Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The thing is, I bet I can think of more reasons to hate me than anyone else can. Some of them make sense, and some of them really have nothing to do with me. Maybe you think veganism is crazy. Maybe you're a conservative and you don't like liberals. Maybe you think city folk are obnoxious. Maybe you think I'm arrogant. Maybe my intellect intimidates you. Maybe you're a Sox fan. Maybe you think my hair/eyes/etc are prettier than yours. Maybe one day six months ago when I was having a bad day, something I said to you came out wrong. There are probably a million reasons to dislike me or hate me or disapprove of me or whatever.

The important thing is this - I'm human. Most of those reasons have nothing to do with me. I'm really not an arrogant person, I'm just an introvert. I'm not intimidating if you just take a minute to talk to me. My religious/political/theoretical ideas are the ones that make sense to me, and I am 100% aware of the fact that they don't necessarily apply or appeal to anyone else. The physicality stuff, well, that's actually on you. But for the most part, I am a good person. I try as hard as I can to be a good person. I don't hurt other people, or animals for that matter. I am a productive member of society. I work hard at my job. I'm caring and compassionate and giving.

But if you do chose to hate me, please make sure it's for one of the good reasons. Because if it's not and you decide to go off on me for one of the stupid reasons, well, you're just going to make yourself look stupid.

Speaking of which, if you do hate me for one of the stupid reasons, if you just talk to me about it, chances are we can clear things up. Festering about it really does nothing productive. Communication, people. Solves more problems than alcohol.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So if and when I die, I would like one of two things to happen.

1) I'd like there to be a dance. A huge swing dance with all of the people I danced with, and all of the people who watched me dance like an idiot, just having a great night. Great music. Maybe a shim sham and a Big Apple. Perhaps even a jam circle where someone does sailor kicks and someone does hacksaw. In short, I want people to dance until their feet blister and just have an amazing night of great dancing.

2) I'd like there to be a jam session. A bunch of people with assorted instruments, just playing. Maybe there should be beverages and snacks available. If people play my songs, that's cool. If they play songs I liked, that's cool, too. Just a bunch of people making music for an evening. Sharing in the beauty of that.

I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, but one of the fathers of lindy hop died this morning (well, yesterday morning, April 27). The end result was that all of the dancers I used to dance with back when I was dancing six nights a week gathered at the Monday night venue to celebrate his life. We danced, we jammed, we laughed, we sweat like pigs, we sat and enjoyed each other's company over a beverage. The little bit I knew about Frankie Manning makes me think he would have wanted his life celebrated that way. And it made me think that when I pass someday, I'd like my life to be celebrated like that.

Thank you, Frankie Manning, for your warmth and enthusiasm. Thank you for this amazing dance and for working so hard for so long to make sure that generations to come will be able to carry on your legacy. You will be sorely missed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So I'm in the middle of season 2 of the Gilmore Girls for the umpteenth time, and I have realized that the problem with watching Gilmore Girls for the umpteenth time is that it becomes glaringly obvious that they didn't have anyone on set checking for continuity, or if they did, said person was blind and missing a foot. Else that that, I love this show. It's so charming. Also, the character of Maury may be the most underrated character on the show. He's so dear. Of course I love Sooki, too, but Maury...I wish they had used him more.

It also makes me think that I have two tips to offer anyone making DVDs of episodic television shows. 1 - Always include a "play all" option. Having to go back through two menus in between episodes sucks. 2 - Make the opening credits of the show their own chapter so that someone having a marathon of said show can fast forward through the credits without missing anything important. Follow these two simple rules and your episodic television DVD is bound to be a success. Join us next week when we look at the best way to package gum.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

So I love to travel. I really do. The only problem being that it gets really hard to come home, largely because traveling reminds me of many things that I don’t have and/or can’t have in my life. But coming home to my cat and my guitar is always nice.

Highlights of my little trip to San Francisco: going to Amoeba and finding a bunch of CDs that I don’t have but want for a really good price. Hanging out with a dancer friend and doing a bit of dancing. Walking around the city and discovering the Yerba Buena Gardens. The Cartoon Art Museum. Seeing one of my favorite musicians play most of the songs I have come to know and love of his. Hanging out with said musician after his show. Hanging out with another swing friend.

Lowlights of my little trip to San Francisco: the flights.

On the way out, I had a stopover in Denver for about a half an hour. I don’t know when the last time you went to Denver was, but the turbulence going in and coming out of there was, well, not fun. And of course, any time I’m on a turbulent flight now, all I can think of is “Lost,” and if I were to crash on an island with these people, which ones would drive me crazy and which ones would I be able to befriend. On the first leg of the flight, I was sitting next to a young man who I initially thought was kind of cute with his dark-rimmed glasses, scruffy facial hair, baseball hat, and black t-shirt. It wasn’t until he sat down that I noticed his, um, fragrance. I think he was kind of excited to sit next to a not-too-bad-looking girl, and he started talking to me. Which wouldn’t have been all bad, but he wasn’t a great conversationalist. I would like to point out two very simple suggestions for conversing with total strangers. 1) When they ask you a question, answer, and then throw the same question back at them (or a question that is somewhat related). People like to talk about themselves for the most part, and this is a good way to keep the conversation going. 2) When you find yourself in an awkward pause, ask them something not-too-invasive about their life (i.e. where are you from, what do you do, etc). This prevents the awkward snubbing factor of the person going back to their book after waiting for several minutes for you to say something.

Side note: One of the discs I bought at Amoeba is “Flood” by They Might Be Giants. I love this record. I used to have it on cassette tape, which got buried in my various moves since 1990 when it came out. But there it was for eight dollars on CD, so I picked it up and am currently listening to it. I love this disc. It’s mere existence brings me almost unspeakable joy. I didn’t realize how much I missed this record until I started listening to it a minute ago. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking up a copy. It really is fun.

Back to the flights. On the second leg of my flight out, I sat next to a four year old. She was darling, but had very little concept of personal space. As in, she kept kicking me. And her mother didn’t say anything about it until the flight was almost over. At one point, the little girl decided to lift up the armrest that I was using, so I kind of quietly said, “I was kind of using that,” and the mother told her to put it back down. And I felt like a bitch for saying anything, but still. Your daughter has been kicking me for half of the flight and I haven’t said anything, but I would very much like to be able to use the armrest, thank you.

And now, as I sit on the plane on the way home to my guitar and my cat, I once again have to complain. It’s not a very full flight, and for a minute, I thought I was going to have a whole row to myself. Then the very last passenger on the plane took the aisle seat in my row, and put her personal items on the middle seat. So I am confined to my seat, which is fine, I kind of expected that. But the guy in front of me leaned his seat back so far that I can’t put my laptop on the tray table and open it at the same time. I currently have my computer on my lap and am still not pleased with the angle at which my screen is forced to sit. I don’t think I could even satisfactorily put a beverage on my tray table, his seat is so far reclined.

But in general, it was a lovely trip. I stayed in a sort of boutiquey hotel, which was fun and made it like a real vacation, which I have decided I very much need. Preferably a longer one next time.
And now if I can take a moment to talk about the musician. If you happen to be him and you happen to be reading this, I’m sorry if it’s weird, but here goes. It always amuses me when I encourage my friends to try something (music, food, a movie, etc) and they do and they are surprised to find that they actually like it. Like when I was telling people to come see my band play because we sounded awesome and they would show up and say, “Wow, that really WAS good.” As if I had been lying. Or as if I had put that much time and effort into creating something sub-par. Same kind of situation with this musician. He writes really good music. I’ve been to enough open mics and seen enough other musicians at other shows that I have played to know that there is a lot of crappy music out there, which is really sad. It gives singer/songwriters a bad name. When you say “singer/songwriter” now or “folk musician,” people expect one guy (or girl) with a guitar, singing slow, sappy songs about heartbreak or a loss of innocence or something along those lines. It’s usually forty-five minutes of songs that pretty much all sound the same and are so packed with metaphors that by verse two, you have no idea what the song is about anymore, so you tune out. Or you get the guy who wants to be John Mayer/Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews, but who would go a lot farther if he just found his own style and ran with it instead of trying to copy someone else’s. Or you get the woman singing seventeen songs about boyfriends (or girlfriends) who wronged her, chock full of swears so that she sounds “edgy.” And while I will never tell anyone that they shouldn’t express themselves, I will agree that it can get painful to listen to after a while. Most people going to see a concert, particularly when they’re seeing a musician they’ve never seen or heard of before, would like a little variety. They want songs they can wrap their minds around. And the musician I went to see does that. He uses all different kinds of rhythms in his strumming and finger picking styles. Hell, he uses both strumming and finger picking styles in his sets. He has some soft, slow, sweet stuff. He has some songs about loss. But he has engaging lyrics, based in metaphors that are concrete enough to be recognizable to the audience, but original enough to stick in the minds of the listeners and make them think. And he has this soothing voice. It’s not perfect in the over-produced kind of a way, but it’s genuine and has a nice, full tone to it. Really, he writes great music. And, he manages to be a genuinely nice person at the same time.

So I met him in December of 2004 in New York and have been trying to get people I know to listen to his stuff ever since. I gave his CDs to family members as gifts. I’ve forwarded his website to friends. I’ve told people to go to his shows. I don’t know if it has been at all effective. But one of my good friends went with me to his show and really enjoyed it. She commented on the interesting rhythms and the wonderful vocal quality. I love it that I found him a new fan. Now if I could just get the rest of my friends to realize that I wouldn’t fly half-way across the country to see just any musician play – it has to be a good one. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.


They found me a whole empty row at the very back of the plane so I can sit like a normal person. It means it will take longer to get off of the plane when it lands, but you know what? It’s worth it.

The only problem with seeing said musician play is that I am now, once again, questioning my own music. I use a lot of the same rhythms over and over again. Maybe I don’t mask my metaphors enough. My one friend called my stuff “emo” which really bothered me. I don’t think I’m “emo.” Or maybe my stuff comes across as being “emo” because my metaphors are too well hidden and the song I wrote about my own apprehension about going to my high school reunion becomes a break-up song. Which it isn’t. But if you think it is, I guess it could sound emo.

Which brings me to everything else that is going on in my life. I decided that I needed to take this trip to prove to myself that I’m not a corporate schill. I still checked my work email while I was gone, and I feel guilty that I’m not doing work-related things now. Yes, I did get a raise with my promotion, but technically, they’re still not paying me enough to take over my whole life. But I almost feel obligated to give it. And since I have neither a theatrical project, a musical project, or a significant other to distract me from work, I feel like I should be working all of the time. Which is wrong. I should be trying to find myself a musical project. I thought about trying to record an EP of all of the songs I have written in alternate tunings. Give it some funny name about everything being off or something like that. I think I might bore the sound engineer, though. Which always means I could try to do it myself with what I’ve got. But I’d want my drummer to lay down the percussion for it. “Coming Home” came up on my iTunes the other day and it made me miss playing with her. She really is fantastic.

Anyway. I’m just on a sort of a bitch-fest at the moment when really, what I need to do is shit or get off the pot, so to speak.

Speaking of which (kind of), I don’t understand drug culture. I got to go down to Haight and Ashbury for the show last night (someplace every folk musician should go just for the history of it) and while I was drawn in by the funky shops and welcoming vibe of the area, I was kind of disturbed by the number of homeless people and/or the number of people just crashing on the sidewalk because they were too stoned to find their way home. I don’t get that. I understand, logically, that the drugs they are doing make them feel good, and I certainly understand the desire to feel good. But the cost (beyond the monetary cost) is their usefulness. Which I feel really odd talking about for other reasons. But I like to be useful. I like being a productive member of society. I don’t know how essential anything I am doing or have done with my life is in the grand scheme of things, but I have helped people do things that are important to them, or I have written songs that soothe the souls of certain listeners, so it can’t be all bad what I’m doing. I can’t imagine spending every day of my life doing drugs and sitting on the sidewalk watching the rest of the world go by around me. I don’t get it. I’d rather be doing things. Like taking random trips across the country on a whim. Hell, even sitting with my cat on my lap, scratching his head feels more productive. Which is maybe the same motivation behind homeless people having dogs. Though I feel for those dogs, I really do.

Now I’m just being a downer. Sorry about that.

I had fun. I had a great trip. I wish there was something more in my life right now. I’m sure it will find me soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Okay, I have to put a disclaimer on this blog to note that it is not intended to hurt anyone's feelings. It's just what I was thinking about tonight as I was out and about.

Back in the day, when I first started swing dancing, it was magic. I would go out and see all of these people who inspired me to dance and made me want to learn more and be better, and I wanted all of them to know who I was and to know that I could hold my own and that I was fun to dance with. And for the most part, I think I was successful in that. I made a bit of a name for myself that would sometimes proceed me when I traveled to dance. But then life happened and I stopped dancing so much and now I'm more in a place where when I go out, maybe one person there knows that I can hold my own and I have to spend each dance outing proving to the good dancers that yes, I really am one of you. And that gets tiring. I'm sorry, but it does.

So I went out dancing tonight and with the exception of two or three people, I wasn't really inspired by what I saw. And of all of the people I told that I was going to go out, one showed up. Another one tried, but life got in the way. Which kind of makes me wonder about all of the years I spent swing dancing, the same way I'm wondering about all of the years I spent doing music and theater - what did it get me? I thought I had made these good friends, but when I stopped dancing so much, we kind of stopped being friends, despite some effort to stay in touch. Swing people are, for the most part, really quality people. But trying to get them to do something that doesn't involve swing dancing is neigh on impossible. And I learned all of these dance moves and I learned about musicality and I learned how to use my body in all kinds of fun ways, but when I go out dancing now, I don't get to use that as much. Partially because the quality of leads that I get to dance with has changed (save the few old schoolers I see from time to time), and partially because I feel so rusty I'm afraid to experiment and play around like I used to.

I think the important thing that I need to remember from my swing days, and from my theater days, and from my band days, is that I had a blast. I learned so much and saw so much and did so many crazy things that most people never get to do that even if I never dance again or set foot on a stage, it was worth it.

But I went out tonight, excited to dance. And when I got there, I realized that I would have to show this whole room full of people who had no idea who I was that I do know how to dance and it kind of took the energy right out of me. Because I'm not going to become a regular again, and these people won't remember me a month from now.

I think what I decided tonight that I'm looking for is something more than a one-off fun experience. Rather than get the entire swing community across the country to know me and respect me as a dancer, I'd like to find one person who will go get tea with me on a night when there is no dancing, you know? I don't need everyone to know who I am. I just need someone to not forget than I am.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

So I was all proud of myself because I made it through the winter without getting sick.

Until now.

My sinuses are very not happy. They are trying to escape the confines of my body by whatever means necessary, but they seem to be lacking sufficient water supplies to do so. Meaning, I can feel that I need to blow my nose, but I also feel so dehydrated that I can't productively blow my nose. Which is strange because I drink tea and water all day like a fiend, so how I managed to not be hydrated enough to get sniffly is beyond me. Suffice it to say, I don't feel great. I'm steaming my face over my tea and I kind of feel light headed or vapid and unable to focus. Which means it's a good thing I have a three day weekend coming up. Though I do have several social functions to attend over the next couple of days. One is a farewell party for a friend who is moving away, so I can't miss that one. The others...we'll have to see how I feel.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It feels good to have baseball back on the air. And as much as I've tried to arrange things so that I can watch as many Cubs games as possible (and the occasional Indians game), I'm kind of looking forward to listening to Pat and Ron call the game on the radio tonight. Radio is such an underrated medium these days. I know so many people who instantly plug their iPods into the car when they get in - they don't even check to see if there is anything good on the radio first. I like being surprised by what songs the DJs pick, and hell, we live in Chicago and have WXRT - if that isn't enough reason to listen to the radio, I don't know what is. But anyway, I love Pat and Ron and am looking forward to hearing them tonight. Go Cubbies!

I'm going to a concert in the near future. I'm very excited and very nervous, and I have to remind myself that I'm going to see the concert, not the performer. I realize that makes very little sense, but before I go see a show that I've wanted to see for a while, I always get these butterflies in my stomach like the performer is going to know I'm there, when really, I have to remember that it's important to the performer that I'm there because I bought a ticket and that's about it. We'll mostly likely not chat afterwards, if you know what I mean. And I have to remind myself that not chatting afterwards doesn't take away from the fact that I'll get to see these songs that I know and love so much performed live! That's the cool part. I'm geeked for this show.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

As the weather begins to get warmer (theoretically), we begin to once again see droves upon droves of bicyclists, filling the city streets of Chicago. I know that cycling is better for the environment than either driving or using public transportation. And I know that it can give you a killer ass. But cyclists in the city piss me off. I know, I know, that's very not-PC of me, but it's true. And let me tell you why they piss me off.

I hate it when cyclists use the left turn lane, as if they were cars. Granted, they are allowed to. By the laws of the road, cyclists should, technically, use the left turn lane as if they were cars. But technically, cyclists are supposed to follow ALL of the rules of the road as if they were cars, including (but not limited to) stopping at all stop signs and lighted traffic signals, indicating that they are about to turn, and giving the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks. When bicyclists start following those rules, then I'll give them the left turn lane.

And speaking of turning, when I'm in my car, and I need to make a right hand turn, and I see a cyclist next to or just behind me, I turn on my indicator, and speed up a little bit to let said cyclist know that I'm going to be turning in front of him (as I'm most likely going to get to the intersection first). This is NOT, I repeat, NOT intended as an invitation for said cyclist to speed up and try to cut me off. Dude, I'm in a car; you're on a bike. Who do you think is going to win that collision? I gave you ample warning that I'm turning - you can very easily adjust your speed to accommodate without messing up the flow of traffic in general. But if you speed up and I hit you, it's going to be my fault. It's like leaning head first into an oncoming fastball - even if your team is desperate for a run, it's really not a good idea. It does not make you more of a man to try to play chicken with a car. And me having to adjust my speed so that you can take twenty minutes to pass me before I turn messes up all of the other cars behind me, as I can't even move over to let them go by because you're there riding your bicycle.

And then there are the cyclists who stop at stop lights, but only kind of. Apparently, it is very difficult to remove their feet from the pedals and maintain their balance in one spot, so instead, they keep both feet on the pedals and meander back and forth in front of the cars waiting at the stop light. Seriously, dude, that's asking to be hit. You get some hot-shot in the right lane who is only there because he wants to pass the other guys in the intersection and get in front of the line of cars, and he's not paying attention to you as you sit on your wobbly, half-balanced bicycle that is kind of moving but kind of not. As soon as that light changes, bam. Just take your feet off of the pedals and stay still. You won't die in the 30 seconds that the light is red if you have to be stationary. You may die if you insist on parking yourself in front of soon-to-be-oncoming traffic.

Chicago is, in my opinion, a fairly bicycle friendly city. Perhaps not as much as Amsterdam, but we do have bike lanes on most major streets. I do have a problem, though, with bicyclists who can't stay in the bike lanes. Be it two people out for a ride together who feel it necessary to ride next to each other so that one is in the middle of the car lane, or be it the guy who has to get to work faster than everyone else so he passes them in the middle of the car lane, bicyclists who can't stay in their lane piss me off. Just like car drivers who can't stay in their lane. And/or, if you do need to switch lanes in order to pass someone, check to see that the lane you need to get into is empty before drifting over. If you want to use the left hand turn lane like you're a car, then you have to allow a car in the car lane the right of way before you move over to pass a bicycle in the bicycle lane. Same way that a car changing lanes isn't supposed to change lanes into another car (or bicycle) that is already occupying that lane. Remember - slower traffic stays to the right. You're on a bike; I'm in a car. Nine times out of ten, you're the slower traffic, so stay to the right.

Happy April, everybody.