So I Guess I’ve Always Been a Side Hustler; Being a “Gum Dealer” in High School and Running a Convenience Store from My College Dorm Room

Looking back, I realize now that I’ve actually always been a side hustler; even in high school and college. Earlier today, I published an article declaring that my 5 SEO side hustles all made me a minimum of $1,000 each in 2018. But that mentality has been a part of me, undeniably, since at least when I was a teenager in high school. (See picture above.)

Here on the first day of 2019, I am learning a little bit more about myself. The fact that I have 5 side hustles as a 37 year-old man makes perfect sense, considering my scheming ways back to when I was a teenager.

When I started high school, I couldn’t help that notice that chewing gum was high in demand in the halls of my high school. It just so happened that it was weekly tradition that I would accompany my mom in buying groceries. I noticed that I could buy a multi-pack of Wrigley’s gum at nearly a wholesale price for $1.25; which contained 10 packs of gum (each of which contained 5 sticks of gum), then I could sell each pack for just a quarter. By the time I sold the 10 packs, when I could easily do in a 10 minute break, I had made $2.50. In other words, I was making 100% profit!

It didn’t took long before I became known as “the gum dealer.”

This was great for me. I got to social with all the different groups of friends, and met new ones, by offering them the best deal on chewing gum during each of our two breaks each day during high school.

It was also during high school that I began making my own videos, on VHS. Not only did I direct a horror movie, called “Frosty Bites”…

But I also filmed hair videos, too…

In case you missed it, I made over $4,000 in 2018 from my most popular YouTube channel and its Amazon links, which focuses on men’s hair and beards. And that’s not counting my 2nd YouTube channel, as well. This is not a coincidence.

Then when I moved into my college dorm, Dorm 15 at Liberty University, I took my gum dealer experience and opened up my own convenience store, using two micro fridges, and buying all my products for wholesale price at WalMart.

I sold soda, Little Debbie snack cakes, Ramen noodles, Hot Pockets, and frozen burritos. I even let my customers heat up their food in my microwave, so they could hang out with me while their food was preparing. I appropriately named my store, The Freshman 15.

Those profits went to financing my mission trips to Thailand in the summers of 2003 and 2004, where I was a 4th grade teacher specializing in ESL…

then teaching conversation English to high school students and adults.

Some things just never change. I am and always have been a side hustler. This is simply part of my identity.

Sometimes in Life, I Play the Villain

And so do you.

I am a mild-mannered, well-behaved, law observing kind of guy.  Yet still, if I was part of your daily life, I would at some point be the person to introduce conflict.  Your arch nemesis, your foil.  Because no matter who you are, you can’t always agree with everyone about everything.  If you could, you would have no opinion or personality.  You would be a life-size cardboard cut-out (like the supposed ghost boy in the movie Three Men and a Baby).

If every new day were an episode in the long-running series known as your life, the villain could easily someone different each time.  Some days it would be a coworker insulting your intelligence, some days it would be the policeman that caught you speeding, sometimes it would be your own spouse who you love more than anything but who somehow found a way to hurt you by something off-hand remark they made, unaware.  At some point though, we all play the villain for someone else.  But what if the same “jerk cop” who gave you a ticket two months ago happened to also catch a drunk driver the next day, preventing a possible tragedy in your own life?  The cop would be both a villain and a redeeming character.

Actual picture of me playing Prince Charming during the Snow White play during the summer of 1991.

During the summer of 1991, I played Prince Charming in a community play version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I remember how after the first performance, when it was time for the girl who played the evil stepmother to walk up to the stage and take a bow, the audience cheered especially loud for her and she was given a bouquet of flowers by her dad.  As a ten-year old boy, evidently still trying to understand the concept of reality, I thought to myself, “Hey!  Why are they cheering for her?  She’s so mean!” I couldn’t separate her the actor from her the person- though in real life, she was very friendly.  But at the time, I couldn’t see past her good acting.

Now as an adult, I think it’s funny when people who hardly know each other but who are in an isolated conflict often immediately assume that the other person’s character is morally flawed.  They make “right or wrong” issues out of political issues, or often just simply a matter of opinion.  Sadly, the lines have become blurred between healthy debate and emotional arguing.  For me, when observing a debate, I often privately award the winner as the person who refrained from speaking sarcastically and in a demeaning manner, yet still remained focused on the actual topic enough to simply counter their opponent’s offenses.  Emotion shouldn’t be the main drive for a debate; principle itself should be.  I fully realized this lesson after while writing “The Blog Sniper”.  (Whenever you see something on here both underlined and in bold font, it’s a link.)

I couldn’t have been on the debate team in high school.  Because at that point in my (lack of) maturity, I would have refused to debate in favor of abortion if I was assigned to do so.   Back then, I wasn’t able to look beyond the emotional and moral side of it, and realize that in a professional debate, like Spy vs. Spy, the goal isn’t to prove the other person to be a classless idiot.  It’s to disprove their theory, opinion, or perspective through logic and consistency.  Today, even though I am an extreme pro-lifer, I would not have trouble debating in favor of abortion, because if nothing else, it would be an exercise in which I could gain a new perspective from looking at things from a different perspective to help my bank of knowledge on how I truly feel on the issue.  In the process, my efforts as the devil’s advocate would cause my opponent to strengthen their thinking tactics as well on the issue.

Being that this post is my 447th post  here on Scenic Route Snapshots, chances are, no matter what your political, religious, and cultural backgrounds are and how similar you are to me in those regards, if you were to read all of my posts, there’s a good chance you would at least disagree with a few.  And that’s okay.  Because despite me being perceivably misguided on a few topics, I’m still the same good guy that wrote the things you did agree with and appreciate.  I am a debater, not an arguer.


Picking Up Where We Left Off Last Time: Going Back to the Future After “To Be Continued”

The phrase “to be continued…” is a way of life for me.

In the summer of 1988 one of the things I remember most is watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk with my mom.  So many of the episodes ended with “to be continued…” flashed up on the screen.  For some reason, that really excited me.  Even to this day, if a TV show ends with that phrase I like it more than a regular episode.

Yes, closure is an important part of life.  But in my mind, the door is never really closed just because time separates me from another person.  (Obviously, I’m not including the given exception of ex-girlfriends. Instead, I’m referring to everyone else.) Childhood classmates and guys from my college dorm.  Anyone I’ve ever met in my life- I don’t forget them.  I may not remember many details about them- but at least in the smallest of ways, I remember them.

Therefore, something I have to remind myself of is this- my way of thinking and exceptionally good memory are not necessarily the norm.  Just because I can remember specific quotes from something someone said in 5th grade, it doesn’t mean they do, or necessarily even care.  The file folder in my head for that person reads “last seen: May 1998- to be continued…”  Theirs for me reads “last seen- sometime in high school- relationship terminated/cancelled”.

When I am reacquainted with a person I haven’t heard from in years or decades, I have this habit of immediately bringing up the first positive memory I have of that person.  For me, it’s like time never passed.  Interestingly, that’s how I think it will be after we die and are reunited with people in eternity.  Since time doesn’t really exist in the afterlife, we just pick up where we left off.

Sometimes, Being Dressed as a Wolf in Public at the Right Moment Can Have Its Benefits

I cried wolf.  And it didn’t end badly.

In high school I played a wolf in the senior class play (1999), Beauty and the Beast. One afternoon during school hours, dressed in full shag-carpet costume, I had just left from a photo shoot for the local newspaper, as class had just gotten out.  There happened to be two girls getting into a fist fight, as a crowd was gathering accordingly. I was faced with a decision:

A) Enjoy the fight.

B) Break up the fight by simply making a scene.

I rushed up near the girls and began growling and howling, similiar to the transformation process on the TV version of The Incredible Hulk. The crowd started laughing at me instead of paying attention to the girls pushing each other around. The two fighting girls both looked at me with confused faces. It’s difficult to continue a fist fight when there’s randomly a 5’ 9” wolf waving around his claws at you, who is making so much racket that the fight itself is no long interesting.  The fight was over.  Both the crowd and the fighting girls walked back to class like nothing ever happened.

healthnutshell: A Tablespoon of Sugar or a Cigarette?

A new way to view the worth of the happiness that sugar brings us.



I have never understood the addiction a person encounters who is dependant on alcohol or nicotine. Half-jokingly I have even said that I should take up smoking to prove that I have the will-power to stop. And while my body knows no enticement to the addictive qualities of alcohol or nicotine, I have been fighting a physical addiction my own life.

In high school, when I was “using” the most, I quickly became aware that I had symptoms of an unhealthy person. I had a lot of difficulty breathing, to the point it took hours to fall asleep at night. Not to mention my abundant allergies. So what was my addiction? Refined Sugar. (Sugar that is added to a food or processed in any way.)

Back in those days I ate a king size Little Debbie fudge round for breakfast every morning and another for an afternoon snack. And that was just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.

Evidently, men aren’t supposed to admit to loving sugary things. But I openly acknowledge my love and addiction. Chocolate. Ice cream. Cookies. Milk shakes. Peanut butter brittle. Candy. Sweet tea. Dr. Pepper.

Since childhood, I could never finish a meal without having some kind of sweets. My worst vice was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I even overdosed on them one time back in 2003, eating 36 of them in a 16 hour period. From that day I developed a rash that lasted 6 years. Six years, not days.

In October 2008, I “hit rock candy bottom” after my hand eczema (dyshidrosis) got “out of hand”. Take a look at the pictures on this Wikipedia entry to see what I was suffering from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyshidrosis.

I stopped eating shellfish and realized that it helped tremendously, because I learned by wearing my metal wedding ring that my hand eczema is triggered half by contact with heavy metals, which shellfish are full of. The other 50% is the consumption of refined sugar.

It has taken me since October 2008 to get to the point where I am now.  Which is basically a 0% tolerance policy on refined sugar. I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I needed my sugar too much.  Like any threatening drug, I was addicted.  Mentally and physically.

It’s been a long process. The only sugar I eat now comes from 100% fruit juice, fruit, and whole grain bread. Sweets are out of my life.

Aside from the hell that resided on both of my hands for most of last decade, something else helped inspired me to stop my sugar addiction. A realization. A new mindset:

Consuming a tablespoon of sugar is equal to smoking one cigarette.


That may seem like a broad claim since I am not a doctor nor has there ever been a clinical study to prove it. All we really have to go on is the following research I have done, along with the fact my hand eczema is currently 95% cured (thank God).

But consider this: It wasn’t until people began adding sugar into their diets that they began getting cavities. Toothbrushes and toothpaste came about because people starting eating sugar.

Even today, people from tribes in the world that do not have access to Coca-Cola and do not have a concept of adding sugar to their diet coincidently do not suffer from tooth decay. Nor do they suffer from the rate of cancers and diseases that the rest of us do.

I’m not the first to say it: There is a definite link between the health of a person’s teeth and how prone they are to developing health problems in the rest of their body:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/pubs/oral-bucco/2009-smile-sourire/index-eng.php

No one needs to be told of all the horrific things smoking does to the human body. Just in case, here’s an overview:
http://quitsmoking.about.com/od/tobaccorelateddiseases/a/smokingrisks.htm

However, most of us truly don’t realize that arguably, the presence of sugar in our diets causes all kinds of cancers and diseases as well.  Most notably, the consumption of refined sugar leads to diabetes, obesity, and tooth decay.  Plus:
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20060818171925AA5czDQ
http://www.rheumatic.org/sugar.htm

This isn’t to say that consumption of refined sugar causes lung cancer and the same exact health problems that tobacco causes. But eating foods that are processed with refined sugar leads to just as many health problems.

I am confident that a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day (20 cigarettes), compared to a person who consumes 20 tablespoons of sugar a day, will be just as affected with an unhealthy body. Whether it’s for 5 years or 30 years.

The more sugar in a person’s daily diet now, the unhealthier they will be later in life. Like cigarettes, the damage isn’t instantly obvious. It can take decades before the person’s body begins to scream for help, like mine did.

To find out how much sugar is in a product, take a look at the nutrition facts. Look under “Total Carbohydrate”. Then scroll down to “sugars”. Divide that number by 12. That is how many tablespoons (not teaspoons) of sugar is in one serving of that product.

The average can of soda contains around 3 ½ to 4 tablespoons of sugar, or according to my analogy, has the same health dangers as smoking 3 ½ to 4 cigarettes.

Therefore, a person who drinks a 2 liter of soda (or the sugar equivalent of it through other sweets) a day will have the comparable health risks of a person who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day.

(For some great visuals, click here: http://www.sugarstacks.com/ )

But as we know, it doesn’t take smoking an entire pack of cigarettes day for a person’s health to be affected by it. So it’s important to check out those forgettable smaller amounts of sugars we consume as well.

Let’s a take a look at a classy favorite, Starbucks. Just a tall (the smallest size) Caramel Frappaccino has 53 grams of sugar, which is 4 ½ tablespoons of sugar, or 4 ½ cigarettes. A tall iced white mocha has 41 grams of sugar, which is 3 ½ tablespoons of sugar, or 3 ½ cigarettes. http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition_info.asp

A Snickers bar has 28 grams, or nearly 2 ½ tablespoons of sugar, or cigarettes.

Ten years ago, the Atkins diet surged with popularity, and suddenly everyone was avoiding carbs. But we need carbs. It’s the sugar in them that’s bad.

Whole grain bread is an important part of our diet, since it contains a good amount of fiber that we need to our food to push through our intestines. But even whole grain, whole wheat fiber has some sugar in it. It’s a matter of finding bread with the most fiber and the least sugar. And dividing that sugar content by 12 to find out how many tablespoons of sugar it contains in a serving.

From all my research, it’s difficult to find a nutritionist who will give a solid number for the amount added sugar we are allowed in a day. Because many that I talked to said ideally, none. But for the ones would give me an answer: 37.5 grams of added sugar per day. About 3 tablespoons.

In other words, a king size Snickers bar or a Starbucks tall iced white mocha will meet this limit 100%. (Though a can of soda would be over the limit.) So we have a fun snack like that and think we’re okay. But, what about the rest of the added sugar we are going to eat that day too?

Like bread? Fruit juice? Whole grain cereal? Yogurt? Milk?

By simply eating the healthy foods we should be eating already, we are naturally going to get close to that those 37.5 grams (or 3 tablespoons) of sugar. So it leaves out room for any sugary snacks.

Because even if we eat completely healthy balanced meals, once we add a bag of M&M’s, we exceeding our daily allowance. And keeping in my unproven theory that a tablespoon of sugar is equal to a cigarette, just one sugary snack on top of an already healthy diet would be like smoking a few cigarettes.

But the truth is this: Most people don’t already eat healthy, balanced meals. So that’s even more “cigarettes” in a day.

The good new is, we don’t have to count all sugars against our 37.5 gram allowance:  Like whole foods such as bananas or blueberries. Or really any food that has not all been processed and has had some kind of sugar added to it.

Because even healthy bread and yogurt have added sugar, even if its organic evaporated cane juice. For example, I just finished a serving of Stonyfield strawberry yogurt which contained 34 grams of sugar. They added organic sugar and strawberry juice to sweeten the yogurt. That’s my full allowance of added sugar, and that was an attempt to be healthy. Not to mention the grape juice I drank earlier today. Lesson learned. Next time I’ll go with cottage cheese and strawberries I slice myself.

And even 100% fruit juice is processed- juice is only a part of the whole fruit. So it must count against the 37.5 gram allowance.

But somehow if the fruit is eaten whole, with the fruit flesh, it counteracts the negative elements of the sugar it contains.

And of course, there’s no cheating the system. Artificial sweeteners are not a safe alternative, with links to potential cancer risks, negative effects on the liver, kidneys, and other organs, gastrointestinal problems, developmental problems in children and fetuses and headaches, to name a few:
http://www.truthaboutabs.com/artificial-sweeteners-natural-stevia.html

I think the most motivating element for me in all this is not so much a fear of getting cancer, but more about getting diabetes. Multiple sources continue to report that 1 out of 3 American children will become diabetics as adults if their current lifestyle continues:
http://www.truthaboutabs.com/artificial-sweeteners-natural-stevia.html

I have lived the first 28 years of my life in favor of becoming a diabetic. After seeing a few photographs of people who had to have their legs removed because of the disease, I decided that I don’t mind getting old, but I do mind getting old and unhealthy and account of my carefree lifestyle in my young adulthood.

So which is worse? A tablespoon of sugar or a cigarette?

At best, they’re the same. They both have enough potential to give us cancer and diseases. I’m not willing to risk my life for either one. I want to be the next Juice Man. Out of control eybrows and all.

Related posts by the same author:

Barley into Beer  http://wp.me/pxqBU-2L

1.2 Billion People Can’t Be Wrong  http://wp.me/pxqBU-43

 Beauty and Self-Worth aren’t the Real Issues  http://wp.me/pxqBU-2c

I “Get” Conan O’Brien: Why So Many Americans Support Team Coco Over Jay Leno

In the Year 2010…  In the Year 2010…


I am one of those people who function best on 5 ½ to 6 hours of sleep a night.  Any more than that and I’ll wake up with a headache and the rest of the day will just drag by.  This is something I learned in high school (1995-1999).  And the way I found this out was by staying up every night to watch the then unfamiliar Conan O’Brien.

He acknowledged his audience: High school students, college students, and senior citizens.  Demographics showed those were the people who for some reason kept tuning in each night.  Those were the groups of people who “got” his kind of humor.  Such as:

A giant bear wearing a diaper who was put in a chamber with cash flying around who instead of grabbing for as much cash as he could during the 30 second time limit, he chose to grab… himself.

Staring contests between Conan and his sidekick Andy Richter with distractions on stage to make it for challenging for them both.  My favorite was when a robot came out on stage and sat down on a toilet.  The sound of bolts clanking into the bowl were heard.  Then the robot raised his arms in victory.

Andy Richter’s little sister.  She was in love with Conan and would sit in the audience in her pajamas and pigtails and rush up on the stage whenever she got a chance.  I remember having a crush on the 25 year-old actress who played her; it was her first role on TV.  Years later she ended up on SNL and eventually got her own show, Parks and Rec.  Amy Poehler.

Not Cool Zeus.  Conan would flip through his “special NBC satellite” channels to see what else was on while his show was on.  He watched a show called Not Cool Zeus where Zeus broke obvious social boundaries.  One time he drank milk right out of the container from the fridge, looked around to see if anyone was looking, then snuck it back in the fridge.  Another time he did a huge cannonball into a swimming pool right next to a group of people who were just chilling out.  Each time a red logo would be stamped onto the screen that read “NOT COOL ZEUS”.

Raymond, who gives away Preparation H to audience members and sings, “Raymond’s here, Raymond’s here”.

Triumph the Insult Comic dog: “For me to poop on!”

Secrets with Mr. T.

http://hornymanatee.com/

Twitter Tracker.

When it really comes down to it, Conan O’Brien is my favorite comedian on TV.  And he has been as long as I’ve been watching him.

I don’t “get” David Letterman’s style of humor.  I’ve tried.  I failed.  The dry, aimless, ad-libbing Midwesterner and his Jewish bandleader Paul Shaffer were never a team that pulled off keeping my attention.  I’ve never made it through a full episode of his, not even the ones where he heavily addressed his scandal.

But Conan’s randomness reminds me of the way my guy friends and I joke around.  It’s not vulgar.  It’s just weird and off the wall.

Conan O’Brien is much more scripted.  Almost too scripted.  And somehow that becomes an advantage instead of a downfall.  It’s part of the fun.  In a way it’s like he’s making fun of how organized the show is.  He has always mocked NBC and his writers.

Like a grown-up version of Pee Wee’s Playhouse where he is the only legitimate entertainer amongst a crew and network consisting of imbeciles.  And a creepy Jewish bandleader named Max Weinberg who just happens to also be Bruce Springsteen’s drummer.  That is solid.

And the fact that Conan refuses to change his Spandau Ballet hairstyle. And that he speaks in a 1940’s radio broadcast dialect.  And that he constantly makes fun of his pasty white skin and lanky 6’ 4” body.

Yet he comes across as the classiest late night host.  Conan is somehow timeless.

I remember a few years ago I remember thinking how weird it would be if any of the late night hosts themselves ended up in the headlines.  Because so much of their job is sarcastically commentating on what’s going on in the news.  Ironic.  Now with David Letterman’s sex scandal, Jay Leno’s failed new show, and Conan’s leaving The Tonight Show, all the bases are covered.

I will always be a Conan guy.  Whether he’s on NBC or not.

Party Like It’s 1999: My Ten Year Class Reunion (Fort Payne, AL)


Last week as I mentioned to people here in Nashville that my 10 Year High School Reunion was coming up on Saturday, I was surprised to hear more than a few respond with, “Well I’m not going to mine. Everybody I want to see or talk to from high school, I already do. Most of those people I didn’t like then, and so I know I won’t like ‘em now.” Not one tiny part of me can relate to that statement.

On the same token, there have been times when I have hyped up an upcoming event in my mind for weeks or months, only to find my high expectations were not met. Again, this was not at all the case.

Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the Fort Payne Class of ’99 is a special group of people. Yes, I am being bias.

If the definition of a true friend is someone you can be apart from for years and the next time you see them, you can just pick up where you left off last time, then I have more friends than I realized. Because that was the case with everyone that was there.

I saw how warmly my wife was accepted by everyone there. (It actually reminded me of when I introduced her to my family a few years ago.) How often an official introduction wasn’t even necessary. Just straight to conversation like an old friend. That sort of instant familiarity with a large group of strangers is rare.

Ten years can definitely change people in a way I hadn’t considered; by bringing them to a more similar place in life than they were in before. Kristin Bailey Gardner works in journalism, whereas I am jealous that she is. Kim Thomas Clowers married my 2nd cousin, meaning we’re related now related and see each other at family reunions. And the should-be action movie star Morten Maaegard, the foreign exchange student from Denmark our senior year, was in the same parts of Thailand as I was in 2004. (He actually flew in from Europe for our class reunion- that is impressive.)

When an event this big goes so right, I have to take a look at why. Aside from a bunch of cool 28 year-olds all truly wanting to be there, a lot of it had to do with the planning. Tabitha Thomas Greenwood found and followed a formula that was flawless. First, during the day, we met at the new city park. That was a way that those with children could bring them and have something for them to do as the adults caught up on life.

Then that night just us adults met at an old yet restored hotel and restaurant in the crafty/artsy neighboring town of Mentone. Our senior yearbook was placed on a table along with a memorial of the four we’ve lost since graduation: Grant Dobbs, Derek Hood, Brooke Craig, and Joey Kean.

It was like a big house where after dinner we could just walk around and hang out as the band played. That was the ideal casual environment that kept everyone comfortable and in good spirits.

I have heard of class reunions where people had to pay $100 just to get in. Ours was affordable, practical, fun, and perfectly planned. We could have met in the Santa Fe room at Western Sizzlin’ (or The Sizzler as it’s known in the rest of the country). But no, the Fort Payne class of ’99 does things right. We knew not to play around with something as monumental as our one and only 10 year reunion.

There definitely is a dream-like quality about seeing so many old friends again after so long. Like a blurry Vaseline-on-the-camera-lens kind of feel. And because so many truly looked the exact same as they did in high school, it was kinda like a dream where we all just appeared in the same place and the only thing that really changed was the time in between the last time we were all together.

Eleven year reunion, anyone?