Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some 8/23 Stream of Consciousness To End the Weekend

That's the spine you're looking at. Woof.
As I sat down at the brewery, I opened my notebook- it was a sad old moleskine. Nearing it's completion of pages, I wondered if it would even make it that far.    

     I stand out my backdoor on the fire escape. The apartment building is lively tonight. Above me some people throw out and organize things for a coming inspection from the city. My neighbor's windows are open as I hear a 'ding' from his kitchen. The air is cool after a storm and most people have opened their windows. My windows are open as I move inside to fold some laundry.

     Having no laundry machine is possibly the largest inconvenience of living in a studio apartment. Aside from lack of hook-ups, there's no space imaginable for it. I dump a hamper of unfolded laundry on the bed and hang some towels to finish drying. I had killed time at my sisters house cutting the grass. I even played an hour of Final Fantasy but the towels were just taking too long. Keeping with the delusion that I've got a lot to do, I pulled them before they were done. The rest of my laundry is mostly dry as I sort it out on my bed.

     I'm enjoying the chill night air pushed in with my box fan. The fan was a serious and contemplated decision. I knew it was necessary to survive the summer but put it off for as long as possible. This is how I treat most things as I fold laundry at nine pm on a Sunday night. The mild temperature makes me wonder how much longer I'll be able to wear these shorts at work. Soon it will be slacks, then slacks with long johns. My calendar has less to do with what month it is and more to do with how many layers I have to wear to work.

     The sub-tepid evening doesn't lend itself to shorts tonight and I dress in khakis with a dual pocket plaid oxford. Combined with bright white air jordans, I have no idea how this outfit would be interpreted. Given the choice, I'd wear shorts and a tank top most of the time. Somehow that would not be deemed appropriate in most social settings I find myself in. Why that is, is beyond me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spinning Hats and Wearing Different Plates

"Why aren't you writing, writer?" Short answer: Don't you tell me what to do.

Long answer:
Over the past few months I've been working hard to put attention towards my song writing. Lyrics and music have been coming together more and more naturally over time. I often compare writing to a muscle that needs to be kept in shape. I continue to journal so I don't forget how to English, yet that doesn't exactly leave you with any content in the mean time.

The rest of my time is spent;

It's not that I have a ton of extra space floating around on that chart and you might be saying, "I don't actually see 'writing a blog post' anywhere at all!"

Thank you, that is correct. It is so correct in fact that this post was 90% written already. I've modified the time lines to be accurate. Most of it was drafted up in April, almost five months ago. I've kept busy, to say the least.

This all relates to the wearing of different pants. Think of how often you have to change clothes. The first few times you have a new costume change, it seems to take forever and slows up your whole routine. As you practice and it becomes more familiar, it is easier and easier to switch between roles quickly.

To switch quickly between hats like this can be very difficult. Our brain likes to neatly categorize things and you have a tendency to build a whole persona around your role in any given situation. When you are constantly jumping between roles, it can get exhausting. Like spinning plates, each job you take on begins to interfere and bleed together. Each new interest must be layered and melded on  top of whatever else you have going on. It allows you to build and strengthen each skill while simultaneously working on another.

It is hard, but very achievable that you keep building on what you've got. I don't mean work/9-5 related, or monetary success but instead overall contentment. The constant jumping between roles get's easier. You manage to find time to rest and 'hear' yourself in the quiet moments between set changes.

To break it down quite simply; constantly look for the new, even if you're tired, no matter the odds.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Doing absolutely fantastic; it's a trained response not a lifestyle

You get off work. It's later than expected when you punch the clock and walk out the door. There are no groceries in the fridge and you've had a take out sort-of drive through week. The late-night super market is an unavoidable realism whether you like it or not. Chances are that you don't.

So you brave the harsh florescent lighting along with the strangest walks of life (possibly known to man) in order to eat. You don't want to be there and neither do they. Once you navigate the confusing layout and anxiety inducing prices, there is the check out. The you-scan is down and you're having to face the clerk who hates this shift almost as much as the rest of their life.

They mutter a 'how ya doin?' or possibly a 'how's it goin tonight?' under their breath as they scan your desperation purchase.

You are now presented with a amazing opportunity. You have been given the chance to completely change the course of history. The next few words out of your mouth could have a deeply important effect on the next few hours of this persons life. So what's it gonna be?

A simple 'alright' or 'ok' will pass the situation, or you could do something very human and brilliant in it's falsity.

You could reply, "Absolutely fantastic, how bout yourself?"
The responses you'll get are surprising. Sometimes it's nothing or a simple 'alright' or 'ok' but every now and then it's not. Sometimes it's "Wow, not that good." Which can make you smile, because you know it's not but for some reason, you sold it. If it makes you smile, it was worth it.

Occasionally there is a very breif moment of nodding agreement as they say 'ya know, not too bad' and their mood seems slightly better. A change in their reflection is made. You manage to prompt a response that actually makes them feel better. This will make you feel good, it makes it worth it.

There is also the rare "Wow, doing that good?" An inquiry which actually requires a follow up. Typically you've put everything you had into just saying 'absolutely fantastic' and there's nothing left for enthusiasm to follow. A plain old 'ya know, hanging in there.' (with a smile, if you can manage) will get you through. There is truth in the statement and sometimes that alone is enough to in fact make you realize you are hanging in there. That's an affirmation and it makes it worth it.

While the idea of replying in such a superlative way seems silly, it is. We don't have enough sillyness in our day. Most things are just as dark as the scene in at the beginning of this page. Most people are just as dim as the description sounded, they could use the brightening just like you could. So give it a shot, you'll be surprised how much it's worth it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pre: The history of Rock'n Roll, the music- not the saying*.

There is a great topic that I've had on my to-do list for a while now. Frequently when a great idea pops in my head it gets written down to re-visit at a later date. This is one I've been hesitant to attack. There are whole books dedicated to the topic. I don't know how it's going to translate to a blog post, or a series of blog posts.

The history of Rock'n Roll.
Didn't Marty invent it? No? Huh.

The amount of research that should go into such a serious topic is daunting. There are a few concrete answers that will arise, but I want to know the background to each. This isn't just a quick article read, it's like the holy grail. The grail itself could matter less to me, it's about the journey.

Arguably, aside from the ease of a google search, there are a few people I could ask and who would supply satisfactory answers. Various different musicians and music fans, some even at scholarly levels of knowledge would provide some sort of response. Yet it would be their opinion. Culminated from years of experience, but it's their version of the history. Their version of what Rock'n Roll means. This is the same reason I don't want to just read another historian's book. It's their findings, presented as they want to.

So what qualifies this amateur blog writer to tackle such an important subject?
Nothing, this is the Internet where everyone is entitled (for better or for worse) to an opinion.

I am simply a product of male-western culture. I like driving guitar and simple lyrics. As a mechanic, there is also the undeniable tie between cars and rock; maybe it's the harnessing of fire to move fast or the simple tie between a garage and the soundtrack that amps you up, makes you move. Either way, these two topics are closely related and very near to my heart.

That intimate relationship is what makes this all so important. Peeling back the curtain to expose the layers behind an entire identity is scary. Could it all be un-founded? A castle built on the sand? I hope not, and I look forward to divulging the rich culture and history to what beats within my veins, Rock'n Roll.

*The saying; at some point in time I picked up saying 'Rock'n Roll' as a positive affirmation. It took the place of 'sounds good' or 'alright'. As I worked as a bartender it was quickly identified as nearly a catchphrase for me. I never meant to brand myself that way but it's undeniably my most over-used phrase. It still strikes people as odd and I'm glad my boss has never questioned it (as I end most phone conversations this way). It's just an embodied statement that says, we agree and look forward to moving onto the next step. There could be a whole post dedicated to my use of 'Rock'n Roll' as a saying

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The numbers attached to your identity, or being 28, 25, 28

I've been 28 for about two years now. Having always been referred to as an 'old soul' it wasn't very difficult being two years from 30 since I've been 26.

If that statement seems confusing, it is. Follow me here.

Twenty Five seems young, it's the age that brings a lot of uncertainty to a majority of my peers. I fall into this category with everyone else. After all, that's the time when I lost my mind, quit my job and moved to a college town (a life-change justified only by my manager replying to my notice with 'I don't blame you, I would too if I were you'). The following time span usually involves a lot of questions without answers and trying to 'figure it out'. I quickly raced past 'figuring it out' into knowing I wanted to bar tend at the tavern for as long as my feet would hold me.

Yet one year ago, I found myself back at 25. As I turned 27 (I know this is confusing, but it's hard being me) I spent my birthday with the majority of the staff from the tavern singing karaoke at the local last-call dive bar near my own. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who came to celebrate with me and the mixed emotions that the whole experience already had an expiration date. I knew I was going to be moving back near the home-town but didn't know how or where just yet. I returned to the old stomping grounds to celebrate zombie-Jesus day with my family. My older sister took me out for my birthday that weekend.

"Is anyone else coming?"
"I made a vain (adjective: producing no result; useless.
synonyms:futile, useless, pointless) attempt to invite a few people, so no. It's just us."
"Is there anything else you want to do?" She seemed surprised but open to whatever my plans were.
"If I could do anything I would check out a bar I might want to work at in Ferndale "
"Let's do it."

I could go into detail about becoming a technician instead of brew-slinger where I had pointed myself, but that's besides the point. After moving back, I was quickly back beyond 25 and well into 28 again as I had my head down towards my new garage appointment.  There were actually many times people had asked my age and I had to really stop and think about it before answering. More often than not it was a stuttered, 'uhh 27?' response that confused even me. In the 'feel like a number' society that we live in, it's hard to know exactly where you stand. Even more confusing can be where you are going. If I can say anything about this age, it's be weary of 28 year olds. We think we know something, at least one thing and yet are just as confused as our three year prior peers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What it means to have left Kalamazoo (and no one really leaves their second town)

You know all those stupid click-bait articles that direct you to leave your hated day job and chase your dreams? I did that.

I was a manager at a dealership and thought I finally had it made with a $55k/year job, paid vacation and benefits that included a company car. 'Having it made' couldn't have been farther from the truth. I worked 50-60 hours a week and frequent Saturdays. My 9-5 was closer to 8-7 and despite wearing a suit, I was still the grunt at the bottom of the ladder. You could easily draw similarities to 'The Great Gatsby.' I was someone who crawled up to the top from the bottom, and was treated as such. Eventually I had a few breakdowns at work that lead me to quit my job and chase a girl to Kalamazoo.

I had to find a new job. A few car dealers in the area heard of my retreat and offered me a job based on their correspondence with me in the past. I was not about to repeat history and subsequently turned down a sales job at a staffing agency as well. I wanted to work at the 'cool bar' and after a month of no prospects, landed a job doing just that. The bartenders there got to play whatever music they wanted and the dress code was 'whatever you want.' I started with two serving shifts and a door night each week. Eventually I worked my way up to closing server four nights a week and held onto the koosh door duty each week. After a few months I was finally bar tending but nearly none of this has to do with the best part I experience whilst moving to my fantasy college town.

The people and co-workers were amazing. Down-right jaw droping-ly impressive. Having an 'in' with the local music scene was a serious plus, as my bar was music venue as well. Every town known to man could take notes on how Kalamazoo conducts their music scene. Between their house-shows and emphasis on local music- Kzoo does tunes right. I managed to meet many musicians who helped my own voice along quite well.

The next group of people who blew me out of the water were the dedicated service professionals. Weather it was the cook staff around the local foodie scene or the bartenders I had the pleasure of sharing the stick with (or didn't); I was consistently impressed. You will be hard pressed to find such a collection of free-minded people. It was also the first time I had been exposed to so many people who cared deeply about who YOU are and expressing that. While the musicians developed my voice, the rest of the open spirits nurtured who I was underneath.

Sadly, the whole town ended up with a sort of 'the dream can't last forever' vibe as I prepared to return to my aging family. While my day time bar tending gig allowed me to meet many awesome characters, they only reminded me of the folks I had left behind. They were mentors, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who only served to pull on the heart strings of the life that was waiting for me only two hours away. After only year and a half I packed up my life and headed back to the home-land.

It was, and is, bitter sweet. I still live in Kalamazoo within my head. I think often of the people I left behind. I can return at any time, but it will never be the same. That town impacted me in a serious way and I reflect on it often. I said repeatedly when I left that I would love to settle down there, but I'm not ready to settle down. I needed some time with my home-town mentors and role models. Some people never get over 'Nam, or the night their band opened for Nirvana. I guess I'll never really get over Kalamazoo. It is that 'second town' to me. It symbolizes everything that Detroit and her surrounding suburbs aren't to me. I love it dearly and nothing will ever change that.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Scratching the surface of a record collection (not literally).

When I first moved to town, I found a quick three day job roofing. As we unloaded the old roof into a dumpster, the home-owner was clearing out some things from his basement. Jack was an elderly gentleman who asked if I wanted a record player. I had just moved from a house with one and didn't actually have a turn table myself. I happily obliged and took his record player and 5 milk crates of records.
This is the tip of the iceberg. The old jazz and dance alone
almost puts this gold to shame.

"You sure you want this stuff? It's mainly dance music (tango, waltz, jazz etc) and old swing rock."
"Yes, I definitely want those things."
"...ok, but have you ever heard of X, Y or Z?"
"Nope, not yet."
"I don't know if you'll like it, but it's yours"

When I got home that night, I tried to hook the record player up and couldn't get the damn thing to engage. I was stumped by one of the most simple devices known to produce sound. As my origins lie in electronics and sound equipment to be exact, this was frustratingly infuriating. I held onto the blasted record player and never even dug through the records. They remained a mystery to be solved another day.

Cut to this past Friday: my mechanic friend Paul was getting off work early and called me to have a beer. He had already left the bar by the time I got out at four pm (keep in mind technicians get done early sometimes. When there's no more work, we go home. We are a rare profession that eagerly digs through our tasks to eagerly earn more). Paul came by my apartment as it was down the street from his post-work watering hole. We walked to the liquor store so I could enjoy a few post brews as well. When we got back to my place I had little to entertain with, I took the opportunity to ask about the record player.

Paul is a bit of a sound engineer when he isn't turning a wrench, he was happy to take a look at the turn table with me. We took the covers off and started playing with the moving parts.
"There's only five or six real components here. Those, and a ton of springs that are all probably worn out." Paul has a certain gift with explaining things.
"So how do we coax life out of an old belt-driven dinosaur?"
"Like this."
What proceeded to take place was half home-brew genius and a fantastic manipulation of old parts. The record player was alive and we started to dig through the records. What came next was nothing short of amazing. An actual break down of the collection will be posted in the days to follow (this whole read is essentially one long click bait). The importance here however is how intimate being handed someone's record collection can be.

I've been given an entire insight into someone's life and musical interests. This isn't a large stash picked up from some garage sale, it was the last of what someone held onto. It's the important stuff. The records that matter. It is a gift like I'll probably never experience again, and I couldn't be more grateful. It's like listening to their story, a slice history of their life.

I plan to write Jack a thank you card to drive home how amazing this all is. I hope he in some way grasps the terrible generosity of his act.