you ladies.)

14. Date someone who likes their job. There's nothing more draining than someone who dreads going to work and then comes back with a heart and mind full of annoyance and disdain. Rather than enjoying each other, you're spending large amounts of your time listening to someone vent and then trying to cheer them up.

15. Overvalue intelligence. I've been very guilty in emphasizing looks, while devaluing important things that will help a relationship last when the looks have faded. In all my 20 years, I can now tell you – definitively – that intelligence is sexy. You almost certainly cannot be funny (to me) without being intelligent.

16. Don't take yourself too seriously. I am often the butt of jokes, which does not bother me whatsoever. I encourage it. If I have to be self-deprecating to get everyone to loosen up, then I will happily do that.

17. Enjoy the moment. While you've inevitably heard the phrase, "the joy is in the journey," I can't help but again emphasize that there is joy in every moment. It's not always about being AT the concert or enjoying the finished meal – sometimes the gems can be found while stuck in traffic or making a mess in the kitchen. Enjoy it all.

18. Don't be jealous. Always believe that if someone is dumb enough to cheat on you, then they don't deserve you. You can't handcuff someone for the rest of their lives so that he/she's with you forever. Know who you are so that you don't question who you aren't.

19. Want to be a better person. We can always improve upon who we are. Whether that's mentally, physically, characteristically, or morally, we all have a lot of room for growth. Find that person who always challenges you to be better – not through them telling or nagging you, but from them inspiring you in ways to seek it for yourself.

And, finally... my favorite...

20. Be passionate. Whether it's a moment stolen on a busy street, or a quiet walk in the park, savor your loved one when you can. Grab her, feel her, forget everything else but those lips. Linger. Sigh. But feel those lips.

I can't tell you much about marriage or raising a child (I look forward to it one day), but I can tell you to love your life. Love the fact that you can love. We spend a lot of time figuring out who we are as people – it's an ongoing process – but the new people we allow into our lives can be transcendent. While you may not spend forever with them, there's so much growth and love to be had.

Love to love.


Sincerely,
Kevin L.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Was The Last Four Years of My Life Worth Half a Million Dollars?


Four years ago, the me you see today would not exist if I had just said, "yes." And saying "yes" for me has never been a problem.

You can pretty much ask me anything and I'll say "yes." Grab something to eat? Yes. Go out tonight? Yes. Travel? Yes. Use my toothbrush? Yes. Turn around, lay on my stomach, pull down my pants, don't ask questions and find a happy place? Yes.

There are times in a person's life that he can look back and realize that if he had chosen one path, things would've been drastically different. Monumentally different.

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to lead the in-house Public Relations efforts of a 7,000 employee company (11,000 today) while making over six figures a year.

13 years ago, I had the opportunity to be a summer intern for a fringe cable show featuring two guys who spoke a lot about breasts, alcohol, sex, and debauchery. Right up my alley, no? (I get a "B" just for showing up, right right?) That little show was called, The Man Show, featuring two young, up-and-coming hosts by the name of Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel.

Most of you probably don't know these stories about me because I don't spend much time living in the past. I also don't regret the choices I made, making these stories irrelevant.

Instead, I did things that I've always wanted to do. Things that were true to me. Real to me. They became the living embodiment of my fantasies – more than just passionate ideas that would only fester in my mind because of some excuse or another. In the last four years, I eliminated the barrier of "excuses" and fulfilled these dreams:

– I learned how to write a screenplay and did it. (I even wrote a second, to boot!)
– I visited nearly 20 countries, of which highlights included: Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, running with the bulls in Pamplona, scuba diving The Great Barrier Reef, Brazil for Carnaval, visiting Cuba illegally, walking through my favorite artist's house (Frida Kahlo), visiting the hometown of one my favorite authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), partying in Ibiza, St. Tropez and Amsterdam, couchsurfing with strangers who became great friends, "winging" it at train stations in Europe not knowing where I would end up next, celebrating dear friends' weddings in a mansion on the French Riviera and another in a castle on the Amalfi Coast in Italy...
– I wrote a book.
– I started bartending.
– I founded and launched an internet startup.

Learning and doing something completely foreign to you is a game changer. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you believe – no – see possibilities that you once thought of with limitations. You push what you know. And what you know will push back. And it's scary. Your mind is accustomed to what the parameters of society has placed on it. It wants to go back and do things you know you're good at. That you know you're comfortable with.

How much is that comfort worth? $500,000?

Let's say that I had taken that PR job four years ago. I would most definitely have earned a pay increase each year with bonuses (or been fired in a blaze of glory), but to make this easy – for my poor, feeble mind, that has already pushed its mathematical threshold passed the enjoyment level – let's say that I would've made $100K a year for the last four years. Minus 35% for taxes, $3K monthly expenditures on housing, bills, expenses, and partying, I would've been able to bank $116K by now. Cash. That seems like a ton of money!

Holy sh*t. What have I done?!?!

I could've had a bigger TV, a nicer car, designer clothes, the occasional bottle service, and maybe even lines of cocaine off a stripper's butt! I would've had two whole weeks of paid vacation a year! Two WHOLE weeks! That's eight over the course of the last four years. (How's that for math skills, Mr. Hanson!?!? Go f*ck yourself! (Actually, I take that back. He was a nice guy. I just hated Geometry.))

If I had taken that job, I might be a VP today of that same company, or possibly leading the PR efforts of a Fortune 500 company.

13 years ago, if I had taken that internship, today, I might be a producer or a writer on The Jimmy Kimmel Show or working with Adam Carolla (maybe even fetching his laundry!), but instead I chose a TV news internship in San Diego that spring-boarded my career into my childhood dream of being a journalist.

I liked PR while I was doing it for the challenges they presented – I was at a startup that allowed me to experiment with almost unlimited reign – but eventually it got cumbersome as I was telling the same story over and over. With television, I got to live my dream across several markets. I loved it, but also felt the weight of having to report tragedy on a daily basis. It had lost the creativity that I so madly desired.

I've always believed that if you love doing something, the money would eventually come. It's been somewhat true for me. Maybe not enormous amounts of it when you start off, but enough for someone who values experiences over money.

Too many times we say we're going to do something and never get around to it. We make too many excuses. We've been given this miracle of life and I want to try and do everything possible. At a very young age, I was always very conscious of mortality. Then, that fear was put to the test with the passing of my grandparents. Nothing has ever affected me so much. It would be a shame not to see what we're capable of before we're done with this world.

Working on my internet startup, I don't do it to strike it rich. I do it because of the challenges, because I believe in it, believe it'll make a difference, and I do it because of the unique experience. Do I question myself? Do I doubt whether I'm capable? Of course. Almost every day and night. It's that fear that sometimes debilitates me from getting out of bed (and I have a hard time already), but it's also that fear that lets me know I'm vulnerably alive and that I have a new challenge in front of me.

For me, every day has been about self-discovery, pushing the boundaries of what I know about myself and intimately exploring possibilities I'd only envisioned from afar. We have a relatively short time on this earth, why not do as much as we can to exceed all our own expectations? I am constantly pushing, delving – and, yes, failing – but those experiences and the rewards of accomplishing something new can never be measured in dollars.

If I had taken that PR job, no doubt I'd be more rich... but only on paper. I'd also have missed out on all those amazing experiences.

I had a boss once who thought that he could motivate me by fear or money. That's not what I'm about. It never has been.

I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and smile, knowing that I did everything I could to accomplish all I'm capable of. I still have a gaping hole when it comes to love, and I still have a few more dreams out there I'd like to chase, but saying "no" to some of the easiest choices can have you saying "yes" to a lot more in life.

To all out there, I hope that you never look back at life saying, "I wish I had...."

Kevin L.
The SVB

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Do I Choose Bachelor Life Over A Relationship?!?!


I am not a bachelor for life. I repeat. I am not a bachelor for life.

One of the most common misconceptions about me – other than people thinking I just roll out of bed ridiculously good-looking – is that I choose to be a bachelor over being in a committed relationship.

I do not CHOOSE to be a bachelor.

I choose NOT to be in a mediocre relationship.

The problem is that I haven’t found a woman (no offense to those I’ve dated) that has met my combined expectations on physical traits, intellect, personality, and love. Maybe I shouldn't be so demanding, since I'm barely clinging to the bottom rung of life's societal norms, but when you've had tastes of aspects you're looking for, it's hard to go back to anything less.

I do not WANT to be a bachelor.

Just because I’m single doesn’t mean I’m going to spend all my time alone desperately trying to find a match, all while miserable in the process. I may be less conspicuous searching for relationships more meaningful, but it's most-definitely going on (as is the sadness I often feel). If bachelorhood is my given outlook, I’m going to live it to the fullest. I'm not waiting for anyone to travel with. I'm not waiting for anyone to go dancing with. I'm going. I have no apologies. I think this is where the disconnect happens.


I’ll be frank – and for once, blatantly arrogant (as opposed to well-phrased humblebrags) – I am fairly good at courtship, or being a lothario. It’s not because of any kind of manipulation having to do with peacocking, negging, mind games, or cheesy opening lines. I come at women with an open, honest approach. I listen, and above all, I have a good time, and hope those around me jump on board with my singing, dancing, drinking, and joking shenanigans. It’s as simple as that.

But, let me tell you. I AM getting tired.

What I write here on this site is an extension of who I am. I do this to entertain you and myself. Every single thing that I write is an article, or an essay, if you will. It’s not a journal. It’s not a diary.

I enjoy making you laugh.

Ever since Miss Michaels in 5th grade would openly laugh out loud at my short stories and told me that I had “the gift of laughter,” I knew I never wanted to stop making people laugh. It felt good. And I wanted others to feel good too. I love letting myself fall into a world where the variables can be challenged and defined.

This site, blog, whatever you want to call it, has always been about (hopefully) imparting some wisdom through my life experiences. No matter what I write, I always try to give tips to those who may be in need of it, or at the very least, end things on a positive, optimistic note. This site is an extension of my personality. It’s an enhanced version of some aspects of my life that I, myself, find humorous. To those women, my family, my friends, who think that my relationship status is a choice, I adamantly refute your assumption.

Sure, I may perpetuate and embellish the stereotypes I've created for myself around being "The Silicon Valley Bachelor" for comedic gain, but I do not want to be a bachelor forever. I cannot think of anything more tragic than not sharing the joys of life with someone you hold dear. Every time I am truly mesmerized by an experience overseas, I always have a tinge of regret that I'm not experiencing it with someone I love. I see your relationships, your marriages, your births, your beautiful growing families and careers – and while extremely happy for you and proud – I can't help but be sad about my own predicament. I want what those of you in love have.

I've never closed myself off to the possibilities of a monogamous, meaningful relationship. Have I sabotaged some of my own relationships? Yes. But only because I didn't know how to handle things in a more constructive manner. Empathy can be debilitating. But as I get older, I minimize the amount of relationships I begin, in hopes that no one will have to suffer heartache down the line.

I grew up on Hollywood standards, listening to hopeful love songs like MC Hammer's "Have You Seen Her" and more recently, Michael Buble's "Just Haven't Met You Yet", and I never thought I would still be searching for love at this age. Can there be passion in a relationship like those you see in The Notebook? Or Dirty Dancing? Is that only something glamorized on screen, hardly attainable – or sustainable – in real life? Why not? A guy can dream, can't he?

At least in one regard, I'm still that 5th grade schoolboy dreaming and writing stories in Miss Michaels' class. An empty page can be daunting and terrifying, yet wildly optimistic. It's a blank canvas. My love story has yet to be written. In my mind, it has a helluva ending. I'm just waiting to put it all down on paper.

KL

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What the SVB Would Do in a Zombie Apocalypse


Some of you may know that I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre. While The Walking Dead is excellent, I kind of wish they had zombies that sprinted after people, a la Dawn of the Dead – my favorite zombie movie and the one where they live in a mall for a period of time. As a former track & field runner in high school and a bit of college, I just never felt that "walking" zombies could ever catch up to me. Plus, I haven't fallen while walking or running (the number one cause of death in horror flicks) since I was three years old. I'd imagine that Usain Bolt, Adrian Peterson, and I would all be hanging around a campfire together, laughing at how that pregnant lady couldn't run fast enough from those zombies earlier in the day. Then, we would eat the rest of the Cinnabons from the abandoned store before reading magazines at the newstand with Kate Upton's latest photo shoot.

I believe a seemingly fringe horror genre that became the backdrop for the most popular cable television show ever, gains its allegiance of fans because people just want to feel like they're a part of something. A group. A bond. A family. A will to survive. Unlike most other television series, The Walking Dead could be any of us out there. We're not watching lawyers battling it out in the courtroom, police officers on the street, cancer-ridden drug dealers, sociopathic serial killers, mob bosses with families, or any other far-fetched characters, we're watching "seemingly normal" people try and survive, all while examining what they would do in the face of an unparalleled adversity.

While it's been quite some time since I last did a post where I wrote it in screenplay format, here's a throwback envisioning a scenario where a zombie apocalypse is thrust upon us.

ZOMBIE-A-GO-GO
(It's a working title)

Scene 1. Interior of Kevin's Bedroom – 2pm

Kevin is sound asleep. He scratches his butt occasionally. And even though he is deep in stupor, he still unconsciously smells his hand afterwards and giggles.

Scene 2. Exterior of Kevin's House

The sirens of ambulances and police cars are blaring in the distance. Cars are piled on top of each other in a heap of wreckage. People are frantically running everywhere being chased down by blood-thirsty zombies.

Scene 3. Interior of Kevin's Bedroom – 5pm

Sirens blare through the window of his house. The clock shows 5pm. Kevin is sound asleep mumbling something about, "don't put it there, that tickles." He then goes to scratch his butt before smelling his hand.

Scene 4. Exterior of Cupertino – 6pm

The sleepy town of Cupertino is up in smoke. Decay and ruin is everywhere. There are very few cars even operational. A few Asian tiger moms are still shuttling their kids out of SAT prep courses, sprinting between zombies, heading to kumon class.

Scene 5. Interior of Kevin's Bedroom - 7pm

Kevin slowly begins to arise. He checks his phone. There are 796 text messages. Kevin ponders this for a moment.

KEVIN
That seems to be a bit high. I must've slept through two days again.

Kevin puts down his phone and relieves himself in the toilet. He looks at his naked body in the mirror while he's peeing and likes what he sees. He does several flexes before taking a sideways glance at the nice curvature of his buttocks. He knows it's not much, but swears that if he only had a few more pounds on his body, his butt would be rocking. 

After 30 minutes of continued flexing in different poses, pretending he were a Playgirl model, Kevin starts to get a headache and realizes he's hungry. As he goes to the fridge, he sees that it's turned off. He tries to flick on the lights. No luck. Before even attempting to work on the starter box in the garage, he already assumes the worst. He looks out the window. There's smoke and fire everywhere. Zombies amok. 

Kevin calmly pours a bowl of Alpa-Bits cereal because he knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and he'll need some sustenance in his body to survive. While eating, Kevin painstakingly forms child-like words like, "poop" and "boogers," that make you question whether Kevin has had any formal education. After finishing, he goes to the closet and grabs the duffel bag with a label on it that says, "Zombie Apocalypse: It's Time". The bag sits next to one that reads, "You're a Vampire: DVDs of Sunrises and BBQs So That You'll Never Forget". 

Kevin straps on several pieces of hockey gear and covers open areas of his body with shin guards. He walks outside and yawns loudly. Zombies look up from their daze. They sprint at Kevin. Kevin calmly walks to his car. The zombies reach him first. They cannot bite through his protective gear. Kevin talks mad smack to them. 

KEVIN
You ain't sh*t. That's the best you got?!? You trying to tickle me?!? I watch Shark Tank and those guys are way scarier than you! Holy smoke, is that you, Bob? Is your wife still alive? Because she made a pass at me last week. Didn't want to be the one to tell you, but hey, it is what it is. Anyhow, I'll see you guys later. Bob, tell your wife I said hi. 

Kevin gets into his car and drives off, backing over Bob and a few zombies along the way. He casually sings to Carly Rae Jepsons' only hit, Call Me Maybe. He has it on CD. 

Scene 6. Int. Kevin's Car – Dusk

Kevin knows exactly where he's going. He stops at a nondescript house, gets out of the car, heads to the door, before kicking it down dramatically. Screams can be heard from behind the couch. The head pops up of a beautiful woman named, Bianca. 

KEVIN
Come with me, if you want to live.

BIANCA
Who are you? 

KEVIN
That line was from Terminator 2. It was one of the rare sequels that was better than the original. 

BIANCA
Please don't hurt us. It's just me and my parents. 

Two other heads rise up from behind the couch. They seem very frightened.

KEVIN
Don't worry. I won't hurt you. I'm here to help. It's a zombie apocalypse. We're going to be just fine. I've watched Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, I Am Legend, World War Z, and many others that don't deserve mention. I can quote every line from those movies. I got this. But you must...
(Kevin deepens his voice)
Come with me, if you want to live.

BIANCA
Can we pack a bag?

KEVIN
We!?!? Your parents are staying here. They'll be fine. Plus, if your parents came, they would be major cockblockers and it would take you a lot longer to fall in love with me. Eventually, your mom would probably fall in love with me as well, and that would just be weird. Don't worry about them, I brought a can of Chef Boyardee and this Walkie-Talkie so that they can communicate with us at all times. It only works at distances of 100 yards, but you'll have at least five seconds to talk with them before losing range. 

BIANCA
(Turning to her parents)
Mom, Dad, I'll come back for you.

KEVIN
You'll probably never see them again, but we should get going. In retrospect, breaking down your parents' door to the house was a bad move. I've severely handicapped them against a future zombie attack and the roar of the car engine and the unnecessary screeching of tires against the concrete will alert zombies to the area. They're as good as dead. But anyhow, look at me babbling on and on. I'm Kevin, by the way. Have you ever heard that Savage Garden song, "I knew I loved you before I met you..."? I saw you at Whole Foods last week. Followed you home, so technically this is your first time meeting me. But I've seen you many, many times parked right outside there on the street. Anyhow, there's plenty of time for small talk as we forge our new life together in this apocalypse. Let's go!

Bianca takes Kevin's hand and they rush out to his 1986 Buick LeSabre with counter-clockwise spinning silver plastic rims. 

TO BE CONTINUED....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Rise of the Hater


I don't hate on Justin Bieber. I don't hate on Kanye West. I don't hate on Kim Kardashian. I don't hate Michigan. I don't hate the Dodgers. Heck, I don't even hate Richard Sherman. Where I live and who I associate with might tell me otherwise.

If there's anything I appreciate with getting older it's knowing that I don't have to HATE to like. I don't have to hate the Dodgers to like the Giants. I don't have to hate the University of Michigan to like The Ohio State Buckeyes. I don't have to hate on you and what you have to achieve what I want. It's just not who I am. I love people. Why am I going to let hate seep into my heart, my mind, and trickle down into other parts of my life?

Why must people hate to love?

I recently started following Lebron James and Dwayne Wade on Instagram – and I'm not even one of those people who follows celebrities – I just liked their fashion sense and the candid look into their lives. But every time they posted something, every other comment was one that was hating on them. The other day, it was Lebron's Mom's birthday and he posted a sweet caption and a nice picture collage. One of the comments simply stated, "Delonte West lol" (a reference to a former teammate of Lebron's who was rumored to have slept with Lebron's mom). What the f*ck happened for so many people to feel the need to bring someone down and hope for the worst for someone!?! Can't people live their life with graciousness and goodwill?

Don't get me wrong, I have definitely hated at times in my life. I hated my high school basketball coach for cutting me from the JV basketball team. I hated on the people who made the team over me. I hated my old boss. I even hated my old developer, who left my startup high and dry and ruined our friendship along the way. (That one I struggle with the most.)

The problem with hate is that it leaves you bitter. It makes you angry. It makes you resent what someone has and what you don't. It's infectious. It trickles down into your pores. It turns your optimism into pessimism. Hate is ugly.

For people who vent all the time or post hateful remarks on social media (I've blocked you already) – in all honesty – I think that person has a horrible sex life. No joke. I even imagine how awful it must be for that person and their partner. (So, yes, I imagine all of you naked. And it's glorious!)

But, really, I implore you – even if you have this awful sex life – to stop hating. Give a person their props. Or ignore them all together. Live your life free of this infectious hate and free of hurtful envy.

Unfortunately, anytime that someone of color does anything in America, someone is going to make a racist remark on Twitter. Whether it's Jeremy Lin during Linsanity, Nina Davuluri being crowned Miss America, Marc Anthony singing the national anthem at the all-star game, or even Richard Sherman gloating after a game, someone, somewhere is going to be making a hateful, racist remark. (When journalists get bored and lazy, just wait for this link-bait headline: "*So and so does something spectacular – People get racist on Twitter.") It's an easy story, because there's always going to be some haters out there.

You don't have to be that someone.

Thankfully, Facebook will NEVER get a "dislike" button, because Mark Zuckerburg knows that this world is already too filled with haters – particularly in the online, lurker community.

We don't need to hate on people for having things to get what we want. Hating can wear you out. It takes away from you really enjoying your life and those around you.

There are events in your life that are out of your control. And if those events turn out to be a negative in your life, sure, dwell on it for a bit, then let it go. Don't post hate to social media, don't spread that hate, and don't let it eat you up. Do something that is in your control that feels much better.

Like. Love.

You'll see. It feels soooo much better.

KL

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What It's Like to Meet with Tucker Max, The Investor, and Why He Probably Shouldn't Serve on Your Advisory Board


Many of you may know Tucker Max as the callous, crude, and disarmingly honest author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. His tales of sexual revelry in blog format may have even been passed around years ago in your inbox before the publishing of his books. While I found his stories entertaining, I was always more intrigued with Tucker Max, the person, than I was of his sexual conquests. I think the nature of his stories belied his intelligence, uniqueness of his background, and his perception of the world. I admired the cadence of his writing – the setup and timing of his comedic humor.

I reached out to Tucker to join my Advisory Board for On A Map, Inc., in particular, for the value he would bring to our first niche travel site launched: GirlsOnAMap.com, a site that caters to the bachelor traveling demographic. I thought his connections and his audience of "fratire"-loving schenanigans might be of value in spreading the word.

During the process of getting him to agree to sync up on a phone call (which he suggested after a few emails back and forth – win!), I was able to secure another author, and controversial pickup-artist, Roosh V, to join my advisory board. (While I don't agree with much of what Roosh writes, I like differing points of view than mine.) This made it almost redundant to have someone like Tucker on the board. With Roosh, I had someone who could help me deal with some of the unwarranted controversy surrounding GirlsOnAMap, which I documented here. In what manner Tucker might be able to help the company on top of that, I was still diligently researching. But I wasn't about to miss out on an opportunity to pick the mind of someone I admired for his writing prowess and branding. Little did I know, this wouldn't be a two-way conversation.

My preliminary research showed he was actually an active angel investor with over 20 investments – and goals to reach 100 early stage investments by 2018. (His fratire-way of life seemed to be a thing of the past. He is 38, after all.) Our email interactions were about as abrupt as you would expect from the personality in his books. Initially, he sent me to schedule a call with him at $10 a minute on a site called, Clarity.fm. If you're a math man, that's $600 an hour. I truly thought this was genius for a man who commands so much attention.

But, much like I've never paid for a prostitute, I wasn't about to pay someone just to ask him whether I could give him a portion of my company to serve on my advisory board. After a few more emails back and forth, he responded with this gem of an email – which I loved:

Your deck doesn't matter, and I have no desire to go over it. I've seen thousands of decks in my life, they are about as meaningful and realistic as unicorn farts. Here is what matters: 
1. How good is the idea? 2. How big and competitive is the market? 3. MOST IMPORTANT: Can the founder(s) & team execute this idea? 
Most pitch decks don't adequate answer 1 & 2, and I've never really seen a pitch deck that can answer--or even addresses--3.

My responding email led to our call, which you can read here. What I didn't really appreciate about the previous email interactions was his insinuation of how busy he was and how important his time is. We're all busy. I can email Ron Conway – and he's not even an advisor or investor in my company – and expect a gracious reply within a few hours. I know Tucker's time is more valuable than mine – from a monetary standpoint – but it's not necessary to highlight. Tucker also asked for an equity stake of at least 1%, to even "start the discussion," which is something I said I couldn't agree to without at least having a good conversation with someone. (Typical advisory board shares would be .1% to .25%.) Even then, for 1%, they would have to far exceed the typical value of an advisor for me to warrant giving up that much of a company that I have bootstrapped and worked side jobs to sustain.

Before the call, Tucker sent a conference call invite that included four other people:

- Kevin Currie
- Brent Underwood
- Zach Obront
- Jason Camps

Unlike most other investors who CC some partners and colleagues, I initially couldn't figure out who these people were and why they would be on the call. Doing some research, they weren't in the investment world, but came from all different walks of life: real estate, politics, entrepreneurship, and... thought leadership!?!? Tucker has stated in some of his previous posts about his shortcomings and about surrounding himself with intelligent people. I'd imagine these people were filling in the blanks of his expertise. I respect that.

During the call, it was just Tucker and I, as the other four participants were muted. The beginning of the call started out kind of awkward, as I didn't expect there to be any small talk or pleasantries after our email interactions. Plus, for a guy who normally bills $10 a minute, I thought it would just be best if we cut to the chase. So after a bit of silence, I asked, "where do you want to start?" And it was fortunate for me that I wasn't paying, because after 10 minutes he still didn't understand the company. (He understood it from the emails, just not in person, apparently.)

I'll admit, I probably did myself a disservice with Tucker by allotting some of my explanatory time on monetization – which is what most other investors care about. Tucker only wanted to understand this from the point of a consumer. Why would he use this. Why is someone rating pictures from the outset. Why is this a travel startup and not a platform for connecting peers. Why are we different from any of the other travel startups out there.

Frankly, I have great answers for all of these questions, but I take the blame for not conveying it well enough for Tucker to understand. This is a shame, considering I used to make a living telling complicated stories on the news in roughly a minute. When I first came to Silicon Valley, I loathed the jargon and liberal use of acronyms that distanced startups from their actual consumers. In talking to Tucker, I became a victim of the overuse of "jargon," which Tucker related it to as, "not understanding the product," or "trying to hide behind the words."

Like Jerry Maguire, "who had I become?" (Conversely, if I didn't use terms like "SEO" with a Silicon Valley investor, I would probably have my meeting be cut short.)

Then, when it came time for me to ask Tucker some questions on what I wanted out of him, I was flatly rebuffed for asking about his relationships with his current startups, his experiences, and how he's been able to help them grow. For me, this is a similar question I've asked in many job interviews (and almost every single one I got the job), where after being interviewed, I'll ask the direction of the company, where they see the company in five years, what they see my role in the company as and how I'll grow in this position... I think it shows that you want to be invested in the company and they invested in you.

This is what you should expect out of an advisory board member – a mutually beneficial relationship with an open dialogue.

With Tucker, I never felt there was this possibility of open interaction, as he never ceded control of the conversation – constantly cutting me off – even when I interjected to answer his question. I get it though. For someone who writes very opinionated books, he's looked upon to have strong answers. Passivity has never been, or will be a trait of his. And I don't expect that. But I do expect some modicum of respect and – if he were to be an advisory board member – to have an open line of interaction where I didn't feel the pressures of a guy who is currently an "advisor in 7 other startups" and bills $10 a minute.

Who knows? My pitch was definitely not its strongest and me going into the meeting, curious as to what might make him worth 1% of equity, probably didn't stroke his ego enough.

Tucker also flatly refused to leverage his network, his Facebook followers, or "fratire-facing" blog to help. (He has another blog now to focus on his second act in life). So I guess there was no where to go but to say goodbye from there.

I'm not trying to make Tucker out to be an asshole, even though he calls himself that. I think he's just very opinionated and free of bullshit. At the end of the conversation, he did offer words of "wisdom," saying that he thought I was a smart guy, and reiterated repeatedly that he didn't know everything. Even offering up an anecdote about how he could've sought out Evan Williams at SXSW for an investment in Twitter – in its infancy – for an investment, because it was well-known that he was making the rounds. He didn't, which he said cost him maybe $20MM.

Tucker Max might be a decent investor, because his observations on society and trends can be spot on. He's just not a good person if you want someone to listen and then offer feedback. Maybe because so many people expect provocative words out of his mouth, he's lost the ability to sit back, listen, and then offer a thoughtful response.

Maybe his 7 other startups he advises can tell you something different, but he's an intimidating person to corner, and I believe he still loves the sound of his own voice.

In the end, it's true, I came to him. He holds all the cards. Maybe I should just sit down, shut up, and listen. I'm still grateful for the meeting, but came out of it feeling like I needed a Maker's on the rocks. He can do that to you. But for someone who is arguably approached more for his fame, branding prowess and connections, of what value would he be on your board at 1%, much less .1 or .25%, if he isn't willing to use some of that fame to help your company out? But hey, he may have just hated the company, or the way I verbally conveyed it.

Frankly, our growth has been nothing short of respectable as we've been featured in several countries in Marie Claire, Yahoo, MSN, and Elite Daily, amongst others, and I'm very proud of what my team has been able to accomplish.

Like Tupac, I ain't mad. I still find him a fascinating person and wish him the best of luck as an investor.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Love Feels Like


Another year and another round of holiday cards. Not as many as years past – maybe this previous post resonated – or maybe people somehow misplaced my address (definitely plausible after 7 years of living in the same house). The truth is, I actually kind of love those holiday cards. Because it's a reminder that my closest friends have found that elusive thing that continues to elude me. Love.

I always keep my holiday cards on the fridge. (So after I get over being disappointed in my food options, I can add a heap of emotional emptiness as well.)

What truly gets me about those cards when I stand there, bored, pounding some whiskey while I pre-party (by myself in the kitchen before bed), is imagining the amount of love needed to get down on one knee and ask someone to spend the rest of their life with you. What is that like!?!? That once-in-a-lifetime (for some) feeling that culminates one aspect of your life and begins the most important. When not gelling my hair, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about this. Would it ever happen to me!?!?

For someone who is known for giving in to whims and primal urges with little coercion, this is something that I have never done or been able to fathom. In fact, it's probably even more shocking if you've ever partied with me and witnessed some of the bad decisions I make when intoxicated. Surely, there must have been a proposal in there somewhere! (Although, I don't count proposals made to sweet old Mexican ladies when ordering late night food at burrito joints. I probably do that every weekend, but those were not on bended knee. Or under a lucid mind.)

I'm not saying that I've never loved any of my ex-girlfriends – there's different levels of love – what I'm saying is that I've never felt the kind of transcendent love that epitomizes our society-influenced idea of what love should be. In a much easier way to grasp, the kind of love that would make you choose to float in freezing water... all the way to death(!), while your love interest gets to lay on a bed headboard, just out of the icy water's reach. (You couldn't have taken turns?!?! Or maybe try to share for a bit?!?! Leo taught you how to SPIT LIKE A MAN, for pete's sake!!!)

That's the love I want to feel. One where I freeze to death for someone.

At 35, few friends of mine have yet to cross that threshold of love, marriage, and children. Every year my ranks get just a little bit thinner and a whole heck of a lot lonelier. Even the old high school friends I made in 7-Eleven parking lots have grown up and started to take the plunge! Countless nights I've wondered if my standards were just too high or that I might suffer from some compulsive disorder where I'll never be satisfied. The reasons I've used for ending relationships are just too abundant and shallow – and rather embarrassing – to list.

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed my single lifestyle, but I still remember that God-awful moment when I knew how empty my life could be.

But... I'm glad I waited and fought through parental pressure and my moments of doubt. I envisioned meeting that someone. I envisioned what that might feel like. And it's a standard that I haven't compromised. I'm not saying I know what love feels like. I don't. But I have a glimpse of what it can be. And it's wonderful. Wonderful and scary. It's a vulnerability that can destroy your foundation. A carefully constructed foundation built on a whimsical lifestyle, and made to sustain – even in disappointment.

I don't always know exactly who I am – and building upon that is one of the great joys in life – but deep down I think I've always known exactly who I've wanted. Someone strong and brilliant. My version of Erica Barry.

I wish you all the best in 2014. But what I wish the most is that you find the highest level of love. And for those who have, never take it for granted. It's escaped me for many years. And I hope this is the year I can make plans to join my friends on fridges and fireplace mantels everywhere – giving a big, fat finger to all those lonely, single schmucks around the world. Thank you for your holiday cards.

Sincerely,
Kevin L.
SVB