Humility the Hard Way

Japanese generals humbled

So much of the best advice is impossible to hear when you are first starting out. Success feels within our grasp, just a sprint or two away. We’re in too much of a hurry to listen.

Failure slows you down. The pain of failure forces you to stop. Failure creates the context where one can truly listen and absorb advice from the grizzled veterans around us. I think the technical term is humility.

If you learned this lesson the hard way, don’t worry, you are not alone.

If you haven’t, consider slowing down for a moment and taking the easier path. There may be no answers outside of those that you create for yourself, but there is still much to be learned.

Japanese generals humbled

A Letter to My Son

Father and Son during a blackberry picking party.

Luca’s school asked me to write him a letter for mail day. I asked if I could send an email instead. They said ‘yes.’ Here’s what I wrote…

Hello Son,

Your old man here.

First off, I love you. Remember that, especially those early, early mornings when you want to play and I pretend to not notice you sitting on my head and slapping me in the eye. I’m not actually asleep during those times, but I wish I was, and the first step to realizing a dream is acting as though it was already true.

Secondly, I hear that you’ve made friends with the new kid, Cairo. Congratulations and good work. Not only does this allay any latent concerns about sociopathy, but great friendships are a key component to happiness in life. Be kind and generous with your friends. Do it right and you never know just how long the relationship will last. Heck, I’m still friends with Richard Hamilton, and we met in pre-school.

Third, be kind to your teachers. They clearly love you, especially that one Sofia.

With love, your old man.
-Pa

Matt Mireles and Luca Boyle-Mireles Father and Son during a blackberry picking party.

Valediction, Memorial Day

American Infantry

Thanks to all the military veterans out there. You put your ass on the line, be it for freedom or some politician’s folly. You risked life, limb and long fits of boredom for we the safe and only occasionally grateful. It is because of your sacrifice that we can enjoy the fruits of peace and the commercially-focused mindset that comes with it. The blessing is decidedly mixed, as our country might be better off had we tasted what you tasted during your time of service and sacrifice. Freedom ain’t free, but you have borne the cost more than I. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the American Armed Services. I salute you and live in debt to your quiet, humble heroism. Special thanks to Major Dan Boyle (US Army), Johnny Kuskie (USMC), Luke Stalcup (US Army) and Jake Warner (USMC).

Home Alone on Thanksgiving? I Saved You a Seat.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

If you’re in San Francisco and alone on this special day, drop me a line. We’d love to have you!

Twitter: @MattMireles
Email: iwantbeer@swigme.com

My girlfriend is making cranberry sauce, stuffing and sweet potatoes to go along with our gigantic turkey. Gautam Sivakumar of MediSaS (who I first met through Hacker News) will be joining us from England for his first ever American Thanksgiving.

I’ve been helped by strangers and friends and strangers who became friends. When I was 20, it was the people who picked me up on my cycling/hitchhiking mis-adventure down the California coast and let me stay in their homes on Xmas. When I was 25, it was the New Yorkers who welcomed me into a new city and taught me how to stay safe in my job as a paramedic. When I was 29, it was the entrepreneurs who introduced me to Silicon Valley and showed me how to get from Zero to 1.

And now, I feel compelled to return these favors in some way, small or large.

So…if you’re in San Francisco and you need a place to call home for Thanksgiving, let me know. We saved you a seat at the table.

-Matt Mireles CEO, Swig!

SwigMe.com: The Liquor Store in Your Pocket. Get Beer, Wine & Booze Delivered To Your Door in Under an Hour

Becoming a Father

Luca my son

Luca 1st day
On March 7, 2012, I became a father.

I think often of what this means. I look at my son in awe. I was once him. My father was once me.

To be honest, I feel shame.

When I was 15, I challenged my dad to a fist fight. He whacked me with the vacuum hose in return––man that fucking hurt. I still remember that one, pa. It stung. Last time I ever did that.

At the time, my old man was 66 years old.

And then I look at my son.

One day––maybe––he’ll be that punk ass kid; one day he’ll raises his fists against me.

***

I sing to my son. I change his diapers. I wipe his ass. Literally, I scoop shit out of all the little crevasses of his groin and his balls. As crazy as it sounds, I love it. It’s amazingly intimate and surreal.

My pa must have felt this way once upon a time. I too was so vulnerable; I too was so dependent.

And one day, this little man will be my intellectual superior.

‘Tis is the story of father and son. What a fucking trip. I’m excited, scared and ashamed all at once.

Thanks pa. I can never repay you for all that you’ve done.

Love,
Your Son Matt.

Mémoires of My Early Twenties


I ran across Chateaupia this week. It’s a documentary about Le Chateau, a place I lived as a UC Berkeley student in 2001-2002. It was shot during the time I lived there. I dropped out of Berkeley for the second and final time in May 2002.

As the video suggestes, Chateau was a madhouse.

First they flung chunks of a cooked pig at passing cars. Then another resident of the student housing co-op beheaded a chicken with garden shears, said shocked neighbors.

Le Chateau is Berkeley’s own Animal House, its neighbors say, and they want a court to force the landlord to pay them damages for their years of suffering through raucous naked pool parties, nighttime bongo drumming and piles of rat-friendly garbage.

Truth is, Chateau was a madhouse. Gutterpunks hung out on the porch at all hours, doing whippits (aka Nitrus Oxide) and smoking weed.

When you heard about something really bad happening at Chateau, it was usually a result of the gutterpunks. Gutterpunks were crashers––they didn’t live at Chateau, they weren’t technically part of the house although they typically had friends who were. But their presence was felt far and wide, nonetheless.

For example, the guy in the film who lights his nipple on fire and punches himself in the head repeatedly is a gutterpunk, not an actual Chateauvian. If I remember correctly, he also had 5150 tatoo’d in big letters on the back of his head. Nice kid at heart, just had lots of problems.

The scariest gutterpunk episode was when someone jumped off the 4th floor roof into the shallow end of the pool. At 3 feet deep, I thought for sure the guy was gonna die. It was so scary. But somehow, he lived, popping out of the water with a scream: “Oh my god, I can’t fucking believe I’m still alive!!! That was awesome!”

Which isn’t to say that the real Chateauvians were angels. My roommate, for instance, caused a stir when he cut down someone else’s San Pedro cactus and boiled it to make mescaline for a weekend camping trip with a girlfriend. The problem wasn’t that he used it to make mescaline; the problem was that he had prevented someone else from using to make mescaline. A Molecular & Cell Biology major, he financed much of his education by distributing Psilocybin Mushroom to the East Bay.

Once a month, I would arrive home to a massive pile of shrooms on the coffee table. He would divide them up into freezer bags and sell them off, making (I assumed) several thousand dollars of profit in less than 24 hours.

Personally, I was afraid that he (and me as his roommate) would end up getting robbed at gunpoint. Fortunately, this never came to pass.

Truth is, the drugs never had much appeal to me. I wanted adventure; I wanted excitement. The madness of Chateau initially seemed like it had both. And for a while, it did. But then the novelty wore off. There’s a great line from the film, at 17m47s:

I thought it was going to be a socio-political experiment inside these walls. But it’s just a bunch of people with cheap rooms trying to move somewhere else when they can.

People moved out because it was the extreme. Newcomers would arrive and some subset would do a bunch of drugs and spin out of control. Three weeks after I moved in, a guy lost his mind and jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. He was one of two suicides that year.

Chateau was really, really bad for people with underlying mental illness (most mental illnesses rear their head in your 20’s). Their illness would be exposed and offered an assortment of uppers, downers and hallucinogens; the chance to run free, no limits. People lost it. It was bad.

But that was just the dark side, which for a time felt like a minority of what was going on in the house: Staying up until 5am every morning; painting murals on the walls whenever you wanted; naked pool parties; strangers doing LSD in the living room; for better and worse, it was the centennial Garden of Earthly Delights.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hironomous Bosch
In the end, however, I grew cynical of the whole thing: A dear friend of mine succumbed to the drug culture and turned into a meth addict. I was heartbroken for a long time over that one.

At age 20, I had already done too much and seen to much to be overly enamored with the drug culture. Drugs had already been a part of my high school experience: my best friend had gotten busted for smoking pot and doing acid, both of which were revealed when he crashed his car while studying for the SAT. The cause? Acid flashback triggered by marijuana use. (He scored a 1520/1600 the next day, fyi.) This was the kind of kid I hung out with in high school.

For me, Chateau was like working as an EMT in South LA or fighting forest fires in Montana––another adventure, another episode in my life; I was never an insider, never a drinker of the Chateau kool aid.

All in all, the Chateau adventure was a good one. And this film a good reminder of where I was a decade ago, before I had learned about the elite class and power at Columbia, before I had turned into a jaded street medic in the Bronx, before––hell, long before––I had ever thought of becoming an entrepreneur.

Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been. I’m just grateful that it’s taken me here.

Coming of Age as an Entrepreneur

Well it was just a dream
Just a moment ago

I think back to the Winter of 2008-2009. SpeakerText was a few months old. I was still living in New York. The city was cold at night. It snowed like 2 feet in one day.

Back then, for all intents and purposes, SpeakerText was just me, just my dream. We had no hustler on staff. No hacker. No money.

I remember one night in particular. I had left a small meetup organized by what was then called the Blue Venture Community (aka BVC), Columbia’s entrepreneur group. Goddamn it was cold. I was cranking Biggie on the iPod, walking down 53rd St in midtown, huddling in my wool coat. The Bloomberg sign hung in the air above. One day, I told myself, there’d be a SpeakerText sign. One day.

Well, we ain’t there yet.

But we’ve come a long way. On February 1, 2011, we got our first office (see photo above). And then, about two weeks ago, I found myself at The Rosewood, a posh restaurant on Sand Hill Road. Swanson and I were there meeting Mikael Berner, one of SpeakerText’s investors. It was a strange, fantastic feeling. I wasn’t there to beg for money; I wasn’t there as “the help,” picking someone up in the ambulance; I was there as a CEO meeting an investor––not a prospect, but an honest-to-god man that had written us a check.

For the first time in my life as an entrepreneur, I felt like I’d arrived, like I was equal and not just another outsider trying like fuck to break in. It felt awesome.

***

Over Christmas, I shaved my mohawk. It started off as an accident. Normally, I would cut the sides myself, then let Swanson clean up the edges. But it was December 23rd and he had already left to see family. I was about to turn 30 and fly down to LA. Over Christmas, I was expecting to see a woman that, well… let’s just say I wanted to look good for her. I wanted to cut the edges as close as possible, and ended up creating a bald spot in the back o’ the hawk. This led to me shaving my head entirely.

I ended up letting my hair grow out. I even got it cut at an actual barber.

As it turns out, I’m not an outsider anymore.

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Why I Love Hip Hop, America


I grew up in Orange County. I was corn fed on punk rock. When I was 17, I saw Rage Against the Machine at Irvine Meadows. The mosh pit was gigantic. Actually, it started off as two pits. They ultimately merged. There was a fire in the center. I ran against the grain. It was awesome. Just. Fucking. Awesome.

Thirteen years later, I still relish that night.

But there’s something about hip hop that I enjoy. Something distinctly American. Something I fucking love: the songs all tell a Horatio Alger story of rags to riches, of hustle, of “you can’t put me down.” As an entrepreneur, it tells my story.

Sometimes, when I’m running down Market Street in SF, I blast the music, think about it all, and shed a tear.

It just feels right.

I love this life.

Why I Became an Entrepreneur (the Long Story)

This is a post about growing up.

My parents are an old school latin couple: My mom (b. 1938) grew up in a small town in Argentina. My dad (b. 1929) grew up bouncing from village to village in the deserts of southern New Mexico. They met at UCLA in the late 1950s and got married in 1963.

Yes, I am 29; and yes, I was a total accident. (I think that they thought the machinery had stopped working by 1980.)

Anywho, my parents are Catholic––my mom more so than my father––and like my 3 elder siblings, I spent my childhood and adolescence getting a Catholic education, first at St. Bruno’s Elementary School in Whittier, CA; then at Servite High School in Anaheim, CA. It should not surprise you that I was a major pain my teachers’ collective in the asses: I chafed at the concept of authority qua authority and constantly harassed my elders, unafraid to give them shit.

Obviously, little has changed.

Yet despite my protestations at the time and the fact that I had renounced my Catholicism in 7th grade, some of these lessons stuck. One in line in particular, the specifics of which are hazy to me, got burned into my brain: something about how a man’s character can be culled from how he treats “the least among us.”

The general principle here is that if you want to see who a man really is, give him power. Watch how he treats the people beneath him, the people with less power, less status: Does he treat them with respect? Does he act solely on the basis of self-interest, or is there a deeper magnanimity at play in his behavior?

As an entrepreneur, I think of this often.

Personally, on this matrix, I have failed often. But my heart is in the right place.

The thing is, I have a little chip on my shoulder.

My family always had more brains than money. My father was a community college professor who had clawed his way from a childhood of poverty into college, then grad school, then the American middle class. My mother, a kind and nurturing women who suffers from crippling emotional problems, spent her life as an artist, churchgoer and housewife.

In high school, we were in the bottom tier of income earners. It wasn’t that we were poor, it was that everyone else was rich, at least by comparison. For some perspective, Servite is a prep school in Orange County, California––Orange County as in “the OC.” But I was one of the guys, and although no, I didn’t have my own car and yes, I mowed my own lawn, I never felt different. Like the rest of my friends, I was a know-it-all honors student and a little punk.

After high school, I went to a popular destination for punk ass know-it-all honors students: UC Berkeley. Still a punk, I quickly grew unsatisfied and began to lust after real adventure. After a single semester, I dropped out and got a job working as an EMT on an ambulance in Southeast Los Angeles (Lynwood, Compton, Southgate, and Watts, if you want to be specific). There, I found adventure. And got my bell rung.

As it turns out, no one on the ambulance gave a shit that I had gone to Berkeley or had been a honors student. I was just a punk, a clueless punk. After 6 months, I got fired for disagreeing with my boss over how to treat a severely injured child. He wanted what was good for the company, I wanted what was good for the kid.

That next fall, I returned to Berkeley.

Fast forward two years and I had dropped out again, this time to fight forest fires in Montana and, later, the Sierra Nevadas. When the snow started to fall and the fire season ended, I found myself back on the ambulance in LA. The boss who had fired me was gone, terminated for embezzlement.

Not liking being low man on the totem pole––Paramedics run the show at the scene of emergencies, and EMTs are subordinate to them––I enrolled in a Paramedic training program. Still a know-it-all punk, I blew off the “required” preparatory studies and, along with 80% of my classmates, failed out of the program. And so I enrolled again, this time graduating at the top of the class.

The thing about being a Paramedic is that it really makes you grow up. When a baby stops breathing, when a car flips over on the freeway, when an asthmatic is on the verge of death, there is no one else to call. You are the cavalry. The EMTs, the fire fighters, the mother whose son just took two bullets in the chest and one in the eye: they all look to you for reassurance, for calm, for direction. Your shit must be together at all times. Or you must fake it.

To be honest, I loved the pressure. I loved being the guy with the cool head amidst a world of swirling chaos. Having been tasked as a child with taking care of my mother in her many panicked, distraught moments, it felt natural. I was born for this shit.

But I wasn’t born to follow rules. And that was the downside of being a paramedic: MDs created the rules––the protocols––and our job was simply to figure out which algorithm to use and apply it. I realized this fact in early 2004, about 2/3 of the way through my paramedic training. At that moment, I decided to go back to college.

UC Berkeley, I concluded, was not for me.

New York City seemed appealing, and through the grapevine I heard about a program at Columbia University for “non-traditional” undergrads who had skipped or dropped out of the traditional college path in favor of a life more interesting. That summer, while fighting forest fires for one last season, I applied and was accepted.

My dad, a frugal man if there ever was one, called it a dumb idea. “Son,” he said, “Look, I know you love the bright lights and pretty girls, but New York is the most expensive city in the world, and well…Son, let’s face it: Columbia is a rich kids school. You are not a rich kid.”

And with that, he rescinded my parents’ promise of modest but meaningful financial support. Columbia was an education I’d have to pay for myself. My dad figured it would only take a couple semesters for me to throw in the towel, get my head on straight, and head back to Berkeley.

He was almost right.

If it’s not clear already, I was always something of a cocky kid. Never in my life had I felt poor or “less than” anyone. I feared no one. All were my equal, and I believed that there was nothing I could not earn through merit and hustle. That is, until I arrived at Columbia.

The sneaky thing about this “non traditional” undergraduate program at Columbia is that––at least compared to the “traditional” college where scholarships abound––they fuck you on financial aid. The mean debt load of my graduating peers (the ones who needed financial aid, not the millionaire-in-my-twenties ex-hedge funders) was $80-100k…for a fucking undergraduate degree!!!!

Misguided academic administrators and financial aid officers did their best to obscure the numbers and peddle the debt as a worthy investment.

I saw through the bullshit and promised to graduate with no more than $35k in student loans. Skip, the financial aid officer, chuckled when I announced this in our first meeting. “Let’s be realistic,” he said.

Well, as it turns out, Skip, I graduated with only $25k in student loans, no thanks to you.

My first Paramedic job in New York paid $23/hour and offered one crucial perk: all-you-can-eat overtime. It was on an ambulance in the South Bronx. Once I had some experience, I got a second job on an ambulance in Washington Weights that paid $25/hour. I made my own schedule and regularly pulled 16 hour days. If needs be, I could clock 48 hours of work in 3 days. During one Spring Break, I clocked over 100 hours.

Even though the pay was great and the flexibility was ideal, I still struggled. Tuition was $1,100 per credit. Plus, living in Manhattan, as my father had predicted, was not cheap.

In July 2005, I hurt my ankle off the job and made the mistake of telling my employer. This put me out of work for 6 months. With nothing else to do, I took summer classes, which were more expensive than normal as Columbia––whose financial aide was meager to begin with––budgeted nothing for the summer session. I used an American Express Card to pay for tuition. The bill was $10,000.

During that time, I also began to pursue a longtime interest of mine: journalism. Covering the visit of foreign dignitary for the school paper, I met an injured Iraq Vet named Garth Stewart. He had gotten his leg blown off as an infantryman during the war and, having been medically retired by the Army, had enrolled in Columbia’s “non traditional” undergraduate program. I wrote a story about him.

It took me 6 months to pay off that $10k AMEX bill. I worked 50-70 hour weeks even as I was in school. At the end of the semester, I was exhausted. My grades were good, but my financial aide situation and unwillingness to take on massive debt meant that I could only take a handful of credits each semester. College 2.0 was progressing at a snail’s pace.

Frustratingly, this created a chicken and egg problem when it came to scholarships. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (of which I was a member and later got a scholarship from), for example, reserved all their scholarship money for full-time students. I tried pleading with them (and others): “I can’t afford to go full-time unless I get a scholarship!” Their response was polite yet indifferent.

I had never before felt bounded by social class, by economics, by mother fucking money.

I remember when it hit home: I was taking a graduate seminar on Afghan Politics. After class one day, I struck up conversation with a girl sitting next to me. She asked about my background. “I used to fight forest fires,” I explained, thinking I was so cool.

Her forehead crinkled. She stopped for a second, then responded: “Oh. I didn’t know they let people like that, you know, in here.”

Crash and burn.

There were other things too. On Fridays, I would typically work late and hit the Columbia gym before heading back to my apartment. As I headed home, the college girls would be heading out. Sometimes I’d see a woman I knew from campus and try to strike up a conversation or make eye contact. But the blue paramedic uniform was a signifier of the wrong type. It labeled me: “working class.” And Ivy League girls didn’t go for working class guys.

For the first time in my life, I felt shame. I remember trying to approach an attractive and otherwise cheerful brunette that I knew from an American History class. She gave me a once over, then eyeballed her friends in disgust: “OMG, what is this creepy guy in the uniform doing.”

Maybe I should’ve just brushed it off, but I’m a proud man. It hurt.

Also, there was that whole East Coast Ivy League thing. See, that was never me.

By May 2006, I was on the verge of quitting. Without a scholarship, Columbia seemed like a hopeless slog. It was either leverage myself to the hilt, or graduate in seven years. Fuck that, I said.

My voice cracking, I called my dad to discuss accepting defeat. The financial barrier seemed too high. I couldn’t find the hack.

Two days later, I got a phone call: News Corp had seen my little article on Garth the war hero and liked it. And by “liked it,” I mean they decided to cut me a $10k check and give me a fancy award. After the ceremony, which featured me sharing a stage with Rupert Murdoch and Mayor Bloomberg, my dad changed his mind about this whole “Columbia is stupid” thing and decided to start kicking in some cash for tuition.

Suddenly, I was back in business.

The extra cash allowed me to attend school full-time and scale back my time on the ambulance. Instead of 50-70 hours a week, I was putting in 24-40. Still a lot, but manageable.

Life started to revolve around school, with work on the ambulance a secondary concern. I started to feel a sense of belonging at Columbia, and with it that sense of the-world-is-my-oyster entitlement that so infects the Ivy League.

In 2007, I fell in love with a girl. Her name was Isabelle. The daughter of a real estate magnate, she had been born and bred in Manhattan’s ritzy Upper East Side. Although her parents had money and lots of it, Isabelle was down to earth, diligent and uninterested in extravagance or luxury.

While I spent every free moment either studying or working on the ambulance, Isabelle spent her spare time interning for politicians and magazines and political research groups––which is to say, polishing her resume. Occasionally, I would do project work freelancing for Newsweek and then later the NY Times, but that was rare.

It wasn’t fair of me, but I became jealous of Isabelle. Being a paramedic, which had been fun and exciting at first, devolved into a mercenary task that I did for money.

Every day on the ambulance was another day of me not polishing my resume, of me not moving up in the world. It was a constant reminder, a symbol of how no matter what I did, the deck was always going to be stacked against me. The truth is that I wanted what Isabelle had: Freedom. Freedom to try different jobs, to check things out, to explore, to travel.

Over Christmas break one year, Isabelle flew to China––a country I had studied in class and desperately wanted to visit––as I, once again, worked 90 hours a week on the ambulance. Checking Facebook during those times were downright depressing. Everyone seemed to be posting pictures of their visits to Ireland or Istanbul or Tehran. Meanwhile I was on the bus with the idiot no one else wanted to work with, picking up drunks on the corner and covering for my partner’s incompetence.

By the time I graduated from Columbia in the spring of 2008, it was clear that the mainstream media as we had known it was doomed. Journalism was the one job I had trained for, and now, gutted by the internet, it served only a door into the abyss.

It’s hilarious to consider now, but during that period I actually wanted to be an investment banker. Not that I really understood what the job entailed (or that I even do now) but there was one thing I did understand: Being a banker, at least in New York in the summer of 2008––before the Lehman meltdown, before the AIG debacle, before the apocalypse––being a banker meant that you were someone who had money and who the pretty Manhattan girls would talk to on the train. All the smart Columbia kids were doing it, after all, including the women.

And so I asked about interviewing at Goldman. My lack of resume polish was, predictably, an obstacle.

That summer, I attended a 5 week business-for-idiots program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It was there that I discovered the world of startups. Visiting entrepreneurs lectured us, spinning tales of adventure, chaos, glory and, yes, riches. In this mythic world, normals and rule followers were torn to shreds. Success, they explained, required being a street-savvy swashbuckler who broke all rules.

I think they were trying to scare us off.

But for me, it was a hallelujah moment. Fuck banking. Fuck journalism. Fuck everything else. This is what I was born for, I thought.

For the first time in my professional life, someone described for me a job that didn’t require me to fake or hide or suppress who I was. It felt awesome.

In October 2008, during the chaos of the financial apocalypse, I decided to start the company that would become SpeakerText. “Starting” was a declarative act, but so began the long journey.

It is ongoing.

R.I.P. SpeakerCar


When you have no money and you need a car, you get SpeakerCar.

M2 sold her last week for $350––less than the price of a new iPhone. For all the nausea and fear that she caused, her passing was an emotional event. This is an ode to SpeakerCar, the ultimate car of the scrappy startup.

***

SpeakerCar was a 1991 Acura Legend. Black with black leather interior, the hood was bashed in from an accident in 2002. The windows don’t roll down and the windshield is cracked. It leaks when it rains. Wadded up newspapers occuppy the joint  above the driver’s seat to seal the hole.

The electrical problems started a few years ago, when M2 drove her into a lake. Yes, a lake. The entire engine compartment was submerged.

Ever since the lake incident, the power steering has been out. Parralell parking was often a two-man exercise.

The lack of power steering impacted wheel alignment, leading to excessive tire balding and frequent flats.

On a hot day, SpeakerCar was a nausea-inducing sauna. On the freeway––prone to unexpected power outages and brake lock ups––she was a deathtrap. When Tyler‘s parents saw the car during a visit on the 4th of July, his mom cried. To his parents chagrin, he had turned down job offers from GE and Lockheed-Martin to join SpeakerText, and now here he was driving around in the world’s unsafest car. As a lifelong IBMer from the bourgeois suburbs of Vermont, his mother was distraught.

Environmentalists, too, had much to say, as SpeakerCar burned oil and emitted large clouds of blue smoke at crosswalks and in parking lots. Older women crossing the street would often cough and gag as they passed through the cloud of noxious gas perpetually emitted by SpeakerCar.

But for all her electrical dysfunction and mechanical disrepair, there was something charming about SpeakerCar, something symbolic––something in her that represented us. She embodied defiance (of clean air laws, if nothing else) and relentless, insistent survival in the face of clear and unmistakeably valid excuses to give up, to throw in the towel, get a real fucking job and real fucking car.

And yes, on the 4th of July, we did get one last flat tire. As beautiful, made-up women walked by with their boyfriends, M2 and I jacked up the car and changed the flat, our hands blackened and burning from the heat. And then we got bombed. But she had taken us where we wanted to go.

She was our mascot and we drove her with pride.