My Reviews: Be My Guest by Conrad Hilton

Be My Guest

I picked up this book because Hilton Hotels have been wonderful to me. From employment to my travel adventures, it’s been a life changing experience. So the next logical step (to me) was to hear the story of the “RuPaul” of hotels. After all, even TIME Magazine called him the Innkeeper to the World:

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Conrad Hilton (or “Connie” as he was more commonly known by during his lifetime) is quite a man. Given the time period in which he was growing up and active, I was surprised to see how much of him I can relate to.

Connie was born on Christmas Day, 1887 in rural New Mexico. He was the son of a Norwegian immigrant father, and a devoutly catholic mother. Before starting his Hilton Hotels chain, he had his hand in many different industries and jobs. He operated a general store, ran for and served as a political representative, and was seriously interested in owning a bank when he stumbled into hotels quite by accident.

“There was a vastness here, more air, more sun, more space, and I thought that here a man drew some of that vastness into his soul He could dream big dreams, think big thoughts because there was nothing to hem him in.”

The above quote is from when he was beginning to expand his business contacts, still running the store with his father. He is talking about the vastness of Texas and New Mexico at the end of the 1800’s.

This is almost literally what I felt Vermont was when I first moved there, and what I expect Texas will be like in 2018. A new frontier gives a person room to breathe, room to dream. This is one of Connie’s recurring themes – the power to dream. He was always dreaming, thinking of the next big thing for himself. Before hotels, his greatest dream was a bank. Once he realized that hotels were his “thing” the Waldorf Astoria in New York was his “mountaintop” dream. He repeatedly referred to the Waldorf as his “queen.”

“Now bargaining was – and is – a very personal thing with a great deal of tradition behind it. You have to know the rules. But if you do, and have a zest for it a good bargaining bout between well matched opponets can be as exciting as a major leauge ball game. The trick is to know the value of an article to learn to regard a price tag so that it is flexible – not of course, staples like salt or coffee, but on such items as feathed hats or coffins. The buyer is entitled to a bargain. The seller entitled to a profit. So there is a fine margin in between where the “price is right.” I have found this to be true to this day whether dealing in paper hats, winter underwear, or hotels.”

Hilton was an expert businessman, no doubt about it. It’s these little nuggets of wisdom that really show how he thought. It’s knowledge like this that you only really get by going out into the world and digging your hands into it.

Bargaining in particular is a skill that I never acquired as a child, nor even really understood until very recently. A former roommate of mine relied on it heavily, so I first started seeing it in action in 2014. Hilton’s insight on the topic is superb.

“After feeding and tying the mules I’d put on bacon and coffee, the two most comforting smells I know, and huddle over the campfire.”

Anyone who knows me knows how important coffee and bacon is to me. Glad to see Hilton felt the same way. Connie goes on to mention the traditional importance of drinking a cup of coffee with someone in Turkey, and what a different world we would live in if that tradition was shared in America and worldwide.

Hilton had moved to Texas towards the beginning of his quest for expansion and growth. He was in Cisco, TX looking to purchase a bank in 1919 when the deal fell through. As the deal was failing, he found a 40-room hotel called the Mobley (which still stands today) and he purchased it when he couldn’t get a room for the evening. The Mobley Hotel was doing so much business that it was turning over every room three times per day, the dining area had been converted into extra rooms, and Hilton was sleeping in his office.

“It was a paradox. I was home, yet it wasn’t home. I was the same man, but changed. I had gained a vision of a wide, wide world beyond my native river, my native state. My former dreams bound up in past limitations.”

After spending time in Vermont and being so far away from everything I knew, this is also the frame of mind I felt about my then-new state. Hilton’s quote here is the heart of why I think it’s good for everyone to leave the place they were born at some point while they are young and go out and see the world. It really changes your perspective and deepens you.

(Conrad’s Mother) “You’ll have to find your own frontier, Connie” When I hesitated she added, “A friend of your father’s; a great pioneer, once said, ‘If you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.'”

Connie’s mother, Mary Laufersweiler Hilton was a driving influence in his life. Throughout the entire book he references how her Catholic beliefs shaped his own faith, and she really helped drive him forward.

“Go to Texas, Connie, and you’ll make your fortune!” – Mr. Vaughey

No wonder Hilton College is in Texas! Seriously though – it wasn’t until after he transitioned to Texas that he began to to accomplish his major life goals.

On esprit de corps: “Pride plus incentive. Wages won’t do the whole job. We had to sell the idea that our men belonged to the best durn outfit in the A.E.F. and they were the ones who made it that way.”…”Self interest plus pride added up to increased efficiency and we simply blossomed with esprit de corps.”

This right here is the Heart Of Hilton. Hilton prides itself as being a great place to work, and there’s sound reasoning behind that. It was a vision of Hilton himself to give every single one of his employees a reason to believe in the company they were working for. This started with the very first Hilton Hotel, the Mobley in 1919. I personally make it a point to be proud of my job, no matter where I am, and I feel like Hilton is the first company to back that idea from their side. This is a beautiful sentiment that I think more companies should adopt. Furthermore, Forbes has consistently put Hilton on the list of 100 Best Places To Work.

Hilton is the first company that I’ve ever had the idea to want to one day say “I gave 30+ years of my life to that company.” These days, people jump ship for various reasons, always thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. Hilton showed his employees that it won’t be true because they will make the company they believe in the best of all.

“I thought I was about the luckiest fellow there was. Funny, I think so still. I do believe in luck. But the kinds I believe in has to do with people, and being in the right place at the right time, and receptive to new ideas.

All of this right here. I believe in these words; luck has little to do with universal “magic” per se, but rather understanding how people function, what people need, and what drives them. Hilton went to great lengths to understand other people, be it during business dealings or romantic pursuits. Understanding people and their needs is a cornerstone of any service, and Hilton shows that throughout his book.

“I think maybe the fact went to my head a little. I think maybe I was verging on complacent self-satisfaction and I do not know of any single thing that will halt a business career so rapidly. A further facet of my “luck” has always been that, when I was riding a little too high, something or someone dragged me back to earth again.”

“I realize now that there has never been a war without casualties, never a true victory, for something treasured has been lost on both sides.”

Even Kai once said that “we should never rest on our laurels.” This is one more pillar that Hilton understood, and learned from. It’s too easy to get comfortable and get knocked down. I have gone through many a breakthrough myself. Loss and defeat helps to make us stronger as people and as professionals, and the great depression provided that life lesson to Hilton. He lost nearly all of the hotels he had acquired at that point, and had to fight his way to holding onto the rest.

“As I believe in my own faith, as I believe in America, so I honestly believe that brotherhood is the platform on which a lasting peace must be built – in business, in a nation, in the world at large.”

Hilton believed in other people. These words may have been written back in 1957, but they ring true today. America is a wonderful country, and we only got to be so great by the brotherhoods (and sisterhoods) that we’ve formed amongst ourselves. Recently America has felt divided, and it’s very disheartening. I make it a personal point to place myself in everyone else’s shoes and my own faith involves listening to and empathizing with others.

Conrad Hilton lays out his blueprint for hotel success right in his book in pretty explicit detail. His seven point plan can be summarized as follows:

  1. Each hotel mush have it’s own personality. (This is routinely asked in the guest surveys from each hotel of guests to see if they can notice the personality.)
  2. Hotels should be able to forecast their volume.
  3. Mass purchasing. (Of materials and supplies)
  4. “Digging for gold.” (This means utilizing every inch of space to maximize it’s use in each hotel.)
  5. Training good employees.
  6. Sales efforts.
  7. The advantage of inter-hotel reservations. (This has evolved into the Hilton Honors program)

“I believe that idealism can be practical, as I explained. ‘I work for our stockholders,’ I said. ‘I am in business to make money for them. All right, here’s the way I see it as a hotel man. The world is shrinking. What used to be a month-long vacation trip is now almost a week-end possibility. Businessmen can cover far-off territories. The airplane is here to stay. Americans not only can but want to travel farther, see more, do more, in less time. This is progress and the hotel business must progress right with it…Today you can fly over a whole string in a few hours. If we were to set our hotels a day’s journey apart, we’d be around the world in no time. So perfectly sound business is in line with national idealism.”

Hilton’s vision outlined about to his board of directors back in the 1950’s sounds very much like today’s world. It’s within this vision that I can personally see 1/5th of the whole country in just a few months. Hilton saw his hotels as an integral part of the American dream, and even references that they stand as an argument against communism, which was much more of a threat in the 1950’s when the book was written.

Thank you, Conrad Hilton, for this amazing journey through your life. I’ve been your guest, and now I’m inviting everyone I know to #BeMyGuest!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas A. Condie

My Travels: Hampton Inn Providence, RI

Sign at the entrance to HamptonSign at the entrance to Hampton

What led me to this Hampton?

This was still at the beginning of my travel life. I had only Silver Status as a Hilton Honors member, so I knew the “focused service” level brands were going to be my first stepping stones. I wasn’t ready to shoulder additional costs for breakfast and whatnot at the time I was in Providence. Two of Hampton’s signature brand benefits are free hot breakfast, and free WiFi.

This particular Hampton does not offer free parking, but I’m in the middle of a known US city – parking typically isn’t free when you are at this level of urban. I’m always mystified by people who think they can get free parking in a hotel with a hot location. (A regular complaint at both hotels I worked at.)

My other choices at the time were Hilton Garden Inn, or flagship Hilton, both of which would have netted me an extra cost for breakfast on top of my room rate and parking. (In hindsight: parking is cheaper at both of those options, so that could have offset my costs. Location would have been another thing to consider. Forgive me, this was still early in my travel experience!)

The number one thing that drew me here though: the coveted #1 spot on the TripAdvisor rankings (sorted by traveler ranking). I will say, this hotel has been endorsed by The New York Times.

From my TripAdvisor Review:

There’s a good reason why this hotel is rated in the top of Providence – it’s quality is superb! The hotel is an older building, so the history really gets to shine through, but Hampton’s standards are clearly present.

Erin was warm & welcoming – and granted me the PRIVILEGE of a 2 PM check in (typically starts at 4 PM), and was helpful with some of my area questions.

Valet was a little overwhelmed on Saturday night, but pleasant during the rest of my stay. The secret behind the $28/night cost is making sure to take advantage of the shuttle (which is by appointment). For the most part, I kept my car secured on property and took the shuttle where I needed to go.

Bob the shuttle driver in particular is super friendly, knowledgeable, and great to chat with. Alisha was another fine example of hospitality – welcomed me back in the evenings and also wonderful to talk with!

Historic letterbox inside the building.Historic letterbox inside the building.
Mail drop on the 6th floor.Mail drop on the 6th floor.

Hampton offers free hot breakfast which always great, and they do rotate out meat selections from day to day.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Reviews: The Chocolate War

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The Chocolate War is one of my two all time favorite pieces of literature. (The other being Inherit The Wind) Now that I re-read it recently, I figured it’s time to write a post explaining how much this book means to me.

The Plot

The main storyline of the book revolves around high school freshmen Jerry Renault. It’s sometime in the 1980’s and he goes to a private Catholic school. Jerry has just experienced his mother passing away from cancer, and his father moved him out of their house and into an apartment because they couldn’t deal with the memories of her around every corner.

Jerry is a skinny kid but wants to be a football star someday, so he’s trying out for the team and pushing himself to succeed there.

Archie Costello is the antagonist, although there’s a handful of moments from his point of view. Archie acts as a ringleader in a gang in the school called the Vigils. The Vigils act as a “control” in the school – an underground organization that bullies kids into doing prank-like “assignments.” Archie is the one who creates the assignments and uses psychological warfare to make his victims carry out their tasks.

The conflict (and title of the book) arises when Archie assigns Jerry the task of refusing to sell Chocolates for 10 days in the annual school chocolate sale. Not wanting to be bullied, Jerry accepts the assignment but then continues to deny the Chocolate sale after his assignment is up. This causes other students to rebel against the sale, while unbeknownst to them the acting headmaster is counting on the sale to save the school and his own reputation.

Characters

Jerry Renault represents very accurately who I was when I was his age – 15. Jerry lived through his mother’s passing from cancer, I lived through my father’s passing from cancer at that age as well. Jerry was just starting to come into his sexuality, and I was just starting to understand mine at that point. Although Jerry went after girls, whereas I did not. Jerry starts with a poster in his locker that reads, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Back when I was 15, I was so trapped in my own universe and had no concept of the real one outside my window. After I turned 18, I slowly began to disturb the universe, and move around in it, much like Jerry ends up doing over the course of the book.

I found myself relating to Jerry at my original reading of the book, but didn’t see just how similar he and I were at the time.

“The exhilaration of the moment vanished and he sought it in vain, like seeing ecstasy’s memory after jacking off and only encountering shame and guilt.”

All of the references to masturbation went completely over my head when I read this in 8th grade, but they are glaringly obvious to me now. This book follows teenage boys just developing into their sexuality, and I came into my own about 2 years after I first read this book.

Archie is more complicated. Whereas Jerry is a freshman, Archie is a senior, and closer to 18. Archie has a much more adult mentality.

“Archie believed in always doing the smart thing. Not the thing you ached to to, not the impulsive act, but the thing that would pay off later. That’s why he was the assigner. That’s why the Vigils depended on him.”

Archie strikingly reminded me of Draco Malfoy the first time I read the book, and he still does to this day. Archie is a true Slytherin type – resourceful with a disregard for the rules. Archie is also a puppet master, able to adapt any chaos thrown at him and control everyone and everything around him. The 15-year-old Lukas saw him as a villain, but the present Lukas sees where that kind of personality is truly a life skill to have. While Archie is obviously not a Harry Potter character, he’s a Slytherin I relate to in present day. Many times throughout the book he feels the controlling thought of “I am Archie, I cannot fail.” Another one of Archie’s lessons, from the sequel, Beyond The Chocolate War:

“The point is nobody’s perfect. There’s always a flaw. A secret. Something rotten. Everybody has something to cover up. The nice man next door is probably a child molester. The choir singer a rapist. Look at all the unsolved murders. Which means the man standing in line next to you could be a murderer. Nobody’s innocent.”

Much of Milo Yiannopulous reminds me of Archie, which is probably a subconscious reason why I’m so drawn to Milo as a person/speaker. Archie also strongly reminds me of Kai Hiwatari, an anime character I idolized during my high school and early college years. Archie has a lot of lone wolf characteristics in him; to quote from the sequel Beyond The Chocolate War:

“No response, no echo. Which is what he wanted; to be alone, separate from the others, untouchable except by the knowing hands and mouths of the girls at Miss Jerome’s.”

Also:

“Archie realized anew why he kept himself distant from people. Let them approach a bit and they come too close, take too many liberties.”

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Themes & Motifs

More of Archie’s thoughts:

“It was good to have people hate you – it kept you sharp.”

And Archie’s thoughts from the sequel, Beyond the Chocolate War:

“Everybody likes the smell of his own shit.”

Archie pulls some thoughts out of the mentality from another book I enjoy, Lord Of The Flies. He speaks the following to the leader of the Vigils, Carter:

“You see Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel. So we have a perfect setup here. The greed part – a kid pays a buck for a chance to win a hundred. Plus fifty boxes of chocolates. The cruel part – watching two guys hitting each other, maybe hurting each other, while they’re safe in the bleachers. That’s why it works Carter, because we’re all bastards.”

This mentality plagued the characters of Lord Of The Files as well. I was still very much an innocent little kid when I first read this in 8th grade, but I’ve definitely seen too much of the world to deny this thought on my own now. I’ve seen the overwhelming greed and cruelty from far too many people at this point, it really makes you lose faith in your fellow human. I’d even add to this: distracted. While people watching at the airport during the holiday season in 2016, I saw the vast majority of people only looking at their phones, or so wrapped up in their moments that they were leaving bags unattended, or dropping things and just walking away. Every day I see people fail to read documents agreeing to financial transactions that they don’t bother to even look at. People give their credit cards over the internet to criminals and scams that they don’t even realize are fake. I’ve seen people kill & hurt over their greed and desire for drugs. Forensic FilesNumb3rs, and other crime shows reveal so much about the negative side of the human psyche.

The 2016 election (and it’s consequences) has been a great example of so many people devoting their lives to their political beliefs, wearing them on their shoulders, having a self-righteous attitude about them, but then refusing to act when it comes time to vote, or work gracefully with others when their team has lost. (I used to be that person once upon a time.) In particular, the UC Berkeley riots over Milo were gut-wrenching to read about.

I have seen so much that people complain about problems in the world, but are doing absolutely nothing to change them. Too many have come to believe that sharing a picture on Facebook will feed a starving person, fill up a blood donation bank, get someone trapped in an abusive relationship to safety, get someone off their drug addiction, and so much more. If you want to see good things happen in the world, you have to go out and do good. You really do have to be the change you wish to see in the world.

Humanity has good moments, but as life continues these moments get increasingly rare. I have a harder time each passing year believing that people will do the right thing.

Carter’s reaction to Archie’s explanation:

“Carter disguised his disgust. Archie repelled him in many ways but most of all by the way he made everybody feel dirty, contaminated, polluted. As if there were no goodness at all in this world. And yet, Carter had to admit that he was looking forward to the fight, that he himself had bought not one, but two tickets.”

Even Jerry realized what Archie’s mentality does when it infects people:

“A new sickness invaded Jerry, the sickness of what he has become, another animal, another beast, another violent person in a violent world, inflicting damage, not disturbing the world but damaging it. He had allowed Archie to do this to him.”

Jerry has started his journey in the book with a poster in his locker that had the phrase, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Jerry ponders this before deciding to take his refuse the chocolates assignment further than he was supposed to, thus going against the Vigils gang and disturbing the universe that is Trinity School.

Other characters’ views of the world are ripped apart by Archie and Brother Leon, the teacher who is the grown-up version of Archie. From the mind of another student, who was just blackmailed by the acting headmaster:

“And he did see-that life was rotten, that there were no heroes, really, and that you couldn’t trust anybody, not even yourself.”


I do like to hope though, that I don’t make people feel dirty, contaminated, & polluted. Archie falls into the evil side of the spectrum because he uses this outlook on life to inflict harm onto others. For me, I take this worldview and use it as a way to find compassion for others. We all have our sins to bear, our battles to fight, or opponents to defeat. I have a dim view of humanity these days, and it makes those who are kind, loving, and warm all the more special.


Another bully at the school, Emile Janza has a moment where he describes his view of people & life:

“He found that the universe was full of willing victims, especially kids his own age…….Nobody wanted trouble, nobody wanted to make trouble, nobody wanted a showdown. The knowledge was a revelation. It opened doors. You could take a kid’s lunch, or even his lunch money and nothing usually happened because most kids wanted peace at any price.”

Emile is one of the more true villains in the story. He inflicts brutal beatings on other kids, and is the physical torment to compliment Archie’s psychological torment to others in the school. Emile is the kid I was always scared to run into when I was young, and still fear to an extent even now.

Another thought Jerry has about the universe and the people within it (about his father in this particular example):

“Listening to his father’s snores, he thought of how his father was actually sleeping his life away, sleeping even when he was awake, not really alive…..What was it the guy on the common had said the other day?….You’re missing a lot of things in the world.”

This strongly sums up how I feel much of this world is, even more so today than I did when I first read it. Jerry sees that his father is worse than just grieving over the loss of his wife/Jerry’s mother, but going so far as to have become an empty shell in life. Part of what makes me a UU is to listen to the life stories of others and hear them talk about their dreams, their hopes, their passions. I’ve met people who, like Jerry’s father is portrayed in Jerry’s mind, have no passion. They are walking through lives as an empty shell. They have no desire, no energy.

Harry Potter teaches us to pity those who are incapable of love (i.e. Voldemort’s of the world), The Chocolate War shows that it’s also the people with no souls & passions for life that need to be loved and cared for as well.

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The Chocolate War resonates with me just as strongly now as it did back in 2001. Many of the life views it shows are ones I’ve been carrying with me for some time now, and will continue to do so.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts: Life After Vermont

Vermont has been everything that I dreamed it would be. But I am not destined to spend the rest of my life here.

I’m going to start with the positives. Vermont has brought me out of my comfort zone, and opened my mind to new ways of looking at life. I came here claiming it’s the “Wisconsin of the north east” and while I still believe that, there are a ton of differences here that I never envisioned. The hospitality and warmth of the people here is just as much as that famous “Midwestern hospitality” that I grew up with. I’ve met some great folks who have taken me under their wings and shown me some beautiful things about this state.

Vermont’s beauty truly rivals the beauty that I loved so dearly of central Wisconsin. Everything that I thought I would experience as a resident of Waupaca I feel as though I have experienced here. Vermont ended up satisfying the “countyside” in me so much that I’ve started to yearn for a bigger city.

I managed to finally achieve something higher than my high school diploma. CCV was a wonderful experience, and while I didn’t “Bianca Del Rio” it, I came fairly close.

UVM would have been wonderful. But unfortunately things didn’t work out. Two different departments advised me that the only way to get in-state tuition at UVM was if I submitted a birth certificate from Vermont, a marriage license from Vermont, or a property deed from Vermont. Because I didn’t have any of those, tuition would have been $19,000 per semester for me. I applied for private loans, knowing the big hole that would put me in (roughly $82,000 for two years worth of school!) and in the end I was denied. What I take away from the experience was that I was still accepted to UVM, so a public ivy league was willing to give me a chance. For the longest time I never believed I was capable of anything big, at it was a nice glimmer of hope. It gave me a renewed sense to try again.

The gay community here is so much smaller than Milwaukee. It’s also much closer knit than Milwaukee or even Chicago’s was. I can definitely appreciate that everyone knows each other but at the same time, it’s hard to break into that circle. I was also a little disappointed to find that the annual Pridefest in a state that has practically led the nation in LGBT equality was only a single Sunday afternoon, compared to the whole three-day weekend that Milwaukee throws each year. Again, I would imagine that it has more to do with the smaller community than anything else.

So what’s next?

For the longest time I was looking at Portland, Oregon. I made several references to moving there and was following some local news. It seemed like the perfect fit. What killed my interest in it however, were the riots that broke out there after the 2016 election. The fact that so many people would cause so much ruckus and harm over Trump, while they admitted they didn’t vote in the election just left a sour taste in my mouth. The other piece that Portland was missing was the concept of me finishing a bachelor’s degree.

When I came to Vermont, I wasn’t honestly sure how my education was going to play out. I knew that CCV was my first stop no matter what because of my record at Parkside, but I honestly didn’t have a plan for what to do when I got to UVM. Finding out that Business required Calculus just to qualify for the major, I panicked and tried to come up with plan B. Luckily, I really started to enjoy my time at my first hotel, and started to wonder if there was something more too it. When I got to really taste the hospitality industry at the Hilton level, I really started to believe more and more that this could be the kind of career advancement I have been searching for.

I just wanted to quickly add: when I lost my spot at UVM, I definitely had a good long thought about even trying to finish my bachelors. I have been disappointed in myself for not finishing in 4 years, although I’m comforted to know that it’s becoming the national average for 20-year-olds to spend more than 4 years working on their degree. What changed my mind about it was actually a book I read in my final year at Parkside, titled What Is The Purpose Of A Banana? It’s written by a man who went for his doctorate degree, just to prove he could do it. Obviously a bachelor’s degree would open up so many doors for me, but I’ve reached the point in my life where I want to prove to myself that I can finish my bachelor’s more than what the degree can do for me.

All my hotels had planted the idea in my head of going for a bachelor’s in hospitality management. UVM didn’t offer that program, and the closest they could come would have been Parks, Rec, & Tourism. Not a bad program, but considering the price tag it wasn’t going to be worth it. I found out that both of the hotels closest to my heart had founders with colleges named after them. Days Inn, started by Cecil B Day is reflected in the Cecil B Day School of Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University, and Conrad Hilton is honored in the Conrad Hilton School Of Hospitality Management at the University of Houston.

Now, both of these colleges are located in the South. Everyone who has met me knows how important having four seasons is a year is to me, and going to either of these colleges would break a 28+ year mental tradition. While I have absolutely enjoyed my experience with Days Inn, I am more attracted to the luxury of the Hilton brand. Houston is a far bigger city compared to Atlanta. Tuition for the Hilton College of Management is actually thousands of dollars less expensive than the Cecil B Day College. Hilton offers so much more to it’s own employees as well. There’s a reason they have consistently won the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For award. I keep telling anyone who asks that my experience at Hilton Garden Inn is “my Drag Race” and “this is my going on TV to compete for $100,000.” I think that getting the Hilton College stamp of approval & bachelor’s degree would be me “winning” my “Drag Race.”

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From this, I’ve been doing a scan of the Houston area. I’ve been asking the exact same questions I asked myself 4 years ago about Vermont: Can I live here? Would I be happy here? What does this area have that I don’t have here? What is the purpose in moving there? And so on, and so on. No matter what, I know that when I leave Vermont I want it to be a completely new-to-me area of the country. I want to go through the experience of starting at square one and building myself up again. It’s a challenge that I think has really shaped my ability to be an adult, and I want to grow like that again. I can already tell you which places I’d like to work at in Houston, I have three different apartment finding apps giving me a general feel for the cost of rent, and I’m looking into daily life like grocery stores and gas stations I’d be frequenting. I’m also watching the weather forecasts there regularly enough to get a feel of what it’s really like.

Being Houston, the events I’d want to see would all likely be making a stop there – The Welcome To Nightvale live shows, HUMP & Savage Love Live by Dan Savage, and live performances by more of the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of these big shows that feel so out of reach to me in Vermont would become accessible again. I’ve even peeked in at the Houston UU church to get an idea of what being a regular member there would be like.

Furthermore, with my own political views shifting (note that I consider Milo Yiannopulous to be an icon of mine), Houston would be an ideal spot to grow on that more. Not that Vermont political parties aren’t active, but I feel like I’d have a more involved learning experience in volunteering for the Harris County parties. There’s also much more selection for community theaters in Houston as well, plus a wider range of professional theaters to enjoy. I’ve been patiently keeping my stage management days on hiatus, but I’d like to go back to them someday. Being in a hotel where I’d have a set schedule (of sorts) I also feel like I’m in the right industry to go back into community theater again. I still stand by that it’s a great hobby to stage manage, since it wasn’t going to be a career for me.

In an ideal world, I’d like to celebrate my 30th birthday at the start of my post-Vermont life. Since 30 opens the door to a new decade, I’d like that decade to start in a new location for me.

And that’s where I currently stand on my future.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Seasons

I am the kind of person that needs four seasons in a year.

Why do I need four seasons? It’s because I have a need for constant change, constant evolution. The changing of the seasons is a perpetual reminder that time moves forward and we are always growing and moving on. Each season is special, but also finite.

I’ve noticed that many people in this world can’t stand cold and snow. If they are born in an area of the country where it’s a normal occurrence, they complain about it and hate it whenever it happens. I love it, in it’s time. I chose to move to Vermont from Wisconsin because I still need that time of year where the ground is covered in snow, the chill exists in the air, and the peaceful silence is there for reflection.

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Winter is my favorite time of the year to go outside walking. It’s great for reflecting, for listening, for stillness and getting rid of stresses in peace. Poetically, it’s a metaphor for death – the end of a previous life. We celebrate the end of each year during the winter (at least, in my hemisphere of the globe). During winter I like balsam and cedar candles, wood scents, peppermint in my coffee.

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Spring is the poetic metaphor for birth. It’s a time when the light is coming back. It’s a time for the green grass to take over again. It’s a time for new beginnings, the birth of a garden. For me, spring is captured in the floral scented candles, images of flowers, caramel and sweet creamers in my coffee. Spring is also often “the penultimate test” for me, because it ends with school graduations. Having spent so much of my life surrounded by academia, I’ve always though of spring as “the end” of a year, which is why I’m always telling people that my “New Year’s Day” is somewhere between May and June.

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Summer is the metaphor for life. It represents happiness and joy to so many people. It’s the “normal” for much of the world, and it’s what those who hate the cold dream of every day of their lives. I capture it in citrus scented candles, lemonades on the porch, hazelnut creamers in coffee. Summer is always the beginning of the year to me, both because it’s just after the end of a school year, and also because my own birthday is toward the later end of the season. The older I get, the more I appreciate summer’s warmth and beauty. Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up in a place where it’s summer all year long?

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Fall is the most beautiful season to me. In poems it represents dying and decay, but the colors and energy are so vibrant that it’s hard for me to picture it that way. Fall feels more like a beginning (once again, because of my academic life always starting in September), and I capture it in the cinnamon and apple candle scents, the cinnamon and spices in my coffee creamers, and the sheer beauty of the land around me. The real privilege of living in Vermont is the absolute painting of the landscape around me in the fall. I’ve been awestruck by how much of a firework show is put on by nature during the months of fall.

At this point in my life, I can’t picture living in a place without the changing of the seasons, just like the changing of the guards.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Vermont

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The original version of this post was written in January 2014, and I’ve preserved that underneath my addition. A second post was written less than a month after I arrived to explain why I chose Vermont. That’s also preserved below.

Vermont has been very good to me so far. I’ve seen state parks, I’ve had two different jobs, learned about a whole new industry, and successfully made my way back into school. Vermont has been both exactly what I expected, and not at all like what I expected at the same time.

What I expected was the feeling of a fresh start. I’ve made an entirely different set of friends since I moved here, I’ve lived in both an apartment with a formal landlord and a house with landlords who have also been counted as friends. Vermont has given me the chance to live out my Waupaca dream, in a rural setting where I can go out walking at night and not have to worry about being mugged or killed.

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What I didn’t expect was to find a diverse group of people and experiences. People say that Vermont is “granola and liberal” but I’ve found much of the opposite. “Liberal” and “conservative” also have different implications here. I was used to “conservative” being associated with “anti-gay” whereas here, gay and straight people are very integrated. Gun culture is huge – most people own a gun and know how to use it. I feel like hunting is bigger here than it is in Wisconsin, and that’s saying something. There are more options for healthier food sources, but it’s not as pushed as it appears to be on the internet. Vermont still has an Olive Garden, several McDonald’s, and plenty of other junk food places, alongside the Healthy Living, Trader Joe’s, and organic sections in the grocery stores.

I used to think that “being stuck” where one grew up was a Wisconsin small town thing, but it’s everywhere. There’s plenty of people who were born and raised here that never left the town they grew up in. Some people are happy with that, others complain about it. It’s a fact of life. I got sick of being one of the complainers, which is why I made the decision to move.

I’m starting to see the world a little differently as I continue to spend time here. I hear stories of, and have met people who lived in rural trailer parks, people who knew heavy drug users, people who go back and forth from Canada to their homes on a regular basis, people who can guzzle hand-tapped maple syrup like it’s water. Most folks out here are county-oriented, and love the outdoors; skiing, hiking, camping and the like.

I haven’t fully decided what I’m going to do after I get my bachelors. There are parts of Vermont that I love and there are parts that I’ve definitely had my fill of. At the end of the day, Vermont was the right choice for me in 2014, but who knows where life will bring me come (presumably) 2018.

Respectfully re-submitted,

Lukas Condie

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(Originally posted, May 2014)

Since so many people ask why I have come to Vermont, I’m making a post about it.

Reasons to be in Vermont:

  • Legal Equality.
    • If I do plant my roots here, I won’t even have to worry for a moment about getting married and having kids.
  • State natural beauty.
    • Vermont is one of the greenest and earth-friendly areas I know of.
  • To experience state culture.
    • Vermont has a uniqueness to it that really interests me, as someone who is proud of my own uniqueness.
  • The UU Church.
    • I have so much of my own spiritual journey in front of me.
      And in general it’s a place for me to start again. I lost my ambition and passion about 4 years ago, but have found it again here.

My goals to work towards while I am a Vermont resident:

Health

  • Achieve a goal weight of 165 pounds.
  • Create and maintain a balanced diet, including recognizing and utilizing proper portion sizes.
  • Expand my palette so that I can understand food in different cultures.
  • Walk/Jog 2 miles a day.

Finance

  • Pay off my Credit Card, and close that account.
  • Put money away to go back to college.
  • Put away six month’s worth of income in savings.
  • Know my credit score and continue to work to improve it.
  • Apply for a charge card to continue working with my credit rating, but not fall into a debt cycle again.

Education

  • Finish my bachelor’s degree, after re-starting with Community College.
  • Polish and continue to improve my online article database.
  • Manage and execute a proper reading list.
  • Continue to polish and improve my online skills, starting with blogging and continuing through all social networking.

Culture

  • Define a list of TV Shows and Movies that I have backlogged to view.
  • Define myself, my needs, and my ideas more completely.
  • More specifically, develop my identity and passions more fully.
  • Create and execute my own unique adult fashion style.
  • Refine what social networking means to me, which ones I use, and which ones I will grow with.
  • Learn how to shoot a gun.
  • Define Project #BeyondVT2018 and what the next step in my life will be.

 

(Original posting, January 2014):

It’s been over a year and a half since I last wrote an original post on here. That was 2012, and it’s now 2014.

My life has truly changed in a lot of ways. I’ve changed jobs, I’m single, and most importantly, I’ve developed a lot about who I am and what I stand for and believe in.

I feel like I’ve hit a wall here in Wisconsin. I’ve established a work history, a credit history, and have really felt the effects of letting myself fail out of college the first time around. At the same time, I’m thankful for how life has played out, since I wouldn’t be the person I am without the struggles I’ve gone through. I’ve taken the roots I started with about myself at Parkside and have a budding forest of trees worth of personality, beliefs, values, and interests now.

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m planning to move to Vermont this summer. I vacationed there last summer and absolutely fell in love with the place. Legally speaking, I can get married, have kids, and keep a job without anything interfering with any of those. That was the first thing that drew me there. During my trip, I learned plenty about the culture of the state, the charm of the people there, and the absolute beauty of the land. I can see why it’s considered to be the escape land for New Yorkers, just like how Wisconsin is the escape land for Chicago people. I’ve toured the Community College, and the public University, with plans to be on track to be back in school by Fall 2015.

I’ve come a long way since leaving Kenosha nearly 3 years ago, and I still have a long journey ahead of me. There’s plenty more to come.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Inspirations: The Doctor And Clara Oswald

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Who is The Doctor?

The Doctor is the title character of the long-running series, Doctor Who. The character is a Timelord from Gallifrey, who ran away with a machine that travels in all of time and space called the TARDIS (short for Time And Relative Dimension In Space), and who often travels with a companion or two.

Being a timelord, the Doctor lives for many hundreds of years, and instead of dying he “regenerates” into a new body and new personality. The show’s creators wrote this fact in when the first actor to play the Doctor became gravely ill and they wanted to keep the show going. To date, 13 different actors have played the role, with twelve having numbers and one non-numbered doctor being retroactively inserted into the series’ chronology in 2013.

Each Doctor has his own personality, tastes, interests, sense of style and decoration, and is unique. Most people know the different doctors by their number, which represents which incarnation of the Doctor they are. Because of this, a common question in the Who fandom is:

Which Doctor is “my Doctor?”

My answer to this involves two different Doctors, Ten and Eleven.

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Just above this paragraph are my two doctors. Ten on the left, Eleven on the right. Ten is technically “my Doctor” because he’s the one I would want to travel with and learn from. He’s got the perfect balance between biting edge and soft understanding of others that really spoke to me when I first saw his part of the series. Both Ten and Eleven have copious amounts of charisma, but Ten has an air of responsibility about him that draws me to want to learn from him.

Eleven is just as charismatic in his own way, but more playful, more relaxed. He doesn’t seem to get as angry as Ten did (and nowhere near as much as Nine or Twelve seemed to), and he’s the Doctor that I see myself emulating.

What About The Doctor Inspires Me?

The Doctor, as a character is very wise and worldly, always traveling and always learning new things. This is even though he has the ability to see all of creation running through his own head as a timelord. He’s a hero to many, having saved countless numbers of planets and species throughout his millennium of lives. His charisma allows any number of different beings to be drawn to him and open up to him. Instead of being afraid of the unknown (which is the natural human instinct), he’s fascinated by it, and seeks it out as often as he possibly can.

All of these personal elements are something I want to strive for. I want to go out and see more of the world. I like being “the shoulder to cry on” or the person people can rely on. At a former job, a manager told me that she believes in “always learning, always growing” which is something I’ve taken with me, and I feel that’s reflected in the Doctor.

My cross country move taught me to look at the world in different ways. By watching the Doctor, I’m seeing that this can be a whole way of life.

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Who is Clara Oswald?

Clara Oswald was a companion of the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors. (This part of the post is a follow up from Rose, a companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor)

Clara stepped into the Doctor’s life and changed him for the better. Spoiler alert; she also saves the Doctor’s life at one point. Clara is a clever school teacher who is very curious about the universe, and puts forth passion and energy into the her time with the Doctor (much like the other companions do), though her way of organizing the world around her is much like my own.

How Does Clara Inspire Me?

The episode that showcases the parts of Clara that I strive to emulate (in addition to the Doctor I try to emulate) is from the seventh series, The Bells Of St. John. It’s where Clara meets the Doctor for the first time, and he meets her for the third (time travelers have a funny life that way!)

Clara shows that she’s very savvy to technology – being the one to tap into several computer databases to help save the day, and she understands how to use them. Going forward she shows technological abilities that few other companions have shown to have while traveling with the Doctor. Many people in my personal circle seem to think that I have tech abilities, and while I admit that I do have some (I do own lukascondie.com after all!), I’m not a professional at it, mostly because I don’t have a full understanding of programming languages.

Clara is also resourceful, which is a Slytherin quality that I’m proud of. She knows when and what questions to ask, and how to find information or things she needs to save the world or get the job done. At one point, she posed as the Doctor when the real Doctor was incapacitated and she tried to save the world herself.

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Clara has been through heartbreak as well, and it changed the way she looks at life. Clara is how I see myself as a “single man” traveling the world, equally how I strive to emulate Eleven.

Thank you, Doctor and Clara for being inspirations!

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

What Makes Me A Unitarian Universalist

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I recently read The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, and I figured it’s about time to make a post explaining my faith system.

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What is Unitarian Universalism?

From the main website itself, Unitarian Universalism is a theologically diverse religion, that encourages people to find their own spiritual path. UU’s have an incredibly diverse mixture of backgrounds, ages, and beliefs. Atheists can be UUs. Jewish folk can be UUs. Christians can be UUs. Each person’s spirituality is unique to themselves, and this religion honors and reflects that.

From the guide:

Because Unitarian Universalists vary considerably in our individual views of spirituality, ministers are accustomed to supporting parishioners in a wide range of theological belief. Whether you are a theist, atheist, humanist, pagan, Deist, nature mystic (the list continues), you find yourself in a category known only to yourself, or you keep changing your mind, the minister will welcome you.

Unitarian Universalists hold the principles as strong values and moral teachings. As Rev. Barbara Wellsten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”

  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

From the pocket guide:

Unitarian Universalism is not attached to particular beliefs; rather it is committed to specific work– striking a balance between openness to differing viewpoints on one hand and fierce advocacy of shared ethical claims on the other.

Furthermore:

Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith. Rather than a common theology, we are bound by our common history, our affirmation of each person’s spiritual quest, and the promises we make to one another about the spiritual values we uphold.

A little history lesson:

What led me to Unitarian Universalism?

My religious journey started back when I was in elementary school, and my parents took me to the local Methodist Church. Looking back, I didn’t really care too much for going – it was just more work on top of schoolwork. It was another book to read (the Bible), and worst yet, it was “permanent” consequences for making mistakes in life. Luckily, I was never tormented there (for being a closeted gay at that point), while some people had serious struggles with their church, but I wasn’t getting any kind of fulfillment from it either, except perhaps some moments volunteering in the nursery and looking after the children during worship services.

From the UU Guide:

Most people don’t question their social and religious customs. Most simply follow the conveyor belt of life.

This was where I was spiritually until the moment I put high school behind me.

As I entered college for the first time in 2006, I decided to shed my attachment to any religion, and defaulted to Agnostic. I had just enough shred of belief that there was something out there that it was an unanswerable question, so I didn’t fall neatly into the category of Atheist.

In spring 2008, I had a professor who was a UU minister (and happened to be teaching an LGBT Studies course at my school) and I noticed that several local events LGBTQ related were happening at the local UU church. I decided to start reading more about it online, and it really struck a chord with me. I liked how it wasn’t about one set book, that it took different viewpoints together, and was more like a college course on religion and spirituality itself.

In 2011, I started going to a church that was near me (In the meantime I had gotten caught up in the drama of failing out of school and moving to the north side of Milwaukee), and the more I went, the more I started to feel at home there. I related very much to the sermons, the people were very friendly, and I felt like it was a place where I could grow as a person. Not that I dealt with dogma at my childhood church, but I do tend to mentally associate dogma and anger with the halls of a church, having seen so many people use their religion as a sledgehammer on others.

Just before I came to Vermont, I started traveling to other UU Churches in the area (and one down in Missouri when I was there for a weekend), and continued to fall in love with the style and feeling. I’ve even been to the UU Church in downtown Burlington, which is the very Church that “Church Street” is named after.

My biggest challenge in actually going in to listen to sermons and connect with the community comes from my introversion. It’s difficult for me to go into a large room with around a hundred or so other people by myself and get comfortable where I am. I have a dream about meeting someone either romantically or platonically and going to sermons and getting more involved with them. Basically, It’s not something that I know I can do alone, but part of the magic of spiritual community is that friendships are made and it shouldn’t be too difficult to be a part of it.

From the guide:

The sense of awe that kindles the heart of a man when he watches the morning sun strike his bedroom wall and realizes how glad he is to be alive in that moment…

I have moments like this from time to time. This is what gets me out walking, what gets me wanting to see the world. This is what makes me want to listen to other people’s stories, and understand what makes each individual “tick.”

What are my core beliefs as a UU?

The way that I can combine almost all of the core values in the seven principles can be summed up like this:

I listen to as many different people’s life stories, learn from their experiences, and use that information to make myself a better person. From there, I use that wisdom to go out in the world and make a change for the better. 

This applies to even the people I “meet” on television. Many people out there complain about reality television, but what I do like is that it showcases real people’s life stories and experiences. I constantly tell people how I’m a blend of so-and-so and so-and-so, and I mean that. I care about others, and some individuals I meet in life have so much of an impact that I made little adjustments to the way I see life, based on what they’ve told me. Mostly for the better, but I’ve also learned some life lessons from rotten people and what they’ve experienced. At the end of the day, every person has value. Even The Doctor has said:

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All of this is why I have the whole blog series, My Inspirations.

From the guide:

A good sermon can provoke a decision that moves a person in a whole new direction. It can lift up a portion of our lives, holding it in just such a light as to reveal facets we couldn’t easily see before. A good sermon can tug us further down the path toward a difficult forgiveness or remind us of our inestimable value as persons in a world that values little. Sermons can remind us of basic things we’ve forgotten, help us to learn and unlearn, show us how to reframe the seemingly impossible ideals so that we do not lose hope. I’ve heard sermons that have helped me question an easy faith, even wrestle with God.

I’ve had this experience a handful of times. But each time I have it, it’s incredible. It makes me yearn to hear more UU Ministers speak.

In a Unitarian Universalist congregation, anyone can write a meditation, preach a sermon, or lead a worship celebration.

I still have a long way to go as a UU. But the important thing is to keep listening to others, and keep learning.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie

My Thoughts On: Pacifism

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Pacifism: opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds; an attitude or policy of nonresistance.

That’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of pacifism. There’s actually quite an extensive commentary on different specifics of the philosophy of pacifism as a whole. Urban Dictionary opens it’s definition with:

“A political or religious ideology that stresses peace over violence or war. A central tenet of many Eastern religions, and also surprisingly widespread in modern-day Europe.”

What bothers me about Urban Dictionary (since I’m almost always a huge fan) is that it closes the definition with:

“…those adhering to pacifist thought do not consider the alternatives to the war, and instead, as is typical, provide baseless or biased rhetoric as to why it is better to die like a dog than fighting on your feet.”

This particular phrasing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The Wikipedia entry is a little more hopeful, referencing that pacifism is a common belief in many world religions, including some denominations of Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and many others. Broadly speaking, some form of pacifism exists in many people’s faith system.

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What is a Pacifist?

In doing the research for this post, it’s come to my attention that the actual definition of the word pacifism and my interpretation of the word are two somewhat different things. “Mother Google” seems to be telling me that one who identifies as a pacifist is on the extreme end of non-violence and non-confrontation.

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I just want to put it out there that this is not me. It used to be a long time ago, but I have come to a different way of thinking since then. The key change in thought here is the gravity of extreme non-violence. Opposing violence and war purely for the sake of opposing it is on the extreme end of pacifism. Let’s take the Oxford Dictionary definition of a word commonly associated with pacifism, non-confrontational:

Tending to deal with situations calmly and diplomatically; not aggressive or hostile.”

This is something closer to what I can get behind and refer to myself as. This article (you’ll need to subscribe to view the full post) from Philosophy Now really starts to hit home for me. I believe that whenever it’s possible the best course of action is to diplomatically resolve any issues between two parties. That being said, there’s a quote from one of my favorite childhood games (Amazon Trail 3rd Edition) that says another belief of mine accurately: “There are evil people in this world. You did what had to be done.” This is spoken by the Jaguar guide after your character fights against a ruthless historical figure who left much bloodshed in his wake. Having seen evil people in the present time and space myself, I fully believe that it’s not justice to let these evil people rise to leadership in the world and rule.

The Stanford Encyclopedia has more wonderful reading on the discussion of what makes up the term, pacifist. It also goes far more in-depth than I can do here on this blog post.

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To quote from Bernie Sander’s book, Outsider In The White House (Page 140):

“I am not a pacifist. I believe that there are times when when war is legitimate, when the alternative is existence under a horrendous status quo. I think those instances, however, are much rarer than most government leaders admit.”

I really like and identify with this quote.

With all of the above being said/written/presented, I’d like to point out that my views, which are based in my Unitarian Universalist principles and morals, is that the first choice in any conflict should always be peaceful negotiations. If that should fail, one should not be afraid to stand up for what is right and bear arms to defend oneself, or whatever it is that one is fighting for. For example, if someone were to break into my house brandishing a gun, I think the right choice would be to have one of my own guns to defend myself with. Again, from Bernie Sanders: “You don’t need an AK-47 or an Assault Weapon to hunt deer or protect yourself.”

I do think that trying to reason with someone who is so far over the edge of sanity that they are using violence on innocent people is not a successful path to take. It is for that reason that I identify (at least a little bit) as a pacifist, but I also plan to learn how to use a gun and own at least a single one in those times of emergency.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lukas Condie