James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

that may or may not exist

70: The Sandy Underdog

This week’s essay: The Sandy Underdog

The stresses of self-employment’s first week led me to join my partner and two friends on a train towards the Indiana Dunes. As my first trip to the dunes, I was surprised to learn that they were miniature mountains in disguise. After a thirty minute walk from the train to the beach, we kicked off our shoes and replenished our bodies with peanut butter, grapes, and carrots. Our first stop was a small summit to get a decent view of the beach, but of course that wasn’t enough for our trip. This led to a thirty minute sand slog to Mt. Tom Brady.

As we started to reach higher elevation, my body’s resistance started to grow. My blood clots started to attack my breathing and my legs turned into meat slabs filled with gelatin. I gazed up at my partner and friends climbing the summit with speed, and I kept thinking, “Why did I decide to do this?” This dance of emotions followed me up and down the pathways, through trees and sixty degree inclines for two hours. While weaving through the trees, I noticed the balance of the universe. Every moment of struggle led to a moment of embracing nature’s beauty.

Whether starting a business or a late night ESPN sports special, the underdog is praised. Everyone loves a story of overcoming the odds and leading to be victorious. More often than not, fiction is based on truthful occurrences. While climbing those dunes, I wanted a story of my own. This struggle was going to lead to a reward of accomplishing a goal, seeing something I’ve never seen before, and creating a memory for the bank.

As we reached the final incline of Mt. Tom Brady, it felt to be a 70 degree incline with some the deepest sand to slug through. No shade was present and the sun was beaming over my brow, with sweat and mosquitos finding solace on my discouragement. My partner reached her hand out and helped gather momentum during my climb, with the final steps giving the biggest heave against my lungs. The final step led to a large sigh overlooking the entire east side of the dunes. I was breathless enough to give a huge sigh of awe at the world around us.

I looked to my sides and shared this memory with some of the closest people I know. Looking northwest, I could see the outlined skyline of Chicago as a muddied meld of blue among the Lake Michigan skies. All the breathless moments, disgust, and disbelief was worth it to see the world at a level that very few have the opportunity to.

After sharing a snack to celebrate our accomplishment, we did the only thing you when the universe balances you at the top of an incline…we ran back down. When I think back to this day, not only will I think about how much I wanted to give up, but also the capabilities of an engaged human body and mind.


What did I find interesting this week?

★ One of my favorite writers, Clive Thompson, wrote about the experience of reading War and Peace on his iPhone.

★ Bloomberg Businessweek has a fantastic feature about one of the beloved companies responsible for the pop culture of my childhood, Viacom, having a mid-life crisis.

★ “The heart of essentialism isn’t about asking how little we can live with, but determining what we simply cannot live without.”

★ I’ve been a big fan of Apple Music since it launched, so reading this breakdown of the unboarding process was one to save for the sketchbook.

★ As you start your Monday, remember that it’s okay not to be okay.


What’s coming up?

★ Cher and I finished recording a new episode of our podcast, Open Ended with guest Lauren Ash of Black Girl in Om! You can check out our latest episode on our websiteiTunes, or in any other podcast player. Be sure to rate us on iTunes and send us a donation to keep our lights on.

★ I’ll be in a group exhibition titled Three the Hard Way at The Logan Center in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with Ayana Contreras and David Leggett. The opening’s on July 10th.

★ I’m going to be showing a (semi) new art piece at this year’s CHGO DSGN: WHEREVER show at LVL3 in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The opening’s on July 11th.


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Special shout out to Jayson, Subi, the Revision Path podcast, Allyson and Will for supporting this week’s newsletter. You keep this boat a float.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week.


James T. Green