Category Archives: autobiography

Back in the Ring to Take Another Swing

Boxing Boot Camp Third St. Gym Poster

The time has come once again to subject myself running ungodly distances at unthinkable hours of the morning and spending more time with a jumprope in my hands than would seem befitting for a grown man. For some reason, I’ve signed up for another boxing bootcamp at the Third Street Gym in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch neighborhood. And by historic, I mean “pain in the ass to get to every morning at 6:00 am.” Last time, getting there was a snap because I lived just a few blocks away. Having moved literally across the city, I was hesitant about taking the plunge into this pugilistic pastime once again. I had a great time, and I could use the extra impetus to force my ass into shape. I have become rather indolent as of late, and my expanding waistline is a sure sign that I need to take drastic measures.

The last boxing bootcamp that I did was back in January and I’m looking forward to getting back in shape. The good thing about bootcamps is that I feel motivated to see the thing through. I actually feel bad when I miss a day. The fact that the punishment for absence includes a being thrown in the San Francisco Bay is also a strong motivating factor. The fellas who run the thing are pretty cool. They strike a fine balance between meaning business and pushing you during the boot camp and cracking jokes.
I am not a very good boxer. My arms are short and my rhythm is highly suspect. But on the plus side I find a good punch to the jaw an exhilarating way to start the day. I’m mostly in it for the cardio, although these things traditionally end with a public display of fisticuffs. I suppose I’ll have to lace up my gloves when the time comes.

In the meantime, I am sore and tired. Being reliant on Muni, I have to get up at 4:30 in order to make it down to the gym in time for the days boxing lesson. I’m having problems because there are no other buses for me to catch. Not only do I have to wake up stupid-early, I also have to lug my boxing gear with me (gloves, headgear, jumprope, Survivor cd) and my ridiculously overstuffed backpack with me, because I go straight to school afterwards. Then, when I am going to school I have to lug the same crap around with me all day. Lockers don’t seem to be an option, unfortunately…

But I’m not one to let some minor logistical annoyances get in the way of a good exercise regime, so it’s cups of coffee and early bedtimes for me. It seems like my life is either at the gym, the classroom, or the library right now. It seems that way, because it’s true. Two days down, 28 more to go.

Where the Magic Happens

After a quick trip to Ikea and some assembling, I have a work station. It is tiny, just big enough to hold my fat stack of text books, some basic supplies, and my inspirational action figures. They used to occupy my desk at work, but since I am a full time student now they are now part of the apartment decor, much to my girlfriend’s delight. This is where I’m hard at work learning how to think like a lawyer:

Desk/Workspace

Here’s what it looks like when I switch to blogging mode and prepare to regale the internet with my trenchant observations and witty commentary:

My workspace

Some Possible Titles For My Autobiography, Law School Edition

I like to think that someday towards the end of my time on this earth, I will have lived a life worthy of memoir-izing. Right now my exploits are not quite up to standard of being collected for print, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming up titles for this future autobiography. Here are some possibilities highlighting legal terms:

“Insufficient Company”

“Dicta”

“Putative Damages”

“Negative Declarations”

“That Which is Not Denied Is Affirmed”

“Words of Art”

“Void for Vagueness”

“Scintillas”

“Spontaneous Exclamations”

“Strict Constructions”

I’m not sure what they all mean, but I think any of them would sound pretty cool followed by ” : The Sean McGilvray Story.”

My Name is Kunta Kinte, and My Account Number Is… Some (Relatively Rambling) Thoughts on Debt After Watching Maxed Out

I’ve been thinking about debt lately. It is a virtual impossibility to go through life in the modern age without borrowing money from outside sources, whether that means using a credit card to buy gas, financing a mortgage on a home, or attending an institute of higher learning. The present system is built around the idea of paying for things in installments while people rich enough to lend make ungodly amounts of money from the interest we pay for privilege. I’m not telling you anything new, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, even before the much ballyhooed. rumblings of the lending market.

Admittedly, my economic acumen is spotty. I tend to get that glazed look in my eyes whenever I hear words like fiduciary, subprime, or macroeconomic. Also, I am one self-centered son of a bitch. This means that most of my thinking has revolved around how credit, lending, and debt impact my personal life. I’ve been contemplating a rather large purchase that I would have no choice but to go into rather significant debt to sustain. This wouldn’t be something new for me, either. Like many young Americans, I went a little crazy in college. I was young, newly independent, and largely ignorant of how finances worked. As a result I was unable to resist the siren song of the free t-shirts that I received just for signing up for a new credit card. You’ve seen these guys at your campus. They sit behind folding tables with a box full of shirts and preloaded clipboards. All you have to do is sign on the bottom line. I can’t blame them or shift responsibility for my own actions, but there is something slightly sleazy about the way lenders target college students. At one point, I had twelve different cards. My wallet was stuffed with the things, swollen at its hinges by their plastic weight. It took me years and years, and quite a bit of help to scrape my way back to an even ledger and I am seriously contemplating going under again. I know that this time, it’s more of an investment but I am wracked by doubts that it will ever pay off for me.

These thoughts were bouncing around the edges of my consciousness as I sat down to watch Maxed Out,a recent documentary from the unfortunately-named James D. Scurlock. I say unfortunately because I went in to this film after casually (and lazily) scanning some write-ups, fully expecting a film from Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame). Not that it really matters, but that is not what I got. The end result is a fairly thoughtful examination of American debt from different perspectives, from a woman whose elderly mother killed herself after accruing an outrageous debt to two mothers whose children committed suicide after running up their credit cards in college. The film also looks at mortgage lending, governmental debt, and the fallibility of the credit reporting system but the focus is clearly on the human tragedy. And that tanked it for me. It should have been an examination of different forms of debt and the ways in which our culture perpetuates the cycle and instead it trades analysis for histrionic scare tactics. There are moments when the film inches toward the depth I was looking for, but they get overshadowed by the moments when the filmmakers insist on over-contextualizing the problem. I understand the urge, but showing images of a crying woman watching their relatives car getting pulled from the river is far too heavy-handed.


It did get me thinking though. I understand that lending is a vital part of the free market, Responsible borrowing is essential to the system and the practices that are most predatory can easily read as simply good business. While I find the notion of targeting those too ignorant, desperate, or helpless to know that they should not get a payday loan with 250% interest or apply for a Visa card to pay their phone bill reprehensible I can’t seem to get away from the notion that personal responsibility lies at the center. No big bad credit card company forced me to get twelve cards and run them up. I did it to myself. The notion that “Debt Is Slavery” is true in the sense that the current system can create virtual serfs who work because they have no choice and virtually no chance of ever getting to even. But it is a self-imposed manner of slavery. I think the solution is for people to educate themselves about debt management and try to keep themselves out of the cycle. There are several debt-counseling services and financial advice outlets floating around out there for people to use. I just can’t get behind the notion that tighter legislation of the lending bodies or federal reserve action will solve the problem for the man on the street. As long as there is a desire to live above one’s actual means there will be a lender to oblige, whether it is Providian or Louie the loan shark. I want to keep myself as debt-free as possible, but the only way to do that is to take responsibility for my own actions and not blame the banks for giving me enough rope to hang myself. At the same time, the act of borrowing is endemic to the system and I can’t see any way to live without some kind of credit.

That’s the only way to break the shackles.

See Also: Intelligent Does Not Equal Wealthy

Going Dark

I can never stay out of Florida. Despite moving across the country and setting up residence as far away as possible, I keep getting sucked back in. The ties of friendship and family keep drawing me home to the sunshine state, usually for weddings. That’s the case now, as I sit here typing and sweating. I always forget about the sticky-heavy heat that punches you in the face as soon as you walk out of MCO. It drains the will to live right out of your soul. I’ve grown far too accustomed to the temperate San Francisco climate to be expected to function here anymore. Growing up, it wasn’t a problem dodgin wasps and mosquitos and rednecks and drunks, but this place doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I’ve lost the qualities of a native and that which was once familiar now feels cumbersome and strange.

All of which to say that I probably won’t be posgting anything for the next few days while re-acclimate myself to Florida and celebrate my brother’s impending nuptials. There’s only dial-up connection in my parents house and I feel like I might send the laptop through a wall if I try to use it after this. Plus I’ll be pretty busy. Signing off…

Fifteen Things You Will Probably Never Hear Me Say

1.”Is this the laciest doily you have?”

2. “No, I couldn’t possibly have another beer.”

3. “…and then the Holy Spirit came upon me and I started speaking in tongues. It was bitchin’.”

4. “Oh, I’d love to hear all about your kids and how cute their poop is.”

5. “Honey, could we please watch the sporting event? You know how I like to be up on all my favorite players statistics and cheer on the team from my home town, which is vastly superior to all other home towns.”

6. “I don’t really feel like going to the movies. I think I’ll sit here and play Sudoku instead.”

7. “I wonder if the collar of my pink shirt is popped high enough.”

8. “Hey, Baby.”

9. “Why no, I don’t know anything about the origins of that comic book character. I bet you would be completely bored if I laid out the publishing history and narrative continuity of the superhero, so I won’t go into it.”

10. “Do you have any more of those delightfully fruity little cocktails? And could I get a bigger umbrella for my glass?”

11. “Few recording artists will ever attain the mastery of songwriting and technical composition of Nickelback. Plus Chad Kreoger’s voice is really pleasing. I can’t wait until the next album.”

12. “I’m really getting tired of all these lesbians making out all the time.”

13. “I wonder if any DIY/ home improvement shows are on HGTV. I really enjoy watching interior designers work their magic.”

14. “I can’t wait to go see this movie. It’s a prequel to a remake with a young child in a prominent role. It looks like cinematic gold.”

15. “I’m sick and tired of going to school. I’d better buckle down and focus on a serious career because I have a clear and unwavering idea of what I want to do with my life.”

Mean Machine

My first car is being exhumed. Okay, not my actual first car. That thing is sitting in a junkyard somewhere in central Florida providing a shelter for armadillos and snakes. But the same model (1957 Plymouth Belvedere) was apparently used as a time capsule in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 15, 1957. It seems they thought the thing was so futuristic that it would fit in well in our technologically advanced space age.

tulsaplymouth01.jpgtulsaplymouth01.jpg

As a former Belvedere driver, I can attest that it does not. I was, if not “the laughing stock” of my friends, then at least a source of constant amusement with my (mostly) lime green, long hunk of steel. But I didn’t care. I thought it was great. It might not have been the fastest thing on the road, but it could move when it had to. And it had a certain elegance of design that later models lacked, with its fins and and grimacing headlights, and it’s push-button transmission. Maybe my pals got better mileage than me, but the Belvedere had an undeniable character; a character that was sorely lacking in their Japanese lawn-mower engines wrapped in fiberglass. The Belvedere was pure Detroit steel, long and heavy, and unconcerned with modern parking spot measurements.

It would have been way cooler if it had been only one color. Unfortunately, the Belvederes were among the most rust-prone cars ever built, and there were quite a few manufacturing problems. It’s kind of a miracle that I laid hands on one as pristine as I did, because they tend to rust and disintegrate over time. It must have been fate that lead me to lay eyes on that green machine in the balmy summer of 1996, and it was fate that lead me to try unsuccessfully to restore it. In the course of sanding down the old paint job, I discovered such rust that I gave the project up mid-scour. I had uncovered three distinct shades of paint, two separate qualities of rust, and a constantly flaking outer layer. The end result was a vintage car with at least six different shades. It was a psychedelic calico of blue, green, and red.

It ran like a dream for three years, until it didn’t. The driver’s side door stopped opening. I had to constantly keep the accelerator down even when braking at a full stop, or risk stalling out completely. Once, during a rain storm, my windshield wiper flew off in mid-wipe. I had to stop, get it from the other lane and manually run it across the driver’s side through an open window. By the end, I had lost all ability to back up. The “R” button on the dash mocked me with its impotence. Parking became problematic. The best option was to pull through a parking space so I ended up facing out of the next one, but that wasn’t always an option. Sometimes I had to either a)Park on a hill so that gravity would let me escape or b) get out and push the car backwards until I could pull forward again.

Yes there were problems. And with each one I had to bear the scornful laughter of my peers, yet I regret nothing. The Belvedere is still the best car I ever had, and when they pull one from the ground in Oklahoma next week, everyone in Tulsa will understand why. If there’s anything left.

The King of the Vagabonds Presents: Tuesday’s True Travel Tales

Generally, I don’t like children. They annoy me because I don’t find them precious or cute. If you think about it, “cute” when used to describe the speech or actions of a child is really just another way of saying “weak or stupid, albeit in an endearing manner.” I know to many this makes me sound like a monster, or a curmudgeonly old grouch and I can’t really refute this claim. But at least my feelings are universal. I didn’t even really like myself all that much until I was about 17-18. I don’t like American children, I don’t like Irish children, I really don’t like French children. I do not like African children.

But rules are made to be broken and as I walked along the Eastern shore of Lake Malawi I found myself slowly but surely warming up to the phalanx of little fishermen in training that trailed behind me. When the mob of skinny little Africans ran up to me, I assumed they were swarming me to ask for money. This would not be out of the ordinary when traveling in Africa. Even the poorest backpacker probably has more wealth at their disposal than most poor Africans will see in a lifetime so you can forgive the locals for thinking that every Mzungu they see is a walking ATM. This had been happening a lot, but that didn’t make it any less irritating. Continue reading…

Sure and Begorrah

It’s that time of year again, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts Guinness and avoiding the pinching punishment of those who forget to wear green. It’s a magical time of year when we can all come together over a pint and look back at the man who made Ireland a serpent-free zone, your man Saint Patrick.

Most people don’t realize that the brother wasn’t even Irish. He was kidnapped from Britain when he was young and the pirates sold him as a slave to some Irish folks. He eventually escaped, but returned years later as a missionary. Tradition has it that he was responsible for converting the pagan Celts to Christianity. He was an early appreciator of a good visual aid, and used the shamrock to drop some knowledge on the locals and help them understand the concept of the holy trinity. Most awesomely, legend has it that old Padraig was able to banish every last snake from the emerald isle. Chances are there weren’t any there to begin with, but the Irish have never been known to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

What does all this have to day with the holiday we celebrate tomorrow? Absolutely nothing for most people. The masses tend to use it as an excuse to drink way more than they should, wear stupid plastic green derbies and generally act like wankers. Now far be it from me to hate on St. Paddy’s day, but I do get annoyed at the amateur night spectacle of people trying to order Guinness, trying a sip and realizing they don’t like before going back to green beer. Green food coloring in beer? Why? I find it both retarded and gross. And then there are the fuckwits who go about doing their best Lucky Charms impression and making futile attempts to riverdance.

Leave it to the professionals.

I went to a catholic school filled with Irish nuns who would frequently threatened to whack us their shillelaghs if we did not behave. St. Patrick’ s Day was the center of the school at year at St. Marys. Uniform restrictions were relaxed to allow the wearing of green. There was a day long festival where Sister Joan Grace would dance a jig and lead the entire school in several good old drinking songs. At one point, they even used the “The Wild Rover,” a song about drunken gambling and general debauchery to illustrate the biblical parable about the prodigal son. Good times.

I drink Guinness, Jameson’s, and Bushmills. I love potatoes, and I eat them like apples. I listen to Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and even U2. I went to catholic school, have kissed the blarney stone, and once wrote a thesis paper on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I have many siblings. My name is Sean MacGillivray, and Saint Patrick’s Day is mine. Leave the plastic shamrock at home.

The Lamest Thing I Said Last Week:

While involved in a discussion of the omnipresent smell of marijuana smoke that hovers over the city of San Francisco like a fart trapped under a blanket, I came around to the subject of how open people are here when it comes to smoking pot. I don’t know what the police policy is on public smoking, but from what I can tell it’s more total obliviousness than zero tolerance. Not that I have a problem with that, per se, but I’m used to a little more discretion. I do notice that anyone could be smoking at any time, and since I am more unhip to the stoner parlance than your D.A.R.E teacher was I remarked that someone who said they were going to their car was more than likely going to smoke a “Doob-o.” If the laughter this provoked is any indication, this is not the preferred slang.