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.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eleven Years Ago Today

So, I changed the look of the blog a bit.  I like keeps things as clutter-free as possible, and while I was happy with how the page looked before for quite a while, I wanted to see if I could make it even cleaner.  It's mostly done for the time being, though I'm still messing around with the font a bit.  I'm stuck between one with serifs and one without.  You might think this is trivial, but I assure you it is not.

Recently I'd been thinking a lot about my paternal grandfather and wasn't quite sure why, but then I remembered: May 21 is the day he died, back in 2001.  The date sticks out in my mind because I used to wish it was my birthday.  When I was little, I didn't like purple, which is the color of February's birthstone.  My favorite color then was green, and May's birthstone is the emerald.  The obvious conclusion I came to is that I should have been born in May.  May 21 to be exact, because I have always been a fan of exactness.

I lived wishing May 21 was my birthday for a few years until we got a phone call one morning letting us know my grandfather had passed.  When my little-kid brain realized it was May 21 I started feeling guilty, like I had focused on that date so much I had somehow inadvertently willed this into existence.  It wasn't like his death was sudden, it was a long, slow process of prostate cancer that spread into his liver, bones, and lots of other places.  It was the kind of death that was almost a relief, like at least he wasn't suffering anymore.  But still.  Why did I have to pick that date?

He was an old school, hard working man from West Virginia, a former moonshiner, avid gardener, and treated his grand kids like they were the pinnacle of creation.  My parents both worked, so most of my childhood was spent at his house (free babysitting) playing outside, listening to his old gospel tapes, and watching The Price is Right.  I find myself wondering what he'd say if he was here now.  What would he think of my nervous breakdown, or my choice to pursue writing over any sort of lucrative career?  He was such a practical man, I imagine we'd argue about these things, and I really wish we could.  I wish he was a feeble old man in his nineties, pounding his cane into the hardwood floor and he told me I needed to think about my future, and I'd tell him that I do think about it, that I think about it all the time and that's why I have to do things this way.  He wouldn't understand and I'd be upset, but not really mad because I'd know he just wants me to be okay.

Before he was too sick to move around or think clearly, he knew he wasn't going to see me reach adulthood.  So he bought my high school and college graduation cards ahead of time, signed them and put them in envelopes, and gave them to my parents.  They gave both of them to me when I graduated high school, but I saved the college one to open properly.  Three years later, after the six hour drive from my college back home (my last one), and I opened my dresser drawer where that card had been waiting and read it.  It was a religious card, as he was pretty big into god, and was signed "Grand Pa" and "Grand Ma."  I felt so simultaneously loved and cheated.  A person like that should still be here.

I spent this May 21 fretting over my teeth (I think I'm getting a cavity), installing my window-unit air conditioner, and watching the geese who've taken residence in the nearby pond trot out their fluffy little goslings.  Overall not a bad day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Everything is Okay, I Guess

Look at my life right now:

Yeah, that's me, sick in bed, using an inhaler.  Because my body has suddenly decided that breathing is optional.  I'd been having trouble taking deep breaths for a few weeks, then this terrible coughing thing started.  I was losing my voice I was coughing so much.  Then someone asked me just how bad I was going to let things get before going to the doctor, so I went, and they gave me this inhaler.  However, they said they don't really know what's causing my problem.  Now I have to go see a specialist.

The inhaler does help a little, but it pisses me off.  It's like they said "Oh, here's a bandage for that gash in your side... Sure, there might be some internal hemorrhaging and broken bones, but whatever, just go with that bandage for now."  Thanks guys.

I guess it always blows me away that most medical problems are treated with so little urgency.  When I was in the emergency room a couple years back, in excruciating pain, I laid on the floor in the waiting room for almost an hour before anyone did anything for me.  It's not like they were particularly busy, either, just not in a hurry.  My (unplanned) revenge was to throw up on the nurse's station when they finally did get to me.

Nurse: How's your pain on a scale of one to ten?
Me: *barf*
Nurse: ... I'll mark that as a ten.

Then I told her to make it a nine, because I didn't want to max out my pain scale that early in life.  Turns out I had a kidney stone due to dehydration.  Now I live in constant fear of a repeat performance, hydrating like a beast in order to prevent it.

For now, though, I can breathe moderately well, so I'm trying to just do everything normally.  Which involves things like going to work, grocery shopping, and getting my hair cut.

Notice anything different there?  I've mentioned my stupid cowlick before, and how it gets in the way no matter what I do with my hair.  It causes a lot of problems with my bangs because it makes one little clump of them want to be separate from the rest.  When I got my hair cut this last time the girl cutting said switching my part from my left to my right might help, so that's what she did.  If I look a little nonplussed in that picture, it's due to my whole world having just been flipped on its head.

It might not seem like that big of a deal, but moving my bangs from one side of my head to the other pretty much altered my perception of reality.  Everything felt weird, and the worst part is that I couldn't keep my hair out of my face anymore.  You know that flip thing Justin Bieber used to back when he had those hilarious head-encompassing bangs?

Well, I have to do something similar, and hopefully less absurd, to move my bangs out of my eyes.  I've had this style since 2010, and I've always tipped my head down and then to my left to flick my hair back where it needs to be.  With the bangs on the other side I had to do it the other direction, and I just couldn't.  Seriously.  My muscle memory is too strong to relearn this process.  As a result, the bangs stayed on my right for about a day before I had to switch them back, or risk losing my mind completely.
So the world seems right again, or at least more right than it did yesterday.

Side note: if the FBI ever looks into my Internet search history, what I'll be most embarrassed about by far is "Justin Bieber hair flip gif".

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A to Z Look Back

So now that it's over, what are my thoughts on the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge?
Well, I made it through.  At one point I wasn't sure if I was going to get all the entries done, and technically I suppose I didn't, since I did that one two-letter entry.  The problem is that my work schedule each weekend is as follows: Friday 1:00-10:00, Saturday 1:00-10:00, Sunday 9:00-5:00.  This means I get home around eleven at night all weekend, and have to get to bed pretty soon after that in order to get up on Sunday, which made the Saturday night entries kind of difficult and rushed.  A couple times I wrote entries a day or so ahead of time, but more often than not I was barely getting the entries done on time.

On the plus side, I think I got a lot of things out of my system that have been stewing around for a while.  I originally intended for all the posts to be upbeat, but they quickly turned into a lot of angst-ridden purging with a couple funny bits, but mostly purging.  Those things needed to come out, and this exercise provided a way for me to do that.  Now I feel like I'm in a better position to finally move forward with my current life plans.

I swear I'm actually going to explain what those plans are, soon.  Some more things need to come together before I'm comfortable "going public" with all that.

As to whether I'd do this again next year, I doubt it.  It was just too time consuming, I didn't like the pressure of having to get my entries done by a certain time (midnight), and having to write a complete piece every single day.  But if I've got another load of crap I need to get off my chest by this time next year, it might be helpful.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for...

"Zip-Lock" by Lit

Oh man, this was lifetimes ago.  A friend and I were talking about bands like Lit, Third Eye Blind, Everclear and others, when she told me her first ever concert was Eve 6.  Her mom worked nights so it was easy to sneak out, but she had a pager, and unless she got calls from her kids every so often she knew something was wrong.  This meant that my friend had to keep going to a pay phone to page her mom and keep from her from getting suspicious.  Picture it: Eve 6, payphones, and beepers.  It was a different time.

As I said before, my first concert was Strung Out, but I had the full consent of my parents and my fourteen-year-older brother at my side.  Not so rebellious.

Anyway, I got a this Lit album from one of my friends back in Jr. High, and we thought it was so cool.  Everyone around us in our Christian school was listening to stuff like DC Talk, Newsboys, and this song by a band called Raze (I about lost my mind watching that music video just now.  What the hell is going on there?).  In an interesting parallel to my own life, I'm pretty sure she got this album from her brother, and allowed me to borrow it for a few weeks before burning me a copy.  However, the copy had that weird shattery noise in the background that some bad copies get so I ended up having to buy my own.

The friend who introduced me to Lit was one of my first real friends ever.  Up until that point I had been involved with kids who weren't very nice to me.  I was tall for my age and kind of chubby, so I basically looked like a giant until I was thirteen compared to my classmates (in my eyes, anyway).  Plus I was very shy and had a hard time making friends.  I was never teased very much, but other kids could tell I would do whatever they said in order to be considered their friend.  This meant I got pushed around a fair amount until around Jr. High.

Between the ages of thirteen and fourteen a lot of things happened: a lost a little bit of weight, and what weight I had shifted into more appealing places.  The other kids got bigger, too, so I blended in more, and our class size increased, so I had people to talk to who didn't know me as the plus-sized pushover.  This is when I met the first people I considered real friends, nice ones who didn't threaten to withdraw their friendship every time I disagreed with them or spoke my own opinion.  It was pretty awesome.

I've since lost touch with some of these people, the one who gave me the Lit album being one of them, but a couple of them are still in my life today.  Ten years later.  In any case, I'm glad I had all of them when I did, otherwise I don't know when I would have started trusting people again.

Wow, so this really isn't about Lit much at all, sorry.  But give me a break.  It's the last day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for...

"You're the Inspiration" by Chicago

So, when I was an undergrad this boy I liked who liked my roommate gave me a mix CD with this song on it.  I said something about wanting to find some new music, and he felt the same, so we ended up trading a couple CDs with things we liked.  Mine were mostly punk and ska, and his were indie acoustic such-and-such mixed with older songs like this.

When I went home for winter break, I played his CDs in my car to get to know what was on them.  One night my friends and I hung out I had picked everyone up, and when it came time to drop one of them off, he cautioned the rest of us to be very quiet because his mother would otherwise get annoyed.  Of course, all that did was make us louder.

This song came on right as he was getting out of the car, and as he approached his door, the chorus was playing.  So I did what any good friend would do: I rolled down my windows and cranked that chorus for all it was worth.  I belted out "YOU'RE THE INSPIRATION!" like the total jerk I am.  Then I rolled up my windows and pulled away as quickly as possible.

Later on he said that his mother didn't hear us, either, so really, everybody won.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for...

"X Girlfriend" by Zola

If you don't know what he's saying, no worries, because neither do I.  Zola is a South African Kwaito artist, and I guess he's speaking some combination of Zulu and tsotsi slang?  I really don't know.  I just like it.

I first heard about Zola from the movie Tsotsi.  If you haven't seen it, you should, it's pretty good.  You know, Academy Award-winning.  Whatever.  Anyway, Zola plays a role in Tsotsi (the gang leader, for those who have seen it).  He also performs a great deal of the music in the film.  Throughout the whole movie I just kept thinking "I hope there's a soundtrack I can get my hands on."  And there was.  Once I had the soundtrack and knew who I was listening to, I wanted to have more.

Turns out it's kind of hard to get a hold of South African music, because I couldn't find it anywhere.  I ended up getting a couple albums from this kind of shady looking website, but it turns out they were legit, and went out of their way to make sure I ended up with the product.  It came all the way from South Africa, and I kept the envelope because it had some cool stamps on it, but that was back when I lived in my own place, and now that I'm back home it's buried in a box somewhere so I can't put up a picture.

Anyway, Zola is an interesting person.  On one hand, he's a Kwaito superstar and humanitarian, but on the other hand, there's all these allegations swirling around that he abused some of his former girlfriends.  Since it's all so far away, I don't really have my own frame of reference.  All I can do is Google him and let the Internet barf up what it can.  I hope he's an ok guy, because he has some of my money.

And that's it, really.  X was a hard letter to pick a song for.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for...

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" by Strung Out

I'm not trying to be dramatic here, but this song pretty much changed my life.  My brother (the Mr. Miyagi of my musical world, as shown through these blog posts) let me borrow the Strung Out album Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues one weekend he was visiting from his place in Pittsburgh.  I don't remember exactly how old I was when this happened, but up until that point I only had my family's country music and my school's "contemporary" Christian fare to listen to.  Then my brother just randomly asked if I might like this sort of thing instead.  And I did.

Seriously, I listened to this album over, and over, and over until he had to take it back and go home.  Within two weeks I had my own copy.  From there I got into Bad Religion, Against Me!, and lots of other bands on this list.  This album started the whole thing.  It was perfect, really.  What summarizes the feelings of an angry kid growing up in the Rust Belt better than the phrase Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues?

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" is the last track on the album, and by far my favorite.  I didn't understand some of the content at first, but that idea of "I can do better, I can pick myself up and try again" was something I clung to then.  It's something I still cling to now.  This song is definitely one of my all-time favorites.

Strung Out was also my first concert.  I went with, you guessed it, my brother.  There were belligerent drunks and mosh pits and girls making out for the big screen and man, I wasn't in JesusLand anymore.  My brother bought me a t-shirt that was way too big, but it's awesome and I'm wearing it right now.  Don't believe me?  Here's the laziest proof ever:

My webcam added the date in cheesy font.  I don't know why.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for...

"The Veggie Tales Theme Song" by... whoever made it

Yes, more flashbacks from my days as a Christian.  Also, I had hardly any songs on my iPod that started with V, and I'm trying to pick songs that hold memories, not just songs I happen to like.

If you don't know what Veggie Tales is, you can read this, but there's not much to the concept.  It was a show that used vegetables to tell Bible stories and teach Christian principles, and I loved it a whole bunch when I was a kid.  To this day I still have a Junior Asparagus (the little one with the sideways hat) eraser that's never been used I bought at one of my school's book fairs way back when.

From what I recall it was a good show for kids, the kind that didn't forget there were adults watching as well.  It wasn't particularly edgy, obviously, but they had enough sarcastic side comments and pop culture references to keep everyone entertained.  Even so, anyone who saw this stuff growing up will tell you the best part of any episode was the silly song.  Silly Songs with Larry was a segment in the middle of each episode where Larry (the cucumber), and occasionally one of the other regular characters, would sing an absurd song completely unrelated to the subject at hand.  They ranged from songs about Water Buffalo, Cheeseburgers, an obsession with one's own lips, lost hairbrushes, and my personal favorite, a soap opera involving a manatee named Barbara.

It's weird watching shows as an adult that you loved as a kid.  On one hand you still love it (don't think I don't still know all the words to those silly songs), but there's also a touch of embarrassment that you used to like it so much, and maybe even a little confusion over just what it was you enjoyed about it in the first place.  Ah well.  I guess it's still pretty cute.

Also, my elementary school math teacher (who was also my Jr. High and high school math teacher, because I went to such a small school) could do a pretty spot on impression of Archibald Asparagus, the one with the monocle that narrates everything, and I recall my whole class enjoying that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for...

"U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer

Really quick story here: if you had the chance to play an American song for someone from another country, to give them a little piece of our culture, what would you pick?  Would it be "U Can't Touch This"?  It would be if you were me and my friends in Jr. High.  We had an exchange student from Korea in our class one year, a very nice, quiet, sweet girl who sadly believed pretty anything people told her.  More than one kid had some fun with that, but by the end of the year most of our class was genuinely sad to see her go.

Me and my friends had a study hall with her in the computer lab, and while the network control settings were pretty high, we still found ways to get where we wanted.  Remember that "I'm Feeling Lucky!" button Google used to have?  That was our best friend.  If the network was blocking a website, you could put the address in Google, hit "I'm Feeling Lucky!", which would take you right to the address you entered, but since it was going through Google it went under the network control's radar.

This is how we watched videos on YouTube.  We had to search the video on Google, find the exact address for it, put it in "I'm Feeling Lucky!" and boom!  Video.  Now, I'm not sure if our exchange student asked us to show her some American music, or if we just took it upon ourselves for some reason, but we ended up showing her "U Can't Touch This".  She thought it was pretty funny, so we felt good with our decision.

I couldn't find the exact video we showed her.  It wasn't the official video, it was some weird thing with different colored stick figures dancing with a boom box, and I'm not sure if that was better or worse for her to see than the eighties girls and Hammer Pants.  Oh well.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for...

"Take the Reigns" by Tsunami Bomb

The first female-fronted band on the list.  It takes some effort to find female voices in punk rock, and I wasn't always terribly interested in going out of my way to seek them out.  This group in particular no longer exists, though Emily Whitehurst (the lead singer) heads another project called The Action Design.  There's TAT, Dance Hall Crashers, Save Ferris, and HorrorPops, but Tsunami Bomb was the first lady voice I heard in the genre I liked most.

This song serves as a reminder about how not awesome being an adult is, and how wrong I was to think things would somehow work out into a magically fully-functioning grown up life.  There's no Certificate of Adulthood that arrives one day and then you're good to go, you just suddenly have to deal with more and more crap while still feeling like that dorky kid who struggled through Jr. High math.  "No fair!" I want to cry out, but to who?  There aren't any counselors or recess monitors anymore.  If someone shoves me into the dirt, I have to get up on my own.

No fun.

Back to Tsunami Bomb.  This band seems to have always been hands on with their fans and their merchandise.  I couldn't find any of their albums in our local record stores, so I ordered one off their website back when they were still a band in 2004 or so.  When the package showed up, it was hand-addressed in a manila envelope, meaning that someone had taken to the post office themselves.  It also came with one of those Fortune Teller Fish, and a letter thanking me for buying the CD.  I still have that fish today.  It felt like the band really cared that I liked their music, and I appreciated their appreciation.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for...

"Shadow Stabbing" by CAKE

You get into interesting territory with people when you try to decide what something means, be that something a poem, the grand finale of a television show, or a song.  This song in particular has some interesting theories to go with it.  To me this song is about writing, but maybe that's just because writing is what I do.

CAKE as a band is also interesting to me because the people I meet who like them are never the ones I expect.  One of my classmates from high school was always blasting heavy metal in his headphones, but guess who was playing on his MySpace page (back when that was a thing)?  CAKE.  My elbow patch coat-wearing English professor who literally spoke in metaphor?  Huge CAKE fan.  They appeal to everyone, I guess.

That's all I've got for this one, really.  Sorry it's short.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for...

"River of Dreams" by Billy Joel

This song sticks out for two reasons: one, because I'm pretty sure it used to be on my sleepy time playlist back when I wore headphones to sleep every night, which was during my first and last year of college.  The middle year was by far my most relaxing, so I didn't need it so much then.  My first and last years, though, were so stress inducing that winding down for sleep was close to impossible, so I sought out soothing music to try and reach some sort of calm place.  This is a gentle-sounding song, plus it has "dream" right in the title.  What could be better.

The other reason I remember this song is because it was one of only two or three songs that played over the loudspeakers where I worked in high school that I didn't hate.  If you haven't worked in a store before, you may not realize that there are only about twenty or so songs that play overhead, and those twenty or so songs play over, and over, and over again.  Employees learn to hate these songs, since we hear them so much, and they are often the soundtrack to all the strange and unpleasant things that go on in the service industry.  Back in high school the big song was "Hey There Delilah", and I heard that song so many times at work that I seriously almost lost my mind.

But Billy Joel played, too, though not quite as often as some of the more current songs on the playlist.  When it did come on, it was like a little oasis of not-completely-annoying in a desert of oh-my-god-not-this-song-again-please-kill-me-please.  I wouldn't say this is one of my favorite songs or anything, and honestly I'm not entirely sure why I liked this song more than some of the others, but it did resurface later on when I was trying to think of calming sounds, so maybe it was for the best.

On the topic of R songs, once in a great while at that old job, "Red Red Wine" would play.  It was like a rare gem that came along about once every month or so, and I couldn't help but laugh whenever it did.  Imagine being chewed out by a customer for the lack of variety in the store's infant onesies and hearing that ridiculous voice saying "red red wine you make me feel so fine" in the background.  It's the type of thing that makes you reassess your entire life.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for...

"Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" by Backstreet Boys

Yeah, I was one of these girls.  Upon looking it up, I guess I was seven when this CD came out, but I feel like I was older.  I know my love for them lasted into the double digits, so maybe that's what I'm thinking of?  No idea.

Anyway, the story here is about my brother.  He is fourteen years older than me, making him around twenty-one at the time the Backstreet Boys hit the scene (for those not awesome with math).  Technically my first CD was the Space Jam soundtrack, but my brother bought me my first "real" CD, which was the first Backstreet Boys album.  For the longest time I didn't think too much of it, other than that I have a nice brother who loves me.  He got me my first CD, my first PG-13 movie, plus he taught me how to tie my shoes.  What a guy!

But I found a new respect for it one evening at college.  All the girls in my dorm hallway loved music, so there was always some playing somewhere.  One night someone decided it was time to reminisce and play Backstreet Boys.  I mentioned that my brother bought their CD for me, and then it occurred to me that he was about the age I was when he did it.  Then I thought about the guys I knew who were my age, and tried to picture any of them walking into a music store and picking up a boy band album.

I suddenly felt a whole new appreciation for all the nice things my brother did for me growing up.  Going to college really did a lot for my relationship with him in general, since up till then he had always been an adult dealing with a child, but then I started becoming an adult.  I thanked him for sacrificing some pride back in the day to get me the BSB album, and he just laughed a little.  Either because he completely forgot about it, or it was more embarrassing than I realized.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for...

Two songs by The Weakerthans, both off the album Reconstruction Site.
"Plea From A Cat Named Virtute"

"Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call"

I don't have too much to say about these.  This album is what I listen to when I need to be quiet and alone, and both of these songs have a particular effect on me.  Maybe this seems a little like a cop out today, but I'd rather just let these songs speak for themselves this time, since this time is more about feeling than thinking.

I love these songs.  That's all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for...

"O Sole Mio" as covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

From the album Ruin Johnny's Bar Mitzvah, which is actually a live recording of these guys performing at some kid named Johnny's Bar Mitzvah.  Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a cover band made up of members from NOFX, Swingin' Utters, Foo Fighters, and Lagwagon.  They do this stuff for funsies, and often perform in bizarre matching outfits.  Like this:
Or this:
Overall great times.  One thing these guys have done for me, other than be entertaining, is bridge some of the gap that stands between me and my parents music interests.  Lots of the songs the Gimmes cover are older songs, many of which my parents recognize or listened to when they were young.  Hearing them in this format has both opened them up to my style of music and opened me up to theirs.  And once you're talking about music, you're also talking about your life and what that music means to you.  We all listened to country when I was younger, but now I know more about their lives before that time, and they know more about what I'm doing now.

So I'm sure they didn't mean to, but Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have helped me, in some small way, in my relationship with my parents.  Thanks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

M/N Combo Platter

So this weekend was a little rough in terms of my busyness level, so I missed M day.  Today is N day, but I'm going put two slightly smaller than normal entries into one, one for M and one for N.  Enjoy.
M is for... "Minimum Wage" by They Might Be Giants

So far in my life, I've only worked for minimum wage.  Right now my minimum wage job is in a department store at the mall.  As I've said before, this job is kind of awful, because people don't always see fit to treat you like a human being when you stand between them and their acquiring of new stuff.  You also get to see things you never thought you'd ever see.
Dirty diapers in the fitting room?  Check.  Grown men stuffing their pants with rolled up t-shirts?  Check.  Eighty-year-old cougars asking to "take home" your male coworkers?  Check.
Sexual harassment is also something of an issue.  I've had men back me into corners, or come up behind me and air thrust until I notice and turn around.  Luckily things like this don't happen very often, but there's a sense of powerless that comes over me when they do, and I hate that someone can make me feel that way.  In case I hadn't figured this out in high school, boys are stupid.
More often than not, though, things are pretty funny.  My coworkers and I laugh a lot.  Mostly at our customers, but what can we do?  You people are funny.

N is for... "Now" by Eyedea & Abilities

For a long time I didn't like rap music.  I'm not a huge fan of people making money off of telling everyone how much money they have and how awesome they are, and for a while that's all I knew of the rap industry.  Of course, I'm a lot more open about music in general now, but the first rap song I heard and liked was this one.  It was on one of the Epitaph label's yearly compilation albums, Punk-O-Rama Vol. 9.  What's weird is that this song, and many of the song on the E&A album, are about how cool these guys are.

The different between Eyedea and the rappers I was hearing on the radio was the complexity of the lyrics.  Sure it was bragging, but Eyedea was so much better at it than anyone I'd heard before.  He was smart and funny, and DJ Abilities just kicks ass no matter which way you look at it.  I found out later that most of Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen's work, both with Eyedea & Abilities and his other projects, is more heavy-hitting and introspective, while this one album was about cutting loose and having fun with what he does.  Which made me like it even more.

My interest in all non-punk genres of music started out with these guys, and from there pretty much just spiraled out of control.  Now I've got a whole month dedicated to all the different music I like.

Good times.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for...

"Land of 1000 Dances" by Wilson Pickett

Or, as that album cover calls him, "The Exciting Wilson Pickett."  He sure does look excited, though, doesn't he?
I've loved this song since I was very small, because it was in the movie FernGully: The Last Rainforest.  The version in the movie is by a band called Guy, but I liked it a lot, so I ended up finding the originally version later on.  You know how every kid has a favorite movie, one that they force their family to sit through over and over again, and seem somehow incapable of setting tired of it no matter how many times they see it?  For me, FernGully was that movie.  I watched it all the time.  I loved it.  It was awesome.

Unfortunately, I don't remember a whole lot of it now, since we had it VHS and I haven't seen the thing since the advent of DVDs.  What I do remember are the crazy bat character, a vague outline of the major plot points, and the pollution monster.  My god, the pollution monster.  You know how kids are scared of things like the boogieman?  That pollution monster was my boogieman.
I'm not sure I'm able to convey how deep and pure my fear of this thing was.  Here's what it looks like:

It's name is Hexxus.  As far as I was concerned, that guy was lurking in every dark corner of every room, ever, just waiting to chase me down and swallow me whole.  When I turned off the basement light (conveniently located at the bottom of the staircase) I ran to the top of those stairs like my life depended on it.  Because it did.  Hexxus wanted me dead, and I had to RUN.

Is it weird that I continually watched a movie with my worst nightmare in it?  Well, I suppose he is technically defeated in the end (though he's only trapped and don't think I wasn't aware he could be freed again at any time), but maybe the other characters were enough to keep me coming back?  I have no idea.  It was a complicated time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for...

"King Without a Crown" by Matisyahu

Last part of the "religion" saga, I promise.  I knew about Matisyahu when I was still in high school, but I didn't get into it until my freshman year of college, in part thanks to the movie Call + Response.

That movie, about the human trafficking industry, features lots of musical acts to bring money and awareness to the issue.  One of those acts is Matisyahu.  His sound and appearance were both so striking (it's a reggae-singing Hasid, come on) that I got drawn in.  From there I ended up really liking him.  I'm pretty sure I didn't get into him earlier was because his content is very religious, and I just wasn't ready to listen to it yet.  Re-finding Matisyahu also coincided with my getting into 311, Sublime, and the like.

There was many a stress-filled night of paper writing with this album as the soundtrack.  At this time in my life I knew I had an anxiety disorder, and was working on ways to deal with it.  Music once again became part of my coping process, and I had several go-to "calm down" albums, Youth (the Matusyahu album this track is on) being one of them.  I did pretty good for a while, too.  That is, until I had to graduate and think of something else to do with my time.  Some errors in judgement occurred there, but I think I've talked about that enough by now.

Matisyahu=relax.  The end.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for...

"Jesus Freak" by DC Talk

It's technically J day, so here we go.  I went out of my way to put this right next to the previous entry, to be like two sides of the same coin.  Before all the things that happened in that last entry, back when my problems were small and withdrawn, I had a brief period where I listened to CCM.  That's Contemporary Christian Music, for those not in the know.  When I was thirteen or so this stuff was the coolest.  It was like real music, but we were allowed to play it in our Christian school and at home without out parents getting mad at us.  One of my teachers even printed off some chart from the Internet that listed secular groups and their more godly counterparts like this one.

What's funny about that list is they have a Christian counterpart for Bad Religion.  Bad Religion, if you were unaware, has an explicitly atheistic message, so if you like them you probably wouldn't even want to find a Christian equivalent.

My involvement with this genre was short lived, since I got into punk rock around high school.  However, there were a couple groups I really, genuinely liked.  There was Relient K, which I actually still listen to, and DC Talk, which I don't.  DC Talk was a big deal because they wrote songs like "Jesus Freak" that made Christianity seem kind of cool and rebellious.  And teenagers love nothing more than being cool and rebellious.

It was a weird time.  Looking back on it is kind of like watching a kitten bat around a mouse toy.  From my vantage point now it's silly and cute, but that kitten seriously thinks it's a badass.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for...

"I Want to Conquer the World" by Bad Religion

Before I said that Against Me! was my favorite band, but that wasn't always the case.  In high school, I was in a much different mental space than I am now, and Bad Religion was my favorite band.  The album No Control came out the year I was born, and "I Want to Conquer the World" was by far my favorite track.

I was raised in a Christian household, and attended a small Christian school K-12.  Belief was a given.  However, as I got older, my anxiety problems really started to show themselves, and my environment didn't give much of a way to talk about them or deal with them.  "Have some kind of pain in you life?  Pray it out.  God has a plan for you, and every bad thing that happens has a reason behind it that we aren't able to understand."  Psychological problems were largely ignored or attributed to your own bad attitude.  "If you feel depressed, you just need to get back into the Word.  Get back into God."

But what I am supposed to do when I've prayed as hard as I can and I still feel horrible?  What if I just can't be happy like everyone else and there's no reason why or anything I can do about it?  What if everyone's "help" just makes me feel even more alone and afraid and all this anger and fear are building up so much that sometimes I just want to...

I couldn't finish that sentence.  I didn't know how, and honestly, I'm not sure I wanted to.  Those years were spent feeling like some kind of defect, and it made me angry.  Music became my outlet, specifically punk music, and specifically Bad Religion.  I was mad at God for making me this way and not doing anything to fix it.  Growing up in a conservative environment, I never heard much questioning or challenging of Christianity, but then I found these guys.  They were saying all kinds of subversive things, and I really needed the chance to ask those difficult questions.  Is God even real?  Does anyone around me know what they're talking about?  It was time to find answers for myself, and stop letting other people tell me what my problems were and how to handle them.

I eventually outgrew that anger, and Bad Religion fell further down on the list of bands I love.  Religion is still a big gray area for me.  In college I studied religion from a secular perspective for the first time, and I think that did a lot to cool down my distaste for the whole operation.  It gave me distance.  I wouldn't consider myself a Christian, or a follower of any organized faith, but I'm not an atheist either.  The fact of the matter is that no outside force is going to help me cope with my problems, and I no longer expect it to.  I do what I can.  The rest doesn't matter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for...

"Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails

In retrospect, I was probably too young to own this album when I did.  It's one of the first CDs I ever bought with my own money.  That money came from something of a scam, since my parents had agreed to pay me one dollar for every A I earned in school, possibly not realizing how easy school was for me at the time.  I brought home every assignment I could to them so I could earn my dollar, and it didn't take long for those dollars to add up.

I was thirteen, maybe, and we were on vacation.  Nine Inch Nails was a band I'd heard of, but never one I'd listened to.  Although I don't remember what trip we were on or anything like that, I know my parents and I were at a mall in an f.y.e., and The Downward Spiral was only $9.99.  I bought it mostly because I wanted to try something new.  The music my parents listened to wasn't really doing it for me anymore, and going to a small Christian school didn't give me much of a music scene.  So I grabbed this knowing next to nothing about it.  The cashier seemed to think I was making a good decision, so I wasn't worried about it.

Honestly, though, I pretty much hated this album the first time I listened to it.  I didn't get it.  After a couple listen-throughs I just gave up and the CD settled to the bottom of my ever-growing stack of punk albums.  Then in high school I went through a phase where I decimated my CD collection, selling everything I didn't listen to regularly enough back to our local f.y.e. (this store is playing a more prominent role in this entry than I anticipated).  When I got to Nine Inch Nails, it had been so long since I heard it that I couldn't remember it at all, so I listened to it again.  And what do you know, I liked it.  It stayed.
Then something else happened.

Growing up with country music, I have a soft spot for Johnny Cash anyway, but there's no way you can listen to this version of "Hurt" without feeling something twist up in your gut.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for...

"Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill

This song has some sad memories attached to it, but they aren't mine, and I'm not going to spend much time on them.  My uncle died when I was very young, and maybe this song came out around the same time or something because it somehow became associated with his passing.  But this isn't about that.

Instead I'm going to talk about cassette tapes.  When I was younger my parents listened to a lot of country and "easy listening" music, and since I was too little to find my own music, so did I.  My mother had two Vince Gill tapes because she really liked the sound of his voice.  She let me borrow these tapes sometimes to listen to on my little boom box, which I liked to take outside so I could hear the radio or Vince Gill while I was playing on my swing set or pretending to be a wolf pack.

Yeah, I wasn't just a wolf.  I was the whole pack.

I also really liked to play in the rain.  One day it was raining, but not very hard, so I thought my little boom box would be okay outside.  Vince Gill was crooning in the background while I swung, then something weird happened.  Vince's voice started to... warble a little.  I don't know how else to explain it, but it was clear that something was wrong.  Immediately I panicked.  Didn't I know better than to have electronics outside?  Now the tape's ruined and it's all my fault!  Mom's going to be so mad at me!

So I did what any quick-thinking seven-year-old would do: I put the tapes back in my mother's car and went inside like nothing happened.  The next day I overheard her talking to my father about how her cassettes had suddenly warped.  She figured maybe sitting in a hot car all day had ruined them, and that was fine by me.  Fast forward sixteen years or so.  Somehow Vince Gill came up in passing conversation, and my mother brought up how she had some old tapes that melted in the sun.  It was only then, a few months ago, that I finally told her what really happened.  I played them out in the rain and destroyed them.

She laughed.  Hard.  Had I been holding that in since I was seven?  Well yes.  Then she laughed some more.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for...

"From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)" by Against Me!

Believe it or not, this entry is going to be something of a happy one.

Against Me! (yes, the exclamation point is part of their name) is my favorite band, and this album in particular, Searching for a Former Clarity, means a great deal to me.  If I had to pick only one album I could listen to for the rest of my life, it would be this one.  I could have picked an Against Me! song for at least ten letters for this challenge, but I ended up deciding not to use a band more than once, so I settled on this song.

This album came out around the same time my friends and I started to understand politics.  We were particularly drawn in by Condoleezza Rice, since she was a prominent female in the political sphere, not that we agreed with everything she said or did.  She was a point of interest.  Then a song came out that was all about her?  A song that was upbeat and punky and had the f-word in it?  Our teenage selves were hooked.

We didn't know all the words at first, so we invented our own.  "There's a rat in North Korea" is the made-up line I remember most.  It was in that time period when you're over the nervousness of entering high school, but haven't yet gotten around to worrying about graduation.  Most of our time was happily wasted on inside jokes and trips to Wal-Mart.  When this song came on the radio, we sang our fake lyrics and laughed at how ridiculous everything was.

It was nice.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for...

"Every Goliath Has Its David" by The Boy Least Likely To

Here's another story about what I listen to in my car.  In 2010 I was in graduate school for Religious Studies, and by the time Thanksgiving came around I was pretty sure it was a bad idea.  I didn't love it the way I thought I would, and the rapidly approaching reality of failing, quitting, leaving something undone for the first time ever, was sending my panic levels into overdrive.  The Sunday after Thanksgiving I had to drive four hours from my parent's house back to my apartment near campus, and I just couldn't muster up the nerve to go back until early evening.

Driving at night can be rough under normal conditions, let alone when every nerve in your body is screaming at you to turn around.  My body knew I was going to drop out about a month before the rest of me.  It was around eleven and I was within an hour of my apartment when I drove through a wooded area and a deer lept out in front of my car.  I slammed on my brakes, completely forgetting there was a car behind me.  Luckily they stopped as well, and the deer got past me, but a car coming the other way caught its backside.  That sound still sits in the bottom of my mind.  It was the sound of coming against what can't be overcome, and I knew the same thing was happening to me.  I pulled the car over right there on the side of the road and cried.

The car that hit the deer didn't stop.  In fact, neither did the deer, so I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who had any lasting ramifications from the event.  Once I got back on the road, I was so frayed I wasn't sure what, if anything, I could get up and do the next day.  Then something good happened.  My iPod was hooked up to my radio on shuffle, and "Every Goliath Has Its David" came on.  Something about the unassumingly perky and almost childlike tune, along with the fumbling, self-deprecating lyrics got me just the right way at just the right time.  I started to feel better.  It didn't save me from dropping out of grad school, because what I really want to do is write poetry, but it did help lift my spirits for a few days, and it still does whenever I listen to it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for...

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by lots of different people, but this version is The Charlie Daniels Band:

This isn't about the specific song so much as about the people who made me aware that this type of music exists.  Most of my father's side of the family is from southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia.  When I was younger we would go down to these places a lot to see old family, and in my grandfather's case, to teach me about where I came from.  He drug me out to rotting churches and single-room school houses, graveyards overrun with moss and tree roots, and some old covered bridge that I'm lucky enough to own a memento of.  See below.

Yeah, that's some kind of screen print cloth patch thing.  I don't get it, but there it is.

Another thing my paternal grandfather used to do is play old country and gospel music on a little boom box that lived next to His Chair.  If you don't know why His Chair is capitalized, then you somehow grew up in a family without that special recliner the head of the family sat in (and no one else).  He had me listen to the music he loved, and got me to love it a little bit myself, if only because it reminds me of him.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for...

"Church" by T-Pain

This is the dubbed version, used for one of those dance movies, but if you don't mind a ridiculous amount of swearing, the un-cut version is pretty hilarious.

I've said before that I have a soft spot for outlandish hip-hop music, but never about how I got into it in the first place.  Here's how: my senior year as an undergrad, I studied abroad in the UK.  It was fantastic.  However, when I got back, most of my friends had moved on, and I found myself having to start from scratch socially in my last months at the school.  Luckily my randomly assigned roommate (since I was gone part of the year I didn't get to choose my own) turned out to be really cool.

She was all about having fun, and I needed all the fun I could get.  All but one of my old friends had ditched me, I had capstone classes and grad school application, not to mention my honor's thesis, and my grades from the UK were very late in coming so I wasn't sure I would even graduate.  Essentially, I was a mess.  But this new roommate of mine new just how to pull me out of it.  Thanks to her, I did a lot more laughing than I ever could have otherwise.  One of the things she would do is play hip-hop and rap music, preferably with the silliest lyrics possible, and I would laugh and forget my problems for a little while.

That's how I first heard this song.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is For...

"Bro Hymn" by Pennywise

This song deserves a little history.  It was originally written by Pennywise bassist Jason Thirsk in memory of several of his friends who had died in a car accident.  Thirsk struggled with alcohol and depression, and lost that fight at the age of twenty eight, dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The rest of the band was devastated, as Thirsk has been a close friend to all of them.  However, they decided to keep making music, and Full Circle was the next album they made, in honor of him.  "Bro Hymn" was re-recorded as the final track to the album, using Thirsk's name instead of the names that had been in the original recording.

I didn't know any of that when I first heard the song.  My first car had a CD player and a tape player, but the CD one was broken (it broke in my new car, too, so I'm just doomed to not have one, I guess).  Since my brother grew up in the eighties, he had lots of old cassette tapes, and he dug them up for me to listen to until I could save up to replace my CD player.  He also made me a mix tape of newer music, and this song was on it.  I didn't know the pain behind the song, but I could feel it.  Everyone had someone who's gone that they miss, and I definitely pushed those feelings through the roof of my car every time I sang along with this song.

My brother's going to make a couple appearances during this challenge.  He's the one who first facilitated my love for music, and exposed me to styles I wouldn't necessarily hear on the radio.  All in all a great guy.


The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  Don't know what it is?  Click on it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is For...

"Anchors Aweigh" by The Bouncing Souls

This song was pretty much my life at one point.  I was in high school when the album, of which this is the title track, came out.  Can you imagine how much a song like this meant to me my senior year while I was packing up to leave home for the first time?  Answer: lots.

I went to a small private school from kindergarten through high school.  My graduating class was less than forty, and I had known most of those kids since I was six years old.  Going away to college wasn't just a big deal, it was monumental, and I was all but desperate to get out of town.  It had been the same old stuff every day, and I was sure my life would be so much better once I got to Somewhere Else.

But you know what?  I still feel that way.  I've been all over the place, to different states, different countries, and I'm still looking for the magical Somewhere Else that will make everything awesome.  Of course I know it doesn't exist, but the pattern is set now.  So much of my time is spent trying to sit still.  Trying not to fidget, or rock back and forth.  Trying to convince myself it's okay to be back in the same city I was so determined to put behind me five years ago.

I still love this song.  So much.  And the whole idea of Somewhere Else is just another thing to leave in the past, along with high school and all the other places I've been.  Which is easier said than done.


As far as these challenge posts go, I think this is pretty much the standard.  The songs are mostly a jumping off point for me to tell a story or talk about what a specific song has meant to me.  Hopefully I can keep it interesting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy Bad-iversary!

This month marks another one-year milestone for me.  I don't remember exactly when I started working in the department store I currently work in, but I know it was some time in March.  When I started the goal was to make enough money to keep up with my student loans while trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I knew I would be at this job about a year, perhaps longer.  Now it's looking like I'll be there another four months or so.

Still, I never though about what this job would feel like after a year.  Without going into too much detail, since I plan on talking about work for one of my A-to-Z Challenge posts, serving America's shopping public feels a lot like being punched in the face.  But you know what?  After taking so many hits, most of them just can't hurt me anymore.
So go ahead, lady, scream at me for trying to keep your children from playing on the escalators (which is hella dangerous), and go ahead sir, ignore everything I tell you about the work boots just because I have boobs and take my male coworker at his word even though he said the exact same thing.  I don't care.  It's all happened so many times now that I've developed an exoskeleton of apathy impervious to any insults you can think of.  Of course, it's not all a horror show, there have actually been some very genuine and pleasant experiences.  It's just that the bad ones are so much easier to remember.
To commemorate this bittersweet anniversary, I'd like to feature another bittersweet thing.  There's a band out right now called Karmin with an album coming out this April.  They've been gaining popularity, I guess, and I recently heard this song on the radio:

Not bad.  However, whenever I hear "Karmin" I think of the Christian singer Carman, most famous (to me, at least) for this 80's classic sic:

Just a little bit different.  Anyway, sometimes a word becomes associated in your mind with something terrible, like this Karmin/Carman example.  In the same way, "shopping" in my mind will always be associated with misappropriated anger and barely controlled chaos.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Life in an Upturned Boat

So, I'm usually not all like "hey, you should watch this music video", but I happen to really like this one, so hey, you should watch this music video:

I've talked before about choosing how to remember someone, especially if that someone is family you should have been close with but weren't somehow.  It's strange, but sometimes a whole person can only make sense in retrospect.

There are lots of good and terrible things buzzing around my life right now.  The most important thing right now is to decide if I want to stick around this town for the next couple years, or move it on to somewhere else.  Money is a big factor, obviously, but I can't help but feel like I'm caught in some kind of holding pattern here at home, like my existence is on pause.  But moving away might not end up fixing anything so much as just distracting me.  I need to give myself some kind of jolt, but I'm not sure what it is.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

If There's A Theme Here, It's Vehicles

As I've said before, my mother is a huge TCM movie buff, particularly films from the '40s.  Since many of these films don't end right on the end of the hour or half-hour, they often put on some informational tidbits, old news reels, or short films to fill up the extra time.  This was on the tail end of some movie or other, and I absolutely loved it.  I wasn't the only one, either, since all the YouTube comments on the first page say something to that effect.
My mother and I were particularly excited to see this because it reminded us something we'd seen Big Chuck and Lil' John do on one of their shows.  They never said this earlier short was a reference, but I don't see how it couldn't be.  Of course, the original is supposed to be about road safety, whereas the Big Chuck and Lil' John version was purely for humor's sake.

If you're not from the Cleveland area, you probably have no idea who Big Chuck and Lil' John are, or Hoolihan, or Ghoulardi.  Do other cities have local shows like these?  Does everyone have access to the mocking and butchering of B movies and Saturday morning skit shows?  I hope so.  Even though Big Chuck and Lil' John called it quits in 2007, they've started reshowing some of their best stuff on Saturday mornings again, which I would love to watch but working night shifts pretty much means I never get up before noon.  If I am, it's because my car is broken down and I'm pissed.

Yeah, that new car I got?  Stopped working.  I would be driving along and the engine would suddenly cut out for a second, which was, to put it lightly, exciting.  Something was wrong with the electronics in the engine.  So I took it to be repaired, and they said they could either replace the malfunctioning bit for $600, or try to recalibrate it for about $180.  I went with the latter.  Two days later I went to pick it up, only to discover they'd left the keys inside the car, presumably for my convenience since they knew I was coming and this way I could just get in it and go.  Unfortunately for them my car automatically locks if no one touches it for about thirty seconds, so my keys were locked inside my car.  Since it's a Volkswagen it's harder to break into than other cars, so no one could open it.  I had to go all the way back home, get another set of keys, and come all the way back only to find on my way to work that the problem wasn't fixed.  The engine gave out on a busy highway on-ramp, so me and a bunch of other people almost died.
I took it back to the repair shop again.  Turns out the computer they used to fix my car's computer was broken.  The mechanics seemed to think this was kind of funny, like "Oh, silly us!", but I just thought I wanted to punch them all in the face.  Everything's working fine now, though, so I suppose they can be forgiven.  It was kind of awkward for me to depend on other people to take me to the library, work, and the post office for these past few days.  Now that my car's back I feel like I've regained my independence.  This must be the feeling the people behind all those power wheelchairs are playing off of.

Ah, freedom.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sometimes Nothing Happens

My goal to post at least once a week has, as it was inevitably fated to, failed.  The problem is that this past week was uneventful, almost hilariously so.  I tried to blog a couple times week only to find I didn't have a single thing to say.  However, I should still try to do something in order to get back on track, so I figured I'd talk about some new music I found.  I'll try to think of something interesting soon.

By "new" I mean "new to me", by the way.  Some of these guys have been around a while.

So these guys have been around since 2004, but I just found out about them the other day when I heard this:

I've always liked reggae-esque music like Sublime, 311, Matisyahu, Marley, Rome, etc., especially anything with more of a ska influence.  This whole album has a nice feel to it, and if you get the deluxe version you get two whole extra disks, one with an acoustic version and one with a dub remix.  Give those links some clicks if you want to hear either version of "Sky is the Limit", the song at the top of the paragraph.  For a while I've been drifting away from this kind of music but now I'm getting back into it.  It's mellow, and I can always use a little mellowing out, especially now that I'm trying to make decisions about grad school.  Yeah, I just said grad school.  I'll talk more about that later.

Of Monsters And Men

These guys actually are new, and they're also from Iceland.  They won some kind of major Icelandic band competition in 2010 and released an album in 2011.  One of their songs, "Little Talks", got some radio play in the U.S.  Now said album will be available here in April.  In the meantime there's an EP you can get your hands on, which is how I came across them.  It sounds quite nice.

For a while I refused to listen to anything that sounded like this because it reminded me of what the idie/hipster kids I met at college who told me punk rock was "outdated" and "cliche" listened to.  Punk was my first love, and I didn't like anyone talking mess about it.  I still don't like anyone talking mess about it, but I got over the idea that I have to choose my music based on what group I'm supposedly a part of.  If I want to put Katy Perry, Bad Religion, and Tupac on the same playlist, that's my business.  It seems trivial now, but this was such a big realization for me towards the end of my freshman year.
Side note: notice any similarities between Rebelution and Of Monsters and Men?

Kristoff Krane
I love this stuff so much I'm actually a little mad I didn't know about it sooner.  Kristoff Krane (Christopher Keller) has only has three solo albums, but he's been in all sorts of little projects for years.  He was also close with Michael "Eyedea" Larsen, of Eyedea and Abilities, which is probably my favorite rap outfit ever.  This isn't just rap, though.  In 2010 Kristoff Krane released two albums, "Hunting for Father" and "Picking Flowers Next to Roadkill", and their content ranges from rapping to singing to a mixture of both.  All of it has such a relaxed, almost folky feel to it.  This is my favorite of what I've heard so far:

Both Kristoff and Eyedea are from Minnesota, which seems funny to me.  Who would've thought there'd be a rap scene in Minnesota?  Who would've thought that if there was one that Ohioans would be listening to it?

Last year these guys had a hit called "Sail", and I absolutely hated it.  That scratchy voice screaming "sail!" over and over again grated on my nerves, and for a good minute the song seemed to be everywhere, so it got stuck in my head a lot.  It finally went away and I once again felt peace, but then this song happened and I found myself liking it.

Just recently I got around to hearing more AWOLNATION's debut album "Megalithic Symphony".  Yes, that's a bit of a pretentious album name, and yes, the band name really is in all caps, but you know what?  It's a good album.  It's interesting, and by listening to it as a whole I even managed to gain some appreciation for "Sail".  Not that it's my favorite song out there, but hearing it in the context of the album helped a lot, or maybe I just got used to the style so it didn't bother me so much anymore.  Either way, I've grown to like this band quite a bit.  It only took a year.

I had a minor crisis in that last paragraph when I typed "anymore" because I couldn't remember if "anymore" is actually a word or not.  Apparently I'm not the only one.

The End