Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Computer Disasters, Vinyl Love & New Year's Eve

Let's be honest, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I have what I think of as a small computer virus issue one day, and then the next I can't log into my computer at all. I just get this black screen and can't even see my desktop.

So, I figure, let's just get a new hard drive. I've swapped those out before, so it shouldn't be too hard. So, I upgrade to a bigger hard drive, and come home to find out that the bigger drive uses a bigger cable to connect to my motherboard, but my motherboard doesn't have any more room to accommodate the expansion. So, now I have to go back to the store to get a smaller hard drive. I'm sure that I'll bring it home, hook it up and it still won't work, but whatever. At that point I'll have all the ammunition I need to talk Jen into a small ultra-cheap laptop. We don't need anything fancy...just something I can write on, surf the web, and run iTunes through. All of my music is on an external drive, so I don't even need much memory. One of these days I'll break down and get the iBook I really want, but not during these bleak economic times.

Tonight we make our annual New Year's Eve pilgrimage to my brother's house. We'll load up the car with my over sized bottle of Jack Daniels, Jen's amaretto, our meat and cheese tray, our two other appetizers and spend the night hanging out with family. It's always a pretty decent time, if not rather sedate. Nothing gets out of hand, and everyone is friendly (they are family after all).

I don't want to beat this to death, but I have to mention my new turntable again. I love music. Love it. It's very important to me, and I can be a little obnoxious about it. In recent years though I've gotten pretty distracted by lots of other things. Life happens and rolls along whether you are paying attention or not, and during all of this music became something that was there in the background. Not that my interest in it diminished, it just changed. It was on while I surfed the web, or played games, or did dishes, or drove to work.

Now though, having the turntable slowed that down. I set up a system in my den (a spare bedroom that I've taken over with all my silly crap...I should post pictures one day). I have a padded rocking chair that I drag back and forth across the room from my Super Nintendo (Zelda still rules) and my new "listening station".

Already I'm obsessive with vinyl collecting. A friend and I once discussed just collecting our top 25 albums and then stopping, but even then I knew that wouldn't happen. Jen bought be a great little cabinet for storage and to set my turntable on, and now I want to fill it immediately. Don't worry, it's expandable...she knows me well.

The night before last we hit up Magnolia Thunderpussy and I picked up a four disc re-release of Sonic Youth's Goo and a Fugazi single for "Furniture". When we got home I couldn't wait to settle in and listen. I wound up getting distracted by The Velvet Underground and Nico (something I had picked up the week before and had not listened to yet) so I put that on first. Then, I listened to the old Fugazi single. There's something so warm and immediate about the sound of vinyl, and I love that, but not being an audiophile it's just a bonus. The really great thing was sitting down in a darkened room and just listening.

It reminded me of sitting around on cigarette burned carpet in Houston, listening to Big Star. It reminded me playing bass along with Pearl Jam in my dorm room. It reminded me of waiting for over an hour in a grocery store parking lot waiting to hear Radiohead's "Creep" be played by an Indianapolis station and being blown away, even through the occasional static. It reminded me of listening to Nirvana play their version of The Meat Puppet's "Oh Me" over and over again, just to hear the guitar outtro.

So that's my suggestion for both of you still reading this damned thing. Grab your iPod, or turn up your surround sound and turn everything else off. Close your eyes and remember what made you fall in love in the first place.

Happy New Year, ya'll.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't Call It a Comeback!

Hi There,

How have you been? Everyone good at home? Did you have a good Christmas?

There have been giant forces at work keeping me from blogging as I had once done. First, my new job has prevented me from using any of my lunch hour for creative endeavors. Then, my PC at home got blowed up with a nasty virus of some sort. I'm getting to the point of considering buying a new hard drive and starting from scratch. This prospect does not thrill me at all, but what's a boy to do?

At any rate, things are good for me and mine. Christmas rolled by without a hitch, but this weekend is when my immediate family will get together. They're generally low stress affairs with all of us pitching in for dinner and watching my two nephews open their presents. There's the usual oddities that are always in play when it comes to dealing with your family, but they're no bigger than most anyone else's so I hesitate even mentioning it. It will be a good day, but I'll be ready for it to be over before it is. The madness of my grandparent's house always makes me miss my own quieter home.

Jen and I picked up tickets to see Ben Folds coming this April and I'm hoping to go see The Whigs sometime in March (they're great...saw them earlier this year and they are big and loud). Otherwise, there aren't that many interesting shows coming to the area which is terrible because I am so in need of some inspiration. On the plus side, the new Heiruspecs disc came out and I'm sending my cash off to Felix for that this weekend. He's going to help me out with an older vinyl disc too (my turntable is up and running and as beautiful as I had once dreamed) and hopefully some stickers to slap around the den. That I'm looking forward to. Yay Christmas money.
So, that's all there's time for right now. I really am going to make an effort to check in more often, if only in small bits. Please rest assured, if it's been awhile since I've talked to you, I miss you. If we've spoken recently, I probably still miss you...The holidays make me needy.

Hugs and Kisses,

Stephen

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving and Everything After

Normally, me and the wife would pack up our meager potluck offering and head to my brother's place for Thanksgiving. This year though, Jen's mom flew into town, and as a result we wound up deciding to kick it at our house this year for the big feast. Now, I've never cooked Thanksgiving dinner in my life, but I figured I could muddle through. I did. Homeboy cooked it up and surprisingly everything came out pretty well. It might even stick as a new tradition. We'll see.

Friday, we just stayed close to home, drinking wine and watching movies. In the past, I've always referred to Black Friday as Godfather Day since we'd stay home and watch Godfather I & II (never...ever III). But, in mixed company we settled on me hitting Blockbuster for some flicks and then surfed the couch. I started getting antsy by the end of the day, feeling like I wasn't getting anything done, but it was good to just hang out with Jen's mom and kind of reconnect a bit with her.

Saturday was straight up drunkeration. We headed out to a couple of wineries and wound up bringing a case home with us to replenish a supply that had taken a surprising hit over the previous two days. With our supplies tucked away in the racks, we ended our night with yet more leftovers and opened a few bottles.

Our last day together was spent shopping. Jen's mother very generously gave us a bit of a Christmas present early. Jen wanted curtains, so we got to go shop for those. I've never shopped for curtains before, but it was exactly as much fun as I thought it might be. My mood lighted though once I was told that there would be enough cash left over for a record player. I've picked out a very basic model that I'm going to set up in the den with a new component system. Very old school. Can't wait.

And that's that. Mom-In-Law flew back Monday morning, and I'm back at work fighting a cold and just fighting to get through to another weekend. We're quickly using up 2008, and I gotta be honest, I'm not going to miss much of it. There were high points for sure, but I think mostly it was the kind of year you have to have to make you more grateful for all the goods ones.

Hope you all had a good long Thanksgiving weekend. I'll be around...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lord, If You've Got Lungs, C'mon Shout Me Out

So, with family coming in tonight and us entertaining through the weekend, I imagine I won't be blogging much. So, I wanted to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. If I could, I would come around and hug each one of you individually, but there's the geography to consider as well as the fact that I'm not really into touching people for the most part. But all that aside...feel loved.

Really.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chef Shivers

It's that kind of "in between" cold that brings rain and gray skies. Snow is hinted at, but never quite materializes. The rain hits your skin in the morning on your way to the car, and it becomes a part of you for the rest of the day. I went to work, in my new capacity (which is suspiciously like my old capacity), ran some errands while at lunch (coffee run, etc.) and then hit the grocery store on the way home all with a thin shiver curled under my coat with me.

Thanksgiving is generally spent with my brother and sister in law at their house. We kind crashed their get together a few years back (it is mostly my sis in law's family) and wound up getting invited back each year. When we're not visiting Jen's family in WI, we always go. This year though, Jen's mom is coming to town and we decided to keep it low key for her sake.

It was insane how much money I spent on groceries tonight. I'm only cooking for four people, but it felt like they had to restock behind me everywhere I went. I wandered through the aisles getting more and more worried that I'd exceed my cart's capabilities. Me and 400 of my neighbors listened to piped in Coldplay while loading up on yams and blocks of cheese. I managed to wade through the humanity and come out near the checkout lanes gasping for air with pretty much everything I needed. Since this is my first actual Thanksgiving dinner that I've done, I also loaded up on plenty of booze. That way, if things go belly up, we'll have an excellent Plan B.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The End of the Beginning of the End

A good man once said, "It sucks when your job gets blowed up". To that I have to say, Tru dat, sir...Tru dat.

Today, the company I work for will effectively shut their doors. There will be the general janitorial duties that come with a business ceasing operations, but for all intents and purposes, everyone will be going their separate ways after today. It's sad.

Like all jobs, you work with people you really like and other people who present you with the challenge of civility. The thing is, I really liked most everyone I had regular contact with. Some of the people I met wound up becoming good friends, something that I don't have a ton of and something that becomes more important to me the older I get. I never thought that would happen here, especially when my management team operated out of the Twin Cities area. They're good people, doing good things, and I'm going to miss getting to talk to them on a regular basis. Hopefully, our paths will cross again. Preferably sooner than later.

So, raise your glasses...To better days, ya'll.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Get What You Pay For

The Major Label record companies have been struggling to find a new way to provide an old product. Part of the problem is, of course, that it's tough to sell something that everyone can get for free. The other thing that I keep hearing is that the major players have done a bad job of giving the people what they want. I think 2008 has been a pretty good (though not stellar) year for music, but I realize that my tastes run left of center. So, it left me wondering what is it that people really want? Is it the canned pop churned out by Timbaland's production factory? Is the it recycled metal of Hinder? The real answer is actually far more sinister than you might have thought.

Since Apple rolled out iTunes, the top three tracks sold are:

Jouney's Don't Stop Believing. 2 million sold.




















Sweet Home Alabama. 1.46 sold.




















Bohemiam Rhapsody 1.44 sold




















At .99 each, that's almost $5,000,000.00 generated for these three songs. I think The People are pretty clear about what they want. Think about it. "Don't Stop Believing" is the number one most downloaded song in iTunes history. When was the last time you actually listened to this song? Shudder.

- - - - - -

Speaking of shudders...Yesterday I start to head up to the third floor of my office, and there at the foot of the stairs is a religious tract. I read it on my way up. Basically, it let me know that I'm either bound for heaven or hell. You see, I might be a nice guy doing good things in the world (petting puppies, picking up litter, holding doors open for people so they can enter the room first, etc.) but I'm bound for damnation because I was born into sin, and the wages of sin is death.

Fortunately, there's hope for me. If you don't know the path to salvation, send me your address and I'll forward over the pamphlet to you no questions asked.

After I got upstairs I found another tract on one of the file drawers. Wow. Someone's been a busy little creepy Christian.

A couple of weeks ago, Jen and I watched a documentary on HBO about organized religion and its effect on politics and America in general. It was done by an atheist woman, so the intent and content was pretty deliberate in my opinion, but it was still pretty well done. One of the things that struck home to me was a minister who basically said that Christians were the only group of people in the US that it is ok to discriminate against. They're made fun of in television. They're portrayed as bumbling and hypocritic. I felt a bit bad about that, because I've been known to laugh at some Christian bashing myself, and there was part of me that wondered why that was OK if making fun of race or sexual orientation isn't. I decided that I'd try to be less judgmental, and adopt a more "Whatever people find peace in is good enough for me" kind of attitude.

But the tract the other morning reminded me why some Christians can be fun to laugh at. It's the recruitment...that ideology that requires them to swell their ranks that sets them apart.

Would we really feel the same about other "protected classes" if they were really out there trying to get you not to just accept them as they are, but actually change your entire life to adopt their beliefs? What would you do if two gay men went door to door through your neighborhood inviting you to "Gay Classes" held Sunday Mornings or passed out flyers that were titled "Anal or Oral?" What if you went into the bathroom at your office and there was a note taped to the door telling you you should abandon all of your beliefs in a higher power or run the risk of wasting what little time you have left on Earth feeling guilty about looking at those naughty pictures when you were 15?

Tell me about it if I ask or seek out the information. Otherwise, be quiet and let me climb the stairs in peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Randomness Abounds

When I was a little kid, I didn't have much in the way of a tough male role model. As a result, I was convinced that my uncle Curt was the baddest man alive. He had a habit of chewing on the corner of his lower lip, a habit I immediately equated with toughness. One morning, I was on the bus on my way to school and there was an older kid who was staring at me. I didn't like it, so I started chewing on the corner of my bottom lip, showing him I was a bad man and not to be messed with. The kid started laughing at me, and then sucked in half of his lower lip and gnawed on it with yellowed fence post teeth. I remember being shocked that someone would use my own "I'm tough" signals back at me in a mocking manner. I immediately decided that posturing wasn't my thing.

- - - - - - - -

The last couple of days I've started going for a walk on my lunch. Yesterday, I froze without a hat and gloves, so today I came better prepared. I go across the street to a park and walk around a gravel nature trail towards the back of the property. It's a great way to spend an hour. The deer, undersized from the crowded conditions, are used to people and run more out of habit than from actual fear. The squirrels are fat and sleek, looking freshly oiled and seem to be everywhere. They say there's a good fox population, but I've never seen proof of that, and I guess I don't expect to. There's still some snow around, though there seems to be less of it today than there was yesterday. It's limited now to the fallen limbs and trees and along the piles of leaves, but has melted in the places where it had fallen on the actual ground.

- - - - - - - - -

Jen got an automated call from her doctor telling her she had a message in her secure voice mail. She called up and listened to a voice mail that told her she was cancer free. The margins of the mass they removed were nice and clean, and she now has less than a week before the stitches come out.

- - - - - - - - -

We've been doing some things around the house getting ready for Jen's mother's Thanksgiving visit, and our decorating is finally starting to get weird enough to make me happy. First, I got Kim Jong iLL hung up along the stairway half wall on the second floor landing. They're lower than I had planned on, and not immediately visible when you go upstairs, but they looked so great there that they had to stay. We also got some other prints up including a great shot of Madonna (Jen is a huge fan of early Madonna) completely nude (Stephen is a huge fan of early or late nudity) while hitchhiking. I know what you're thinking because I've already heard it before: "I wouldn't hang that crap in my house". That, dear friend, is why you don't live here. It makes me smile every time I see it. We also got some family photos framed and hung, so our house, after 6 years, is finallly starting to look a little homey. Well, our version of homey anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Dorks

I know I can be a bit of a sarcastic dick at times, but I love this time of year. While you'll hear me groan a bit when the Christmas decorations come out before Halloween is over, there is a part of me that likes it. I tend to like it more as Thanksgiving gets closer, and this year I've been looking forward to Christmas even more than usual. I'm not entirely sure why, but I think our last Christmas had something to do with it.

We were total scrooges last year. There was a potential move for us on the horizon, and we told ourselves there was no reason to drag out boxes of Christmas stuff just to have to pack it all back up in the event of a move. We were collecting boxes and had even thrown some of our books into them in preparation. We didn't want to spend money on presents for each other since we were going to need every penny, so we only bought presents for our super cute and always wonderful nephews. There was no tree and nothing to put under it. We told ourselves it was fine. We're adults and don't need to spend money on each other due to tradition. We don't need to string up lights or force our dogs to wear antlers purchased from Petsmart.

We were wrong. By the time last Christmas finally came, we were both in a bit of a funk and depressed. We had fun with the family, but without our little quiet celebration with the two of us things just didn't feel quite right. So, this year, we're going to fix that.

Normally, I'm the big dork that gets us moving towards the Christmas Spirit, but it was a call from Jen this morning that got me thinking these thoughts.

Jen: Hey.
Me: Hey back.
Jen: So, I was thinking...
Me: Did you hurt yourself?
Jen: Dick.
Me: Hehe.
Jen: Anyway, I was thinking we should do the outside lights this year. And since we're rearranging stuff this week anyway to get ready for my mom's visit, maybe we could do the living room too so there's more room for the tree.
Me: Sure. What's got you all gun ho for Christmas?
Jen: I refuse to admit that it was the snow.

It was funny because the snow made me feel the same way. There were a few flurries yesterday, but they were thin anemic flakes that fell as fast as raindrops. This morning though, the flakes had fattened up, and lazed their way down into rush hour. Drivers slowed as if twelve inches of fresh powder had fallen, and the radio accident report sounded like a crash course in our city's geography. It was nice to know that in the midst of cars slamming into each other all around us because of the damp roads, Jen and I were being big dorks at the same time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vetern's Day Cancerectomy

Yesterday I took headed out of the office around noon. Technically, I wasn't even supposed to go in yesterday, but the company I am hoping to work for soon asked if I could hang out for a bit to start work on a project, so I did. (I know that it doesn't seem to make sense that I would go in to work my job to do work for a company I don't yet work for, but in my world, it makes a certain sort of sense. Just go with it.)

So, I went to buy a coat. All of my old jackets and winter coats are three or four sizes too big, so I headed out and scored not one, but two, coats. I threw a new knit hat into the mix, so now I"m ready for winter's worst. Bring it.

After two stores, I still had some time to kill so I headed to Half Price Books over near campus. HPB isn't a place where you go in looking for a certain book because more often than not, you won't find it. It IS a place to go in and wander around for a couple of hours and get a bunch of shit you didn't realize you needed until you saw it on the shelf. That's what I did. I looked at old vinyl (the records always smell like mildew...it's comforting somehow), flipped through graphic novels, drooled over their locked collection of First Editions, and wound up spending $20 on four new books. I love that place.

Then, I picked Jen up from her office, and headed over to her doctor's office. We had been waiting for this day for almost a full month since getting the call that the mole on her chin was cancerous, and the wait was taking its toll on her. She was just ready to have the damn thing cut out, so that's exactly what they did. It took about twenty-five minutes and I got to watch them do it. Well, I watched part of it anyway. Normally, I would have been fascinated by the whole process, but it's different when it's your wife being cut. I sat at the end of the table near her feet, rubbing her ankle every once in a while, but avoiding the actual action.

I did see many blood soaked gauze squares being piled on a surgical tray. I saw the rose tattoo on the back of the assistant's neck. I saw a little half inch bleeding squiggle of cancer and skin get held to the light before being lowered into a little cup that will be shipped off to a lab for testing.

Jen was quiet for the most part, and was a trooper through the whole thing. Like I said, she was just ready for them to be done. And now they are. In two weeks the stitches come out and then we can get on with everything else. I'm not sure yet what "everything else" consists of, but I'm ready for it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Other Voices, Other Rooms

I can't believe I actually got to sleep in on both days of this weekend. That's practically unheard of these days, so it was big news to be in bed past 8:00. In addition to all the sleeping, we managed to do a few things too.

A year or two ago, Jen and I were sitting around drinking beers with her mom and going through old pictures. In the pile was a shot of Jen when she was about three years old. She is standing behind a car that sits with its door open still. Her hair is a tangled and blowing in the wind and she has on this little jean jacket thing that just cracks me up when I look at it. Her face is what's perfect though. It's not the cheesy good natured smile of a kid who loves to have her picture taken, but rather this solemn insecurity that comes through. It's heartbreakingly beautiful and I had it blown up, and printed in black and white to put on the wall downstairs.

Jen felt a bit odd having a pic of her on the wall by itself, so yesterday I went through some Merryman family photos and found one of me. It's a close up of me around the same age as Jen, and I have my goofy smile on. On the plus side, it's a sincere smile not the forced "I'm having my picture taken" variety. Tonight, I got both shots framed and will get them hung tomorrow. I was going to do it tonight, but didn't have the right wall anchors. We'll fix that tomorrow.

Today, we went to see the Andy Warhol exhibit
that's here in town. Columbus is actually the only US stop for Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms, and we felt fortunate to have the chance to see it. Click on the link if you'd like the full breakdown of what was displayed, but the short list is an amazing collection of his print work, photographs, and a massive amount of film displayed on dozens of screens. While I like some of his work, I never claimed to be a massive follower, but it really was amazing to see the sheer volume of the man's output.


Jen and I roamed the halls of the Wexner Center, checking out old 16mm film of a man inserting a paintbrush into his rectum and then paint a portrait of Andy while Andy looked on, snapping the occasional photograph. We played in the area they had set aside for a miniature "Clouds" display. (The clouds in question being large foil pillows filled with a light helium mixture floating around one corner of the gallery.) I stood with rapt attention at every mention or performance by The Velvet Underground. We read excerpts of Truman Capote's Marilyn Monroe interview for Andy's magazine. We sat mesmerized by some of the screen tests that he shot as the subject would go from campy, to bored, to finally being upset that the process wasn't over.
Whatever your feelings about Campbell's Soup Cans, Multiple Marilyns, or Pop Art in general, it was a great way to spend the afternoon and it was good to just get out and spend some time looking at art again. We haven't done that for awhile, and just being out and about wakes you up a bit and gets you thinking. Some of it we loved, some of it we were indifferent to, but we were happy just roaming around. Plus, did I mention that a guy had a paint brush in his ass? How awesome is that? The only way that could be better is if he were a caricature artist at Cedar Pointe. "Oh, OK. You like horses? How bout if I draw you sitting on a horse? Great! Here, let me just bend over..."
---
After absorbing all things Andy we headed over to Panera for a late lunch. After rounding up half a sandwich and a bowl of soup each, we found a table near the fireplace and settled in. I was watching a guy who was sitting outside drinking from a Panera branded cup and smoking a cigarette like there was no tomorrow. He would take a hit, exhale in this lazy way where he would just open his mouth in an "O" and the smoke would just pour out of his lungs, and then immediately take another hit. There were no quick breaths of pure air in between, just this crazy sucking followed by letting his mouth hang open to let the flood of smoke rise up and sting his eyes. I was enthralled. When he lit another cigarette immediately, I thought it odd but remember thinking "Whatever it takes to get through it, buddy".

When he took three drags and then threw the butt on the ground ten feet to his right, lit a new cigarette, then walked over picked up the one he threw to the ground to take one more hit before putting it in the ashtray and then turn his attention to the new cigarette, I started giving Jen, who had her back to the entertainment, the play by play.

After a few minutes of me explaining that the guy was taking three or four quick drags and then throwing the still lit cigarettes on the ground, lighting a new one, and then going back for the grounded butts, she picked up her chair and came around to my side of the table. To the others in the restaurant we might have looked like thirtysomethings in love, but we were just both enthralled by this strange bit of madness in the middle of Upper Arlington.

He waved at kids, he smoked, he littered, he smoked his litter, he took sips of water from his cup with shaking hands, he smoked, he coughed, and then he did it all again. Sadly, just like my bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup, the craziness came to an end. Before I could get into my shortbread cookie, he had rounded the corner. We left shortly after and kept an eye out for him as we drove out of the neighborhood, but he was not to be seen.

And that's that. We came home and watched "True Blood" and I'm about to wrap up the night with a graphic novel by Joe Hill. Jen's been in bed for over an hour already and should be out cold. I probably won't be much further behind her.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Living Daylife

People are funny. It seems like there are thousands of artists, rappers, musicians, and writers wandering through cubicle farms trying to keep their heads on straight so they can go home and do what they love to do. I love that.

I love that the same people who occasionally get sucked into conversations about who is banging who will go home, roll up their sleeves and turn a white canvas into something that breathes. I love that the same girl who finds herself looking forward to lunch at 9:30 in the morning will sweat on a small stage until midnight screaming what few basic truths she has discovered to a crowd of 14 people getting drunk at the bar. I love that the same guy who wore two different colored socks in the morning will go home and work on his handmade jewelry line.

God, we're all so boring and amazing.

For so many of us the people we are during the day are completely different than the ones we are at night. I normally find that interesting, but tonight I think it's just a little sad that we all can't be what we want all the time.

Of course, it's easy to have these thoughts when the company I work for is in its final weeks. The end of a position has the tendency to make me wonder just why it is that no one has decided to pay be a shit-ton of cash for writing sporadic blog entries and eating burritos. I don't do much, but what I do I do well. Someday someone will pay be to eat burritos and they won't be disappointed by my dedication.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Photos of Whatnot

Tonight I took a pic of one of my screenprints that I just got framed and came across a couple of other pics that I thought would be cool to dump on here. So, without further ado...

Kim Jong iLL



Finally got my screenprints framed and ready to hang. I've wanted to have this done for ages now and think they look great. The frame is wooden with these really great ridges that don't show up at all in the pic.

Bike Trail




Hard to tell from this picture, but this is the paved trail I ride to work. It doesn't all have this secluded feel, but looks like this quite a bit along the way. One day soon I'll post a series of pics from my ride. Cox suggested that once, and it could be interesting if done right. It is a nice ride that affords views like this one below:




Additional Wildlife



My very manly dogs Otis and Lucy. This is pretty much what they do when not eating, pooping, or trying to kill each other.


The Eye



Watch your ass. The Eye is watching.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lazyman, New Heiruspecs & Voting

It's funny. After a couple weeks of not riding my bike due to bad weather, family in the hospital, and general laziness, I'm back in action. I feel like an old man though. My legs are tired. This morning I found myself wondering if I had brakes rubbing or something that would be slowing me down. No...it's just hard to pedal these days. That's what I get for not riding though. I'll ride to work the majority of this week and I should be back on point by the weekend. Really I just want to take advantage of the weather while I can.

The mornings are cold on the trail, and now that there are so many leaves on the ground even the smallest animals moving nearby sound like I'm being rushed by a heard of buffalo. Deer, just barely visible in the morning gray, become impossibly fast moving serial killers. The trash can at Cooper Park wants to torture me in its basement. Rabbits, hell-bent on revenge, dart in front of my tires, trying to steer me off the trail and into their lair where their families wait with knives and forks at the ready. That's right. Lairs. You didn't know that rabbits lived in lairs, did you? Now you do, so watch your ass.

In other news, Felix dropped a free Heiruspecs promo disk on his site the other day. Just click on FREE MUZAK , save it to your PC and drag it into iTunes for some free tunes. I was a big fan of "A Tiger Dancing" and some of their older stuff too, of course, but have to admit the new stuff reduces my interest in all things old. While it's not on my iPod yet, I listened through it last night and am digging them more and more. So, if you've ever wondered what Twin Cities Hip Hop sounds like, here's your big chance. You know me...I normally prefer my music soaked in reverb, layers of guitars, and a lead singer with a heroin habit but I'm branching out. You might want to try it too. In addition to his skills as an MC, Felix has mad skill organizing a Data Entry group. If you like what you hear, drop him a comment so he knows you're around.

I'm gonna ride home and then go participate in some Democracy. Then run home to see if Ohio is carried by my particular candidate of choice by one vote. If it happens, I'll run the streets taking credit for our collective win. Look for me, I'll be the big balding guy congratulating myself on the corner of Miller and Kelton. (I don't want to be seen in my own neighborhood.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Kick Ass Life

So, last night I was just hanging out, pulling up directions to get to a church my cousin is getting married in tonight, when the phone rang. Who was it? Edward Fucking Norton, that's who.

Ed "Fight Club" Norton was just calling to say hey, and let me know that I need to vote for Obama. He reminded me that I don't need to sit around and wait until Election Day to do it. I can vote early in the great state of Ohio. Mr. American History X then went on to tell me where to go to have my voice heard.

My life kicks so much ass.

Now, you might be like "So what? Who cares." And I'm guessing you would be one of the millions who didn't hear from Ed Norton last night. Your jealousy is embarassing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random Fact About Me #452

When I have a cup of coffee in my hand and I'm walking back to my desk, I have to stare at it to keep it from slopping over the side of the mug. If I'm not completely focused on the cup of coffee and my mind wanders, it's like I'm transformed into a Parkinson's patient shaking and stumbling toward my ergonomic desk chair. I might as well dump the fucking pot over my head and get it over with.

If I bear down and really focus though, I can actually make it back to my desk without burning the shit out of myself.

This morning, my mind wandered and my hand is still stinging.

I so want to be like the IT guys I see on our floor. They just march around the room, hands gesticulating while the while keeping that sweet black liquid at an even level in their cups. They laugh with each other when telling stories of a Tier 1 user attempting to access a database that has been unused for months while sipping absently from steaming mugs that say "World's Best Dad". I want to be able to sip absently. I want to know the appropriate time to transition from coffee to Diet Mt. Dew. I want to know what a Tier 1 user is.

Later though.

For now, I just need another cup of coffee and I'm going to have to direct all my energy into not hurting myself on my way back. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sleepy

So, I'm sitting here wondering to myself about when a new friend can become an old friend when I don't really have many friends at all so I don't want to transition the ones I have too soon lest I tip the scales too far in one direction and be caught without a new friend and just a bunch of tired old ones that I'm a little bit sick of.

I'm going to be then.

Night.

Snooze

Ahhh, the quiet life.

Jen, still trying to get over a cold and failing miserably, spent the weekend on the couch, leaving me to my own devices. I failed to get creative and spent most of the time hanging around her, fetching soup and Diet 7Up with liberal doses of cranberry juice added.

Saturday morning we had to go do ACT testing. This is something we each do for some extra spending money, and it's easy work. The supervisors are set up in individual classrooms, and I just roam around my assigned rooms, giving them breaks if they want them. Basically, I get paid to read my book in the company of teenagers. (Speaking of books, I'm reading "Heart Shaped Box" by Joe Hill. Good stuff. It wasn't until someone saw me reading it that they mentioned Joe is Stephen King's son. I hadn't realized, but now looking at his picture I don't know how I didn't see it. I'm about half through the book though, and it is really good. I've been striking out with my reading lately, so it's been fun to get into something again.) Not a bad gig. Plus, it's paying for my Kim Jong iLL frames and will finance a new creative endeavor I've got in the works.

It's strange to go back to a school though. Like the hospital, it's one of those worlds that are so easy to forget, but feel so familiar once you're forced to step back into it.


My view while patrolling the halls.

After testing, we had plans to go run around and do some shopping and then head over to my brother's place to see my sister-in-law (home from the hospital and doing well) and watch a football game that neither Jen nor I had much interest ing. She was feeling worse than ever though, so we cut our errands short and headed home. That's where she stayed the rest of the weekend.

I watched some slasher (Hatchet, Mr. Brooks) movies, played Dr. Mario with the infected one, did what cleaning I felt like and headed out on Sunday for our weekly supplies of frozen whole wheat waffles and Coke Zero. Jen slept on the couch both Saturday and Sunday, so I fell asleep each night watching reruns of the US version of The Office.

Big times, kids. Big. Times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

There are a few things that I'm totally hooked on right now and I thought I'd share. In no real order of importance:

Toilet Ink - Jen and I kind of have his and hers bathrooms. Mine is in the hall close to the extra bedroom that we use as a den. One of these glorious creations will be spicing up my throne post haste. Not 100% sure which one I'm getting yet, but pretty sure that it will be "The Hot Seat.

TV on the Radio - I've loved this band since I stumbled blindly upon the "Young Liars" EP and they are consistently good. The new album is amazing and totally worth picking up. I don't know if it's as good as their previous album "Return to Cookie Mountain", but this is a bit more fun and funky, and not quite so dark. If you want to hear what they do, but don't want to pay cash money up front, check out their free live set on the The Interface - Live Feed podcast from iTunes.

This American Life - I'm a bit of a Public Radio / NPR geek. It's OK, I'm fine with it. It's the news I listen to when I'm in the car, and entertainment for me when I'm running around on the weekends. Specifically though, This American Life is hands down the best hour of radio you will ever hope to find. For those unfamiliar, each week there is a theme for the show, and each week they explore different perspectives of that theme from (generally) three or four different people. The topics range from topical (the Mortgage Crises episode was brilliant beyond words) to emotional (coping with death, lying, etc.). The different views or approaches to a subject can be in the form of a book reading, interviews, stand up, or journalistic style reporting. Often, the experience is moving. Again, iTunes has the show available for free Podcasting, so don't be shy. Go subscribe. Fall in love. Then, go to their website and give them a few bucks. It is Public Radio after all.

Urban Medium - I know I've sung the praises of UM here a few times in the past, but I love them so I'm going to do it again. I FINALLY got the cash together to get Kim Jong iLL framed. I placed the order and dropped them off last weekend and will hopefully have them back in the next 3-4 weeks. Now, they have a new Charles Manson / Hello Kitty print that's pretty amazing. I'm gonna have to see if we have room for that too. On it's own, it wouldn't be a hard sell, but she is giving up a substantial chunk of wall space for the three prints I'm already getting framed. Not sure that she wants to live in a UM gallery.

Rue Morgue - I've been picking up this magazine at the bookstore from time to time and it's always been entertaining to me. It's an amazing collection of all things horror in all its art forms. Specifically though, this year's Halloween issue is fantastic. Filled with lists of best ever gore films, reviews for novels and video games, and just fun reading over all. If you don't mind stills of nude people impaled on giant poles, this magazine is for you (or maybe just me).

True Blood - Alan Ball, the genius behind Six Feet Under (my favorite television show of all time), is now giving us vampires in rural Louisiana. Lots of blood, sex, death, and black comedy in a show that imagines life after vampires have come out of the closet. Jen said it best: "I can't wait for this show to be over so we can buy it and watch it all again."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good Morning,

Got in to work this morning and about an hour in my system crashed leaving me unable to access the program I need to be productive. Because it's so early, the Helpdesk isn't in yet and I'm left on my own to figure out what to do. I figured I'd check in with my 2.4 faithful readers.

It's always interesting to me when I get pulled out of my world and reminded of all the things taking place around me that I'm not aware of. I drive past the OSU Hospital and James Cancer Research Hospital at least a couple of weeks without so much as a glance. It's a strange little world there, but with my recent visits it's a world I'm getting used to. I've memorized my way through the maze of hallways to get through the main hospital to the wing my sister in law is spending her days in watching daytime TV and going for short, stubby-legged walks. I watch her smile and thank everyone who comes into her room, from the stressed nursing staff to the volunteer coordinator who rambled in to drop off the hospital's television guide and information package.

My job is to hang out for a few (while not making her laugh - the incision kills her when she laughs) and then try to drag my brother out of the room for a few. Sunday he let me take him to dinner, but last night was just a walk around the courtyard.

The courtyard is a big green open space surrounded by the U shape of the hospital and parking garages. It's where patients circuit the walkways and family members sneak cigarettes despite the recorded voice reminding everyone that the entire property is smoke free. The courtyard is where chemo patients come to vomit between their feet while trying to get some fresh air. Mothers and daughters hug each other near the tables set up and fathers bring bags of cheap Chinese food from the food court located near the visitor's parking garage. All the while, leaves the size of dinner plates float lazily back and forth like a sheets of paper blown off a teacher's desk.

---

Strange thing happened the other night. I get in the elevator behind a rather large woman who is dragging around an IV stand. Her bald head is kept warm by a handkerchief she has knotted and pulled over her, and she smiles as she asks me what number I need.

"Eighth floor, please." I say.

"Ah, eight. Good number. I just want to know what happened to the sixth floor."

I smile politely, not quite sure what she's saying, but follow her eyes to the lighted display above the door showing us what floor we're on. Sure enough, there's no sixth floor.

"Hmmm." I said. "I didn't even notice that."

"Yeah, it's pretty strange." she replied.

"Well, it is a research hospital. I bet that's where all the action is. And since they're hiding it, it's either really good stuff that happens there or really bad."

The elevator stopped at the Fifth floor, her stop. She was chuckling to herself.

"Well, I'm going to go find it. I'm on a mission. I'll let you know how it goes. Have a good one."

"Good luck." I said as the door closed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sitting in the Waiting Room

Blogging from my phone from a hospital waiting room. My sister in law is on the table right now and they're removing more cancer that was just discovered. Her recovery time just doubled as a result. but she'll be ok. I'm not sure what to do with myself here in all this quiet.

The ceiling rises above me five stories. At the top is a balloon that got away from someone. It's a bit shrivelled and deflated making me think it has been up there a week or so.

There's no TV here but rather a monitor with patient's surgical updates displayed. Each patient is assigned a code number so there are no confidentiality issues. Nikki's code is 27313. I plan on addressing her as such from now on.

...

It's now hours later, and things have settled down. Nikki's surgery, which was supposed to be around two hours long, wound up being just over four after they found some suspicious cells along her bowel. The surgery went very well though, and they are confident that everything that could have been a problem was either removed or burned to a crisp. She's got a long recovery, but she's doing great so far. Good news pretty much across the board.

Jen and I debated going to see the Blue Jackets play tonight as it's their home opener, but decided to put it off. Watched the game on television instead and am now heading to bed. It's been a long day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vote for John Obama

I am so done with this election.

I am done with debates, and commercials, and office discussions, and editorials, and t-shirts, and bumper stickers, and phone calls, and junk mail. I'm going to donkey-punch the next person I hear talking about how decisions will change the face of Main Street. We all know the truth: Obama is a terrorist just waiting for his chance to suicide bomb the Whitehouse from inside and McCain is actually George Bush hiding in a Mr. Melanoma Halloween costume.

The other day I actually heard someone say that we're really voting for who we want to be vice president. The logic being that if Obama is elected, some backwoods hillbilly fuck will take him out on behalf of his fellow god-fearing Klansmen and if McCain scores the big house he's going to kick the bucket in a year on his own. God help us on both counts.

Lots of people will say that politicians are all criminals and that it really doesn't matter if you vote or not. This always seemed lazy to me. It's an admission of defeat getting you off the hook for all the research you should be doing and all the bad debates you should be watching. To participate in an active democracy, you should be punishing yourself by reading everything you can get your hands on. You should study. You should take each "fact" and research it to find the truth. This used to be what I thought.

Now, when it comes to the political realm, I have to admit I believe the truth is an invention. Almost everyone selects a news source that is pandering to ideas and beliefs they have already. People get told what they want to hear, and get angry if a new idea is introduced to their picture of the way things are. A candidate's past character flaws are revealed by one camp and then explained away by the other. Voting records are trivialized with deft recanting reminiscent of the Jedi Mind Trick. Opinions are manufactured by people who have made an art of making people think what they want them to think.

A fact will come out about one of the candidates that seems potentially damning, but then three perfectly plausible explanations for that fact are brought out in the light and you are back to not knowing what to think. So, you go back to your media outlet of choice to soak in the comfort of being told you were right all along.

And I realize there are some of you who actually enjoy this process. You enjoy the research, the debates, the issues, the lies and the truths of it all. You'll stay up to watch the DVR'd debate just one more time so you can be certain you missed nothing. It's entertainment. A twisted filthy form akin to midget porn if you ask me, but entertainment none the less.

Millions of people love watching baseball on TV. I don't get that shit either.

But yes, I will vote. Last election I waited over two hours to cast my ballot and I was happy (sort of) to do so. When I cast my vote this year though it will not be with the thought that I am voting for the party that is going to actually make all the right decisions. It will not be a punishment leveled at someone because I blame them for the current economic situation we're in. And, it will not be because I think I am truly going to be represented.

It will be because there's part of me that still has hope. Maybe, even though someone might not seem like the right person, maybe they'll be the right person in the right place at the right time. I think the responsibility is to try to position the candidate you believe really has the best chance of achieving greatness, and then just sit back and hope for the best.

I know there are some who have a million arguments to make against this posting. Your ideas will be well thought out, reasoned, and quite possibly correct while my clumsy opinions of all things political most likely wouldn't stand up to any real debate. I never claimed to be a political thinker, I just know how I feel about it all. So don't email me telling me I'm wrong. I don't care. I just can't wait until this is all over so everyone can go back to talking about Monday Night Football or whatever the hell you people talk about during non-election years. Go team.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Good to See You

Hi there. How you been?

I've been away for awhile, I know. I've been a busy man, and it seems like Ye Olde Blog always suffers as a result. Not that I'm as busy as I'd like to think. I'm sure that will become painfully obvious the more I write this "catching up" posting. To be fair, I'm quite sure that I'm not doing much of anything but have inflated my own importance by feigning busyness when in fact there are plenty of hours in each day to do all the things I want to do. Ah, inflating my own importance. That doesn't sound out of line with someone narcissistic enough to have a blog in the first place, I suppose.

Ah well, at any rate, I feel busy sometimes. I'm writing a bit here and there, Jen and I have developed a rather unhealthy addiction to Dr. Mario (now available for download on Wii), I'm trying to find a home for a short story of mine called "Bridge", I'm saving pennies for a fun little creative side project (super secret), and a lot of other stuff that just has to be done but is zero fun to write about. You know, it's just life. By and large, it's good right now.

So, I'll try to post a bit more often, but for now I'll leave you with the following:
Back several months ago, the cubicle farm I worked in was right beside some desks occupied by Subprime Loan Officers. That's right, a handful of the people responsible (sort of) for our current economic woes were in my midst. To call them loud and annoying would have been an understatement. To call their management team interesting would be kind. To call their decorating sense tasteful would be a joke. For months I had to go into an office decorated with the following signs. These are the real deal...grainy cell phone pictures taken on the day they moved to another building. I walked around their workspace taking pictures and telling them how much I was going to miss them. Hmmmm.

The last one is still my favorite. In addition to being obnoxious, it makes no sense whatsoever. Seriously. Try reading it aloud for kicks.



"You suck"


"You know what would be great? If we could find a sign that would let everyone know we're douche bags with just one glance..."


"Synergize!"
"HABIT!!!"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Playing Hooky

So, Jen and I get up early on Thursday to go get a bit of her cancerous neck removed. We get to the office, and after some discussion, they let us know that they're not going to remove it that morning, rather schedule us out for another month. We were bummed...it was going to be nice to just have it all taken care of and be able to put it out of our thoughts for a bit. Jen apologized for having me take off work and waste our time, and I decided the day wouldn't be a waste at all.

We went and did some shopping. We picked up the new Ben Folds and a pair of running pants for her at Target, and then went in to the jewelry store where we bought our wedding rings to get mine re sized. I haven't worn my ring in the past couple of months because it was falling off my finger, and since I've kind of leveled out weight-wise I figured it would be good to appear married to the general public once again.

The salesman at the store was pretty funny. He had taken my plain gold wedding band into custody and was writing up the work order for me while joking about getting Jen a bigger diamond for her ring. He kept pulling out full carat loose diamonds and teasing me for not upgrading her ring. I told him that I had been thinking about becoming the kind of guy who wears pinkie rings, and he busted out a nice square ring with about a million little diamonds in it. For two grand, I could look fly.

"Well, if you're done messing around and are ready for some serious bling, let's go get you a watch." the salesguy said. He led me over to a watch case and pulled out a gold Rolex. When he strapped it to my wrist I swear I wouldn't be able to hold my hand up. That thing must have weighed eight pounds. Jen thought it was funny to see me wearing a Rolex since I don't wear anything but my wedding ring. Funny, that is, until she saw the $30,000 price tag on it. Once she saw that, she was ready to have me give it back.

Once we were done screwing around there we went over to the Japanese steakhouse that we go to every once in awhile for lunch. It was funny being there on a work day, getting drunk on over sized bottles of Sapporo and glasses of plum wine. Everyone else around us seemed to be on a schedule while we sat around and drank and ate spicy tuna roll.

From there we just bummed around. We made a stop at a tattoo shop where I went through their books of fonts, wanting to pick something out for my arms. Finding nothing, I settled on a stop at Best Buy (Iron Man and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit Blu-ray this week) and went home to watch a comic book character blow shit up.

I really hope that the next time we go to have doctor hack into her face we have another day like that one. Beats working any day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Moley Moley Mole

Jen's mole turned blue. Tucked under the jawline, it was barely noticeable among the other small moles and shadows thrown across her neck, but she saw it and asked me what I thought. While I don't know much, I have heard that moles randomly swapping shades of blue might not be the best thing, so I encouraged a doctor visit that she quickly scheduled.

I took last Friday off and we went to an appointment where they shaved the mole off the side of her neck and shipped it off to a lab. Yesterday, we get a call.

"This call is for Jennifer Merryman. You have been left a message in your secure voice mail box. Please call 1-800 blah blah blah for your results."

This is something new. You get a secure voice mail that you call and enter a code that was given to you at the time of your appointment. When the doctor gets the results, the receptionist calls and records a message for the patient. Jen's message went something like this:

"Hi Jennifer, this is Sally with Doctor Jenning's office. The results of your biopsy were received, and they were positive for Basal Cell Carcinoma. The doctor is going to want to see you soon, so please give us a call so we can schedule your next appointment. Have a great day."

We spent the rest of the morning laughing about what an odd job that must be, and how we would do it differently. "Good Morning, this is Sally with Doctor Jenning's office. The results of your biopsy were received and...well, honey I just don't even know how to say this. That mole was just ten different kinds of fucked up. I mean really, there are like twelve other kinds of cancer that are scared shitless of the stuff you have growing on your face. You best get your butt in here with a quickness."

Seriously, if you can't laugh at cancer, what can you laugh at?

And, to be fair, calling it cancer at all is an insult to the invasive horrible shit that other people have to go through. It's more like cancerish. They'll cut it off, she'll have a couple of stitches, and we'll just have to be more careful about watching for more of the same. It's a bit of a freak out the moment you hear the word cancer at first, but we're still pretty flippant about the whole thing. I imagine that will change closer to her next appointment, but it's how we deal with stuff round these parts. We poke inappropriate fun at the issue until it's actually time to get down to business.

So, in the meantime, I'll make fun of her scar by calling it her "cancer dimple" and she'll finish every outlandish inconvenient (to me) request with "But I have cancer!" We're very lucky actually. If you had to pick from a list of cancers from a menu, this is the one you would choose. We'll take it. Then, we'll get rid of it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My New Lunch Spot

We moved to a new office recently. On the grounds there's this strange place. I don't know what it used to be, but it appears to be some sort of foundation. Regardless, perched at the top with my ham sandwhich and bananna is where you'll find me on nice days. Feel free to stop by, just don't talk. It's better quiet.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Mighty Hunters

Jen and I went for a walk in our favorite park tonight after dinner. As we were walking along one of the paved trails that connect the two nature trails we often walk, we came across an old man and his very small dog walking around one of the large grassy areas. It was impossible to tell who was older, the man or his dog.

The dog was at the end of his retractable leash, slowly chasing the ducks that had come up into the grass to spend the night. With a slowly wagging tail, the dog would march the best he could towards the ducks, causing them to waddle off just out of his reach. He would then switch his trajectory, forcing the ducks to head back the way they had just come. Far from panicked, the ducks seemed to take it all in stride, seeming to know that if the dog did actually get too close he wouldn't be able to follow through on any threats.

The man had a small smile on his face, and the leash shook slightly in his hand. He never let the dog get close enough to test his mettle. At their age, to be in the hunt at all is good enough.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fear and Loathing on the Bike (Gang) Trail

So, Jen and I started out on a ride through the late morning. We had planned on getting an early start, but had a hard time getting out of bed, so we made it a lunch time ride. The day was perfect. Just perfect. The sun was bright and hot, and the breeze was cool, and we started out slowly talking and riding side by side.


We made it through the soccer fields and over the second of the handful of bridges that we cross, when we started to go under the overpass for Rt 161. Ahead there was a jogger, plodding along down the middle of the lane, struggling to hold his pace.


The man appeared to be marching into his mid forties, and possibly just realized it himself, prompting the early afternoon jog on a Sunday. His form was sloppy, with arms flopping at this sides and his feet just skimming the pavement. I was worried he would trip and fall. The distance between us and him was closing fast.


When people use the middle of the trail, it's hard to know which side you should try to pass on. What's worse was a situation like today where the incline leading out from the overpass curves hard to the left, making it impossible to see oncoming traffic. Maybe Jen was thinking this through, or maybe she was transfixed as I was at the man's impossibly gelatinous gate, but she didn't signal a warning that we were going to pass until we were about 15 feet behind him.


"Ding!"


Crisp and clean as a syringe out of it's sterilized packaging, the bell we picked her up a month or so ago rang out. A happy sound, the bell brought her joy when I mounted it to her bike, and brings here even more joy when she gets the chance to use it. It's the sound of money. It's the sound of an angel getting its wings. It's the sound that lets this rolling yay-hoo know that we're going to pass on the right since his stupid ass is occupying the middle of the trail on a blind curve.

Homeboy freaked. I don't know if it was because he had just made it to the other side of the overpass and had been uncomfortable in the dark. I don't know if it was because he had once been hospitalized and the cruel doctors had rung a bell prior to each session of electro-shock. Whatever the reason, he jumped a foot in the air and then bolted to the left side of the track where he yelled the words that would become the catch-phrase of the weekend.

"WAIT A MINUTE!"

Jen, completely bemused kept pedaling as she smiled and said, "Hi there."

I was grinning like a fool but was so taken aback by his reaction that I could find nothing to say. He was legitimately scared. His eyes tripled in size, and while he was already huffing and puffing from his jog, I thought it would be a very long time before his body ever caught up with the demands of his lungs. His chest heaved, and a white ball of spit flew my way as he exhaled. I watched it rise and fall landing on the pavement three feet from where I rode.

We tried to give the guy a break and not mock him openly in his presence, but it wasn't long before we were shouting "Wait a minute!" and laughing like the mindless sinners we are. Jen, who wasn't excited about the ride to begin with, declared that moment to be worth a whole afternoon of pedaling.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Immortality

We moved into a new office this week. It's strange doing all the same old shit you used to do in new surroundings. One positive that has come out of this move though, is I was taught that immortality is within my grasp. Check it:




Soap + Water = Immortality

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike Lite

Sunday, after arriving home from my camping trip, Hurricane Ike came to Central Ohio. Compared to the force he displayed down south, Ike's arrival was more of a sigh or half-hearted fart but it was still enough to knock out power across the area. With a lot of our local crews shipped south to help the victims there, our crews here are short handed leaving a few places out of power still.

I don't know how we dodged the bullet. Normally our little neighborhood is among the first places to lose power and the last to get it back, but somehow we managed to only lose it long enough to have to reset the clocks once. We talk to people that we work with that talk about going out every day to find ice to put in their freezers, or who have gone to stay with relatives. We are very fortunate.

Speaking of fortunate, my lucky wife has been off work all week due to the power being out in most of the district that she works in. Each night we would get a prerecorded message saying that the buildings would be closed. Tonight it didn't come, so she headed to bed early to get ready for what she imagines will be a monstrous day tomorrow.

The damage is still everywhere though. Storms like this have the ability to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Trees that appeared strong snapped in two like twigs, revealing rotten cores. They are everywhere along the roadsides, tottering on lower branches unable to quite reach the ground, and piled in back yards for seasoning and burning.

Last night we went for a bike ride and the trail was littered with leaves, sticks, branches and a slowly powdering mix of dirt and bark. We rode slower than usual, steering through the mess and smelling that wonderful earthy smell of already decaying wood. It's amazing how areas we have been so familiar with before have changed. The landscape has changed with the storm and in some areas the changes make you feel like you are somewhere new.

So, tonight we headed to another one of our favorite parks for a walk and though the trails had been cleared the damage in the woods was amazing. It was a beautiful night but we walked fast, trying to keep heart rates up, while we examined the fallen trees and counted deer. Tomorrow, it'll be biking again. Hopefully the crews have been out to clean up a bit. Otherwise, I'll start moving branches myself.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hi-5, More Dead Than Alive!

For many years my brother has asked me to go white water rafting with him. It's something that a handful of people in my family have done regularly, but for whatever reason I decided long ago it's just not my thing. So, every year my brother would go with a group of friends or family members and come home telling stories of how amazing it was.

"Seriously, bro. You should just come. You don't even have to raft if you don't want to. Just hang out around the camp with us, have some drinks and some laughs. It'd just be good to have you there."

I felt bad. I knew this was something that he loved doing and I hadn't at least given it a shot, so when he asked if I would be interested a few months ago I said "yes" almost immediately. I called The Rivermen and paid for my trip the day my brother called and told me the trip had been booked.

I knew I would have a good time. That wasn't really the question. I thought I would go hang out, have some laughs, and then survive the raft trip. I expected it to be something that I was glad I had done, but glad it was over. I thought the whole time I was out there I would be thinking about how I just wanted it done so I could say I did it. So, I was surprised when I really loved it.


This is us, skimming past Pillow Rock. I'm the guy in the blue helmet. Clicky-clicky makes biggy-biggy.


Being a hermit, it's strange for me to find myself in a mix of people that I might not normally hang with. When I find myself in that situation, I always say that I'm going to keep my mouth shut and just have a good time, but that never lasts for long. Sooner or later, I'm making fun of pretty much everything, and it's usually funny to everyone except the person who's getting picked on. Not, that I don't take my beatings too, I just seem unable to shut up sometimes. Oh well, so be it. I went rafting with my brother and some other really good company, and it was all a good thing. It was important for me to be there.

You know, for years I have drug my poor Van Halen loving brother to concerts that he had no interest in seeing, simply because I am a hermit and don't know anyone else to go with. Over the years he has been forced to see The Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, Wolfmother, and Ben Folds. While he's usually a good sport, these are all bands that he couldn't care less about. There was one exception though.

I had tickets to see Ben Folds at The Newport Music Hall. I was excited, Paul was tolerant. We showed up early and the opening band hit the stage. It was a group I hadn't heard of at the time named Train. They were really good. I hadn't heard any of their stuff before, though some people in the audience were singing along. They were all jangly guitar pop, and sounded clean, so Paul was instantly hooked. We kept looking at each other saying "These guys are great" with smiles and appreciative nods in the loud club.

We were packed in on the floor with hundreds of geeky young men and sensitive looking art students, standing out like a sore thumb. The whole night I had been noticing that I no longer fit in with the usual concert goers and was slowly becoming the older guy that happened to like some cool music. Not exactly what I was aspiring to be.

Train ended their set, and my brother turned to me with his hand in the air and said "Those guys were awesome!"

Normally, I'm not a high-five kind of guy. It's never been my thing. Standing in that club, feeling like a geeky old guy, high-fiving was even less an option for me. I left my brother hanging.

As his hand came down, I grabbed it awkwardly and have him the man-hug mix of clenched hands and a pat on the back, but the damage had already been done. He had been left standing in the middle of a floor full of kids with dyed red hair with his lonely hand in the air.

I try not to lie to my brother ever. I've never done anything bad to him intentionally, though my own selfishness has hurt him over the years. So while it's a little thing, it's still something I think about from time to time, and I thought about it this weekend while we were out.

After the raft trip, we load back onto a bus with our gear and a can of beer and start riding back to camp. The bus was loud with mostly young men recounting their trips down the river as they downed cans of cheap lite beer. It would have been the perfect opportunity for a high-five, but there were none. Maybe this is because they have really lost their place in society outside of sports. Maybe because it's just fucking difficult to look cool when in the act of a high-five. But I wondered if my brother was holding back because of that night at the Ben Folds show.

Maybe he was sitting there in his bus seat, forcing himself not to stand up and start high-fiving everyone within arms reach. Maybe he actually stood, and then looked over to where I sat and then remembered I was there before retaking his seat. OK, probably not. He probably doesn't remember a thing about that. He probably doesn't know that I killed the high-five that once dwelt within his heart.

So, after arriving back in his house I gave him a hug and thanked him for everything. If it hadn't been for him, I never would have been in that beautiful place doing such an amazing thing. I wouldn't have had the chance to get to know some of his friends better. I made a point of making sure he knew how amazing it all was for me, and I'm going to make sure I remind him of it all again soon. And if we're sitting around the fire pit at his house or out somewhere at a restaurant or bar recounting the weekend, and he wants to high-five, I'll be right there with him, the sound of our slapping hands cracking through the night.

You're goddamn right I will.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Bike Gang 500

Yesterday morning I loaded up the bike and drove to the trailhead at Easton. It was still dark, but a thin line of gray was slowly seeping out of the horizon, and threw enough light onto the trail so I wouldn't be completely dependant on my battery powered headlight. Like all of my rides, it started out with me asking myself why I wasn't just driving the fucking car to work. And, like all of my rides, after the first mile I was feeling it and loving it.

There are more leaves on the trail now, though I imagine most of them were less the result of the beginnings of fall and more the result of the late summer drought we had. Still, I like pedaling through the satisfying crunch of them and find myself steering towards little piles of them and feeling like a little kid. I rode hard on my way to work listening to a mix of Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails remixes while watching the sun break free of the edge of the world. Dozens of rabbits scattered off the trail before me and the occasional house cat would glare at me suspiciously from the taller grass as I pedal past. The air is crisp along the trails and occasionally I can pick up the smells of dryer sheets as people do last minute laundry, and then along the streets the air is thicker and smells of wood glue and exhaust.

The ride used to take me an hour and fifteen minutes, but I've got it down to fifty-four minutes on the way there and then forty-five on the way home (thanks to the downward slope). My commute used to take me at least a half hour anyway, so I don't see that I'm losing anything. I can't believe there aren't more people out there.

The thing that amazed me the most was that I hit the 500 mile mark on my way home last night. I knew it was coming up soon, but I happened to glance down at my odometer and saw that I was at 500.33 total miles ridden. If you had told me that I would ride that far when I first bought the bike, I would have laughed at you. Now I'm wondering if I can get to 1000 before the end of the year. I better get to crackin'.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Drinking While Shopping = Mistake

It was a bad idea to start drinking this evening.

I think it's because I do it so rarely these days that when I break down and open a beer or have a Scotch, it feels like an event. So far tonight, I finished the Stella Artois I had in the fridge, singled out the lone bottle of Blue Moon, and have since moved on to the Guinness tucked away at the back of my fridge. Granted, my consumption isn't much compared to those who imbibe on a more regular basis, but I'm still at the point of feeling like I could be comfortable with some bad decisions.

First buzzed decision of the night is that I should really do this more often. Life is to short to be completely sober for all of it. Most of it, sure...but not all of it. I'll work on that. We all have room for improvement, and right now I'm convinced that the hole in my life could be filled with more beer. What of it?

Second, I need a record player. That's right, a good old fashioned record player so I can have a vinyl collection.

First and foremost, I'm a collector, so the idea of putting together a vinyl collection is way appealing. Second, there is just something beautiful and nostalgic about it. When I was a kid, my father had a massive collection of LP's. Granted, he was into Southern Gospel, arguably the worst music ever put on wax, but still...I remember going through those albums as a kid. There was something about the over sized artwork and the large booklets that sometimes came inside that was so appealing.

I still remember going into my local mall as a young boy, and seeing vinyl on the racks. The pictures were amazing to me. Kiss decked out in suits for the "Dressed to Kill" cover. Jimi Hendrix's over the top psychedelia of "Axis". Strangely, the album cover that stuck with me the most was the cover of Queen's "News of the World". That giant robot with the dead bodies in the palm of its hand grabbed me, and I remember being thrilled and intimated by it all at once. With my conservative Christian upbringing, that lone image was enough to incite all sorts of feelings I knew I shouldn't be having.



Hell, kids. I remember being young in a small Nazarene church in Hebron, Ohio when they brought in a special Evangelist to discuss the dangers of "back-masking" in popular music. This was, of course, the supposedly popular practice of musicians where they would inbed messages into their albums that could only be discerned when played backwards. Said messages would then prompt you to smoke marijuana (Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust", I believe) or to "Just do it" (Judas Priest's "Stained Class" or Nike...I can't remember any longer). This man actually played records backwards to us causing a sound of warped noise to fill the church, an essentially creepy sound to begin with, and then would have to translate the garbled mess to us all so we could be sufficiently scared.

So tonight, when searching through some stuff on Best Buy, I realized just how many amazing albums are available on vinyl now and it brought all of this back. Hell yeah. I want a collection. I want Queen to convince me to get high, or Radiohead to recommend a good anti-depressant. I need Judas Priest to tell me to do anything. Fucking anything for Rob Halford, just name it, sir. I want the big album art and the big rich sound of vinyl in my house.

Don't hate. Your house if full of useless shit too. Look around.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bike Gang, Talking Heads Style

David Byrne is gracing New York with several different versions of bike racks. What an amazing idea. I could totally see something similar to this here in Columbus. Maybe we'd have to settle for the guys of McGuffy Lane designing them or something but still...we could make the idea our own.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cut Cut Cut

Tonight I trashed a big chunk of stuff that I had written for "Test Market". It was a mistake to go through and read some of what I had written, but still it happened and so I spent some time getting rid of some terrible terrible writing that would have had to have been cut anyway.

It isn't like I've been spending tons of time writing like I should be, so cutting really made a dent in the word count. It basically took me back to square one. To make up for it a bit, I just wrote out one of the creepiest bits of dialog I've ever written. So much fun, because I know that if I'm uncomfortable writing it, it's going to be downright painful for some people to read.

So maybe it's a good thing to be taking out the trash, even so early into the process. My interest in the project is renewed and I'm vowing to just plug away and not go back to read anything anymore. It's just too discouraging to see what an abysmal writer I can be.

That' s it for me. I'm going to go to bed and find something cheerful on television to fall asleep to. I'm up early in the morning for a nice long bike ride before it gets too hot. I've got to finish mapping out some routes for the Pedal for Pets charity ride I'm helping plan.

Nighty night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fall

The leaves are noisier now than they were a week ago. Their dry edges and they scrape against each other in the wind. When you're quiet, it's so loud. Last night, Jen and I stood still on a bridge that crosses a small creek not too far from our home and listened. It was a good night.

Some of the leaves are even starting to fall already. We rode our bikes the other day and leaves drifted with cinematic grace around us and on us as we pedaled along slowly, talking. Enough had fallen on the trail that they were being ground into smaller pieces and the air was full of the good sweet smell of them. Even though it was almost 90 degrees that day, it was the first hint of fall and it made me want more.

I've been stuck working a lot of overtime at work lately, and it's kept me from riding to work. The weather the last two days has been so amazing that I couldn't keep myself from taking my bike in, so I woke up at 4:00 this morning to I could get ready and get to work by 6:00. On the trail by 5:00, there was one thing that I hadn't considered before getting out there. It's creepy out there in the dark alone. Just plain creepy.

There was a bit of fog collected along the stream banks, and it swallowed the small straining headlight I had mounted to my bike, reducing my visibility to about 6 feet. Small animals moved in my periphery making me hope I wouldn't scare a skunk in the dark. The things that I don't like about the trail during the day (neighborhoods, apartment complexes, open fields) became the places I loved in the dark (street lights, security lights, the half moon above me). The whole time I was riding though, the smell of the leaves filled the air, and in the darkness seemed even stronger.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Gayest Breakfast Ever

Does the fact that I break my banana into pieces before eating it make me homophobic?

In private, I'm more than content to peel the skin back and just eat it, but when I'm at work or in a public setting that will never do. I'll peel back enough of the skin to expose a few inches of banana, and then tear off chunks to eat with my other hand. It's much messier to eat this way since I get banana stuff on my fingers, but I still can't bring myself to go down on the damn thing.

I can't think of any other ways that I'm homophobic. I like to see happy people in love and showing affection regardless of what sex they are. I'm enraged that gay marriage is even a discussion at this point. The point is, I'm no activist, but I feel strongly about leveling the playing field and I vote accordingly.

So, do I honestly think that someone will see me eating a banana and think "Wow, that guy must love to suck dick"? And if that's the case, why would I care if they think that?

I asked a female friend about this, and she mentioned that she does the same thing. I was surprised and asked her why. She said that she's had bad experiences with men in other offices watching her eat and doesn't want to fuel the fire. It was funny to me until I pictured some lonely guy in the corner staring at women while they eat.

But still, I was right. Adults with careers and mortgages and children of their own still can't get past the banana-looks-like-a-penis thing and they're just waiting for me to go for it. They're watching. So, today I will not disappoint. Today, I'm going to make them see what they're missing. I'm going to make them disappointed I'm not gay and eat my banana with one hand only.

I really feel like I'm growing as an individual.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Punk Rock Girl Vs. The Animals

Jen says "Sup?" to a hedgehog just inside the gates to the zoo.

Jen and I spent the morning at the Columbus Zoo. We usually go over a couple of times a year, and while we always seem to have a pretty good time, I think we leave with mixed feelings. We enjoy getting out on a sunny day to see animals we would never have the chance to see in the wild, but it's quickly followed by being disappointed that everything is trapped behind glass or wire.

I get that zoos are involved in conservation and have been responsible for saving species and yadda yadda yadda...I just can't ignore the fact that there's a small voice in my head saying "Set them free!" I feed the voice whiskey and he quiets.

Like I said though...it's fun for us:
From the darkness comes (dun dun dun!) a turtle!



Even though she gets pissed that I get to be the one behind the camera
most of the time, she's a very tolerant wife.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Our State Fair is a Grand State Fair

I want to tell you about a magical place. It's a place of many many wonders and while most of the sights were familiar, they were still entertaining.

Some friends were in from out of town and wanted to go to the Ohio State Fair. Jen and I generally skip the fair for all the usual reasons, but our friends were genuinely excited to go, and it kind of rubbed off on us. I ran home from work, threw on some shorts and headed out the door to take in the big show. Below is a brief sketch of the sights I saw.

1 - Bellies. Lots of bellies. Some of the "Rah-rah Cheerleader" variety, and some were in the "Hope I can pick up a man and take him back to my trailer" vein. Most however were "I'm a man who has a t-shirt three sizes too small for my stomach" variety. As a large mammal myself, I'm especially sensitive to these men and women who dangle a good three inches below the hem of their Harley Davidson shirts and I want to pull them aside and let them know the garment industry is adapting to accommodate their ever expanding needs.


2 - Blatant abuse of the English Language. We shuddered collectively when we heard the mother tell her toddler "You bout got runned over!" I will never profess to have good grammar, but still....damn. On the plus side, we spent the rest of the night telling each other that we're lucky we didn't get runned over.


3 - Food on a Stick. I realize this is old hat for a State Fair and it's a running joke that's become a cliche. Seriously though...Egg on a Stick?


4 - Arts and crafts. This is a broad category that runs from the intricate and beautiful to the...Well, to this:




I know what you're wondering, and the answer is yes. All Ohio counties were represented by a decorative hat.

5 - Corndogs. Mmmmmmm...corndogs.

6 - A giant scruffy fellow in a "Boobies Make Me Smile" T-shirt. Yes they do, my friend. Yes they do.

7 - Foot Massage Stools. These contraptions look like half a barrel with a metal platform to put your feet up on. For a mere 25 cents you too can enjoy jarring vibrations for 45 seconds accompanied with a rumbling sound not unlike a passing New York City Subway Train. Relaxation, State Fair style.

8 - Vendors. In what I believe is the Exposition Hall, all of the Vendors come out to sell their wares. The amount of things you can get (and the variety) is staggering. All under one roof you could accomplish the following:

Buy one of half a dozen magic cloths that hold 16 times their own weight in spilled Kool Aid.

Order a new Social Security card.

Buy pots and pans (the last set you'll ever need).

Bulk candy, ya'll. Bulk candy.

Get saved and sanctified with one of the local churches.

Buy a hot tub.

Sober up with the county Drug and Alcohol Awareness office.

Get tattooed.

Learn more about Scientology at the L Ron Hubbard booth.

Buy "designer" fragrances for half the cost of the real thing.

Have your ring cleaned.

Request a free mobility chair. ("Screw you, I'd look good on a Jazzy!")


The bottom line is, the fair aint all bad. I guess it's all in what you're looking for. And as long as there's preacher asking "Did you know there are two things that God can't do?" as I walk by his booth, I'll be coming back. (For the record, possible answers included "Make me come back to your booth?" and "Find a rock so big he can't pick it up?")


Good times.