Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last Post Ever

I'm not sure how much it really matters, but I figured I should say that my new site is just in case anyone wanted to know.  It's not quite completely set up yet, but since I'm also getting packing and sorting a bunch of other stuff out, I'm going a lot slower than I originally planned.  So yeah.  There you go.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Okay, So I'm A Liar

Yeah, all the stuff I said about what was going to happen with this blog?  Not true.  In fact, this blog is coming to a full and complete stop.  The more I think about it, the more I feel like the things in this blog, all the sadness and frustration and attempts at humor, are things I don't need any more.  The purpose of this blog, which, I think, was to recover, has largely been accomplished.  I am moving on.

There will be another website.  At first I thought I could just use this one and change what it's about, but I'm not sure I want whatever I create next to have all these old words attached to it.  I mean, it's all still in me, of course.  I can't do anything about that.  But I don't need to hang on to it like that, I can allow what I do next to be seen on its own terms.

When I get the new site set up I'll post a link, but yeah, this is it.  I'm so glad I had this resource while I did, and would like to thank anyone and everyone who read the stuff on here and/or said something encouraging.  Thank you.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New (To Me, At Least) Music

This is kind of a waste of a post, but I have to do it to get back in the practice of writing on a regular basis.  I'm sorry.

Things are stalling.  The only important thing in my life right now is getting to Scotland, but I've done pretty much everything I have to do, aside from pack and say my goodbyes.  There's nothing left but to wait and try to enjoy my last month here.  Which is proving difficult.

I suppose I should say a little about what's going to happen to this blog while I'm overseas.  Basically, I'll be using this thing to document where I'm going and what I'm doing, not just for myself but any family and friends who might want to keep up with me.  I'll try to keep things from getting to travel blog-y and keep it more story-telling oriented.  There will be pictures, but not too many, because I'm lazy and will hopefully be putting what effort I have into poetry as opposed to meticulous blogging.  Have I talked about this already?  I feel like I have.  Anyway, that's what will be happening come September.

Since I don't have anything else to talk about, it's time for some music.  Again.
The Gaslight Anthem has been around a while, and I haven't always been the biggest fan, but their last album (American Slang) really impressed me, and their newest release Handwritten did not disappoint.  The sounds is a bit fuller than I've heard from them before, and each song has such a pretty melancholy to it.  Sure, it's all the same Waste Land rock we've gotten a million times from countless artists, but it's done so well here that you can't help but love it.  My favorite track off Handwritten is "Howl", though "Too Much Blood" is about writing, so I'm partial to it as well.

In the "missing the boat" category, Strung Out's last album came out in 2009 and I had no idea until about a week ago.  I followed them religiously in high school, but when I moved from the rock-friendly Cleveland area to a wealthy Chicago suburb for college, I found quite a different music scene.  I ended up drifting out of touch with punk rock completely, only have gotten back into it thanks to my post-breakdown discovery of Against Me's White Crosses.  I swear I will stop talking about that album someday, just not today.  Anyway, I was just clicking around Amazon to see if there was any good downloads on the cheap when I saw a Strung Out album I didn't own and figured it was worth a try.

Strung Out occupies some odd territory in that they gradually began incorporating more metal elements into their sound several albums back, and in the strict world of punk where cries of "sellout!" are as numerous and damning as "heretic!" during the Inquisition, deviance (in sound, at least) is frowned upon.  Even so, they're not hard enough to be full on metal, either, so that leaves you with this heavy, semi-melodic band without a home. But if you can handle listening to something without worrying about what it is, then these guys are usually pretty good.

I say usually because their 2007 album Blackhawks Over Los Angeles was something of a misfire, for while it had some good songs on it, it was overblown in both sound and production.  However, 2009's Agents of the Underground is one of their best ever.  It's the perfect mix between punk and metal, and I'm honestly glad I got it, if only to see how they improved since Blackhawks came out.  All the songs are likable, though some are more lyrically sounds than others.  Here are the first and last tracks off Agents of the Underground, "Black Crosses" and "Andy Warhol", the latter being my favorite on the album.

Coincidentally, Black Crosses is the name of the second disk that comes with the reissued version of White Crosses.  It never goes away.

I actually had a third band I was going to talk about, but I went on about Strung Out so much that I think this post is too long now.  Another time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Whatever Gets You By

As if it even needs to be said at this point, but I don't exactly handle stress well.  Since I'm still easing my way back into writing, I figured I could just talk about what I've been using to get myself through the past month or so, as coping mechanisms/distractions/inspirations/etc.  This won't be long.

1. Comet

The same way Against Me! came out with White Crosses just when I really needed to hear all the words on that album, Bouncing Souls have done the exact same things for me now with Comet.  This here is the title track, but there are so many songs I love on it, like this one or this one.  You can stream the whole album on YouTube, and it's only nine dollars to download on Amazon or Chunksaah Records' website.  So yeah.

2. My Family

Seriously, these poor people.  Remember my last post where I said my visa was on its way?  Also, remember when I said that there are no purely good things?  Well, the e-mail I got said the visa would be coming the next business day, which was a Friday.  My parents both took the day off (they just randomly take days off to hang out because they like each other a lot), and I swear they told me I didn't have to wake up early to sign for my visa since they'd both be around.  However, my parents swear no such conversation occurred, and rather than be around all morning they decided to travel the whole city in search of a hutch to put in the kitchen because the kitchen really needs a hutch, I guess.  So I woke up on Friday around eleven all excited to finally have my visa after over a month of stressing out, only to find a "Sorry We Missed You" note stuck to the front door courtesy of UPS.  I proceeded to freak the hell out.

I can't explain how much pent up stress I had over this visa.  It can take up to and sometimes over six weeks for them to be processed, so there was some concern I wouldn't receive it in time for school.  I'd had to borrow the money to pay for the visa, which I felt terrible about, and had to get my work schedule moved around in order to get to the Federal Building in Cleveland for fingerprinting.  Then I finally got word that all of that had been worth it, that my visa was on its way, only for it to come to my doorstep and go away again.  My parents listened to my ranting and, when they got home, set about calling UPS and arranging to pick up my visa whenever the driver got back from his deliveries.  I had to leave for work, but the last thing I heard was that the driver may not return until after six, at which point the center would be closed and I couldn't get my package until Monday.
Luckily, my parents kept up on things even after my panicky self had left for the night, and when I got home that evening, my passport was sitting on my easy chair/office unassumingly like nothing even happened.  All that work for a sticker in my passport.  At least that's the least terrifying thing that happened over the last week.

A couple days after the visa ordeal, I came home from work to find about ten ants hanging out in my bathtub.  I killed them and hoped against hope that it was just some sort of fluke.  Of course, when I went in later to take a shower, there were about six more in there.  Now I'm not really afraid of bugs, but I'm hardly a fan of them crawling all over my naked body, so after taking the quickest and most frightening shower of my life I sprayed tile cleaning into every nook and cranny of my shower and hoped that would kill any remaining ants.  It did not.  The next morning there was a new crop of them in the tub, and I did my very best not to cry.  After some brainstorming with my parents, we decided to try spraying Home Defense into the gap between my tub and shower (it's a pre-fab installation) and see what happened from there.  Since then I've only had one ant in the tub, so that's a success, right?

I was supposed to wash out the shower thoroughly before I used it that night, and I thought I did, but the next day I woke up completely unable to stand from dizziness.  My head was spinning all day and part of the next.  It might not be Home Defense's fault, but I have no idea what else it could possibly have been.  Anyway, my family has been dealing with a lot of nonsense from me this week, so I thank them for that.

3. Pruning Burning Bushes

This is a book of poetry by a friend of mine, Sarah M. Wells.  She's been through a lot more joy and pain in her life than I have, and she manages to write about it all from such a peaceful place.  I won't go into a ton of detail, but there are things here I relate to so much, and at the same time not at all.  "Ten Reasons Why He Didn't Die" sticks out to me while I'm typing this, because I can hear my own mother's voice in the way she describes her children and just how desperately she wanted them to be.  As the product of a similar desperate want I can't help but react on a gut-deep level.  Reading this book was a big part of what helped me get back into writing after my hiatus, and while what I'm producing now is different from what I've done in the past, I'm looking forward to where it's going and possibly getting some of it out in the world sometime soon.

Also, Sarah is my friend, so I want everyone to know that she's great and that she wrote a book.  Go her.

I guess I lied when I said this wouldn't take long.  Sorry.  And finally, the title of this post is from a song by The Features, which you can listen to here.  It doesn't relate to the content of this post in any way, but I liked the way it sounded.  The End.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blogging Will Now Resume As Regurlarly Scheduled

Scotland is still happening, and taking forever to do so.  The whole registration process in UK schools takes place much later than it does at US schools, and while I know this factually, all the panic sensors in my brain persist in firing at random intervals.  "You haven't heard from them in a few weeks, is everything okay?  What happens if they tried to get a hold of you and you missed it somehow?  Do you even still go to that school?  Does the school even exist?  What about your visa?  Your visa isn't here yet, so obviously it will never arrive and you'll be stuck at your parent's house forever."

But it's fine.  Probably.

One good thing, I suppose, is that other aspects of my life are starting to matter less to me as my departure date gets closer.  My job is almost easier now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm spending less time tearing apart every little thing people say to me.  Since I'm leaving the country it's like I just don't care anymore.  I imagine this is how some people feel all the time, and it makes me a little bit jealous.
There have been other good things.  For one, I'm starting to overcome my fear of roller coasters.  I've always liked wooden coasters, something about how you can feel the weight of them, how they chatter your teeth and knock you around a little, you know it's something sturdy and real.  Steel coasters are scary, fast and merciless things lacking any sort of charm.  But about a week ago I went with a friend up to Kennywood, a National Historic Landmark and all around great amusement park.  It has wooden coasters dating back to the '20s, and more than one "last of its kind" classics like the Kangaroo, Noah's Ask, and the Turtle.  There are actually three left of that last one, but come on.  Good stuff.  I know all this because one of the people I met there knew the whole history of the park and managed to talk about it without sounding like a total asshat.

Anyway, I originally wanted to leave the few modern coasters they have alone, but while in line for the Jack Rabbit (wooden coaster from 1920) something changed my mind: a six-year-old.  She was talking to her dad about how she wanted to sit in the back of the coaster so they could lift higher out of their seats on the drops.  I don't even know if that logic is sound, but I do know that she was giggling about how fun the Phantom's Revenge was (steel coaster I'd been forcing everyone to avoid one day) and it pissed me off.  There's no way I could allow myself to be outdone my a small child, so I turned to my friend and said "Next we're going on the Phantom," which was all well and good until we actually got on the thing.

Sitting in the car, slowly going ascending the main hill of the coaster, I looked to my left and saw the stairs personnel and maintenance workers use, and that was fine.  Then I looked to my right and saw nothing but empty air and the parking lot below us.  Then I lost my mind.  Seriously, I started screaming at the top of my lungs "No, NO!" over and over like anyone would care or try to help me.  The people in the car in front of mine turned around and laughed.  Once we got to the top I was so stressed and worn out that I couldn't say anything, but I'm sure if anyone had tried to touch me I would have punched them in the face.  I had about two seconds to curse the backs of those snickering idiots in front of me before we went down, after which I alternated between sharp yelping and hysterical laughter until we came to a stop, and I kicked my way out of the car like cornered animal.

Lessons learned: 1. I can ride a roller coaster like a big kid and not die.  2. Laughter sometimes comes from a place of fear as opposed to one of mirth.  3. The rush of relief that comes after the ride has ended is quite nice, though I'm still not sure whether the ride itself is worth it.

There were fireworks at the end of the night, which is great because you get to see kids get really excited about fireworks, and strangers get really petty over bench space.  I'd call that a successful day, though I still managed to get a speeding ticket on the way home.

Nothing ever runs smoothly for me, does it?

Another good thing: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I got an e-mail telling me my visa has been issued and will be arriving any day now.  So at least a couple of those inner mind quotes from the first paragraph no longer apply.  Yay!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blogging May Be Sparse Due To Extenuating Circumstances

I'd like to take this time to personally invite anyone reading this to PanicFest 2012, hosted by yours truly.  It's going to be amazing this year, with Cold Sweats, The Shakes, and Total Mind Blackout all in attendance.  Did you miss all that bottomless dread and unnecessary lashing out at family members from last summer?  Well they're back!  Now more intense than ever!  Trust me, nothing is going right, and there's nothing you can do about it.

So enjoy PanicFest 2012.  I'll be back when it's over.

Seriously, though.  Things have gotten frustrating lately.  There are problems at work, money is tight, and each step of this getting to Scotland business is proving to be more complicated and troublesome than the last.  I know it will be worth it when I get there, I just need to get there without having a brain hemorrhage.  As a result, the goal to blog at least once a week is going on the back burner for a little bit, though I'm not saying I won't blog at all.  I'm just saying I'm not going to force myself.

However, I haven't come to this post unprepared, so here's a fun little story about my weekend:  Over the past couple days we've been occasionally hearing a weird scratching noise while hanging out in the living room.  Last night I was up late, and the sound got really intense, so I followed it into the dining room (adjacent to the living room) cold air vent.  I flipped on the light, and caught the slightest glimpse of a little mouse face poking through the vent before it popped out of sight.

While I'm not afraid of mice, it did startle me.  My main concern was that it may be trapped since it had stayed in one place for almost two days, and I didn't want it to slowly starve to death or anything like that.  I was also worried about my cat getting a hold of it.  My parents got his front claws removed, so while he's quite good at catching mice (despite being a total fatty), he tends to bat them around for a few hours until one of us humans manages to get it away from him or it dies in what I'm sure is a long and painful ordeal.  I just didn't want it to suffer.  Unfortunately it was very late and I didn't want to risk waking up my parents, who have to get up very early, so I left a note on the kitchen table telling them what the noise was and went to bed.

Today I woke up pretty late, and didn't hear anything until after my parents had come home.  This time both my father and I saw the mouse, still trying to push its way out through the dining room vent, so we tossed the cat in the basement and unscrewed the vent cover.  It had skittered away of course, but upon looking through vent into the wall you could see there were a limited number of place it could go.  We left it alone for about twenty minutes, and then I heard more scratching.  The mouse was out inspecting the shoes in our entryway.  I tried to just open the door and scoot it outside, but it hopped over my hand and dashed under the piano.  Then my mother grabbed a Tupperware and my father got the mop and slip the handle under the piano to shoo the mouse out.  It took a good five minutes or so, but we got the little guy trapped under the container.

From there we got a baking sheet (the kitchen was the closest room with anything useful in it) to slide under the Tupperware, effectively trapping the mouse so I could take it outside.  I carried the makeshift cage to the bushes on the edge of our property, set it down, and released our new friend into the wild.  It was frozen for a couple seconds, then it dashed away.  Mission accomplished.

Sure, there are probably more mice in the house, but traps aren't an option.  My father told me that, when his father tried to teach him how to hunt, he only shot one squirrel before he knew he didn't want to do it anymore.  I hit a bird once with my car, and I had to pull over to cry because I couldn't take how it flopped around the road more and more slowly until it didn't move at all, but I couldn't just leave it there all alone either.  We're hardly vegetarians, but we just can't kill things unless it's quick and painless and for a good reason.  We're just babies that way.

In short, the mouse is safe, the kitchen utensils have all been cleaned, and the cat is sniffing everywhere trying to figure out what went on while he was stuck in the basement.  If only all my problems were so easy to solve.

Monday, May 28, 2012

That Thing I Always Talk About But Never Say

I feel like I've been hinting at this on here for a million years, but here's the deal: I'm going to Scotland.  This September, I've heading off to the University of Stirling to complete my MLitt in Creative Writing, the UK equivalent of the MFA.  Up until now I've been tight-lipped about the whole thing because I wasn't sure it was going to work out, financially or otherwise.  I didn't want to tell everyone about it only to tell them later it wouldn't work out.  But it's working out.  I'm shocked.

Of course, I'm still terrified about a bunch of other things.  Maybe I won't find a place to live.  Maybe I won't be able to understand any of the Scottish people's accents and they'll all get mad at me (collectively).  Maybe they won't like my style of poetry.  Maybe some unforeseeable comedic hijinks will ensue at one or multiple airports and I won't even make to Stirling in the first place.  Maybe...

You get the idea.

Still, I want to do this.  As soon as that acceptance e-mail showed up, I knew I wanted to do this.  There have been a lot of people telling me not to do this, mainly because of money, but I just can't justify keeping my money and missing out on this.  I can't.  Years from now I can't imagine I'll be saying to myself, "Oh, if only I stayed at my crappy mall job another year and plodded around Akron looking for better work!  If only I hadn't spent that amazing year in Scotland improving my writing!"  And sure I'll come back with the exact same problem, but I'd have it either way, so why not use my time to do what I love while I can?

But I'm not going to worry about justifying it anymore, because this is what I'm doing.  Scotland.  In less than four months.  So get excited.