Music

I was driving down to Ft. Carson this morning for a Spartan race.  It’s about an hour and 45 minutes so I put on Slacker.  Normally I have a “favorites” channel, but with all the time on the motorcycle and roadtrips lately I wanted a break so I listened to Front Line Radio.  I wrote about that hear and highly recommend you give it a listen.  You can follow this link to listen to it.

Two songs struck me this morning.  One was “Drive On” by Johnny Cash.  I honestly don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, which is surprising considering how many Cash CDs are floating around this place.

Not much more needs to be said about that song.

The other one?  I’ve said frequently that I normally hear music but not the words.  There’s a quote that I like that goes “When you’re happy you hear the music, when you’re sad you listen to the words”.  That’s been true for me usually.  And when a song resonates with me when I’m sad, I can’t turn that off.  I can’t NOT hear the words when I’m happy again.

“Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters has been a favorite of mine for years, probably since the album came out in 2002.  Maybe not.  I was deployed for some of that year and it took some catching up.  So maybe 2003.  But it’s been in regular rotation on my road-trips for over a decade.  I’ve sung it (as best as I’ve understood the lyrics) at the top of my lungs while driving.  And never really thought about any of it.

This morning, they told some backstory behind the request.  The service member who requested it said that they left the military almost immediately after their last of several deployments and when they did, this song was on almost constant replay for them for awhile, strictly because of the lyrics “It’s times like these you learn to live again” and “It’s times like these you learn to love again”.  Then they played the song.

I teared up a little and choked them back.  Instantly I was transported back to my 3rd deployment.  Before the deployment, being almost certain I wasn’t coming home and then when I realized I was, trying to figure out what that mean.  I hadn’t made any “after” plans.

Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

The last morning

I’m laying in bed in a hotel room in Albuquerque, Nm.  I’m sick, exhausted, sore in some areas and in a lot of pain in others.  And yet it was an amazing, wonderful trip.  There were some moments of misery, but at no time was the trip miserable, if that makes sense?  There were a couple of interpersonal moments with friends and family that sucked, but they would’ve sucked anyway, whether I was in the trip or at home.

It’s been a great distraction mentally and emotionally.  We still don’t have Dad’s pathology reports back yet, work is a mess, there’s some ugly relationship stuff going on.  And I didn’t dwell on any of that while traveling.  Thought about it, yes.  But didn’t dwell and obsess on it til it made me miserable.

I wish I could’ve seen more and done more.  I wish the weather didn’t suck as bad as it did.  But this close to the end, I have to say that it’s been perfect and everything that happened, happened for a positive reason.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program…

… for this breaking news:

Earlier this month I submitted two photos for a juried art exhibit at a museum.  The exhibit starts in July and runs through November.

I got the notice for the call for submissions late last month, then hemmed and hawed about whether to submit for a couple days.  Then procrastinated for a few more.  In the end, I ended up submitting two pieces with just a day to spare before the deadline.

Both pieces were accepted!  I’m going to have two of my photos hanging in a museum!  Looks like more travel in my future, they invited me to attend opening night.

Time

I didn’t have the absolute best dating luck in the beginning.  The first girl I ever made out with committed suicide.  My first REAL girlfriend cheated on me while I was laid up for the summer with a broken ankle.  I got engaged to my second.  But she was settling for me.  Once she got accepted to Harvard Divinity School for her graduate degree she moved away and called the engagement off less than a month later.  My third serious girlfriend broke up with me while I was in a month long residence course in the military.  We were sequestered in a section of Ft. Bragg, NC, cut off from the rest of the world.  Of course, she didn’t really tell me that she was breaking up with me.  This was early in the days of usable cell phones, when they were becoming affordable and small and not everyone had one yet.  I sure didn’t.  So we communicated a lot via old-fashioned mail.  One day the letters started coming back to me.  It wasn’t until I graduated the course that I finally got her on a landline and got some answers.

Years later she tried to get in touch with me.  We haven’t been super close, but we check in from time to time.  A couple of times she wanted to get back together, but I could just never trust her again.  I can’t really explain it, but she was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After that I definitely turned turtle and I don’t think I ever opened up as much or was as sappily, openly romantic again.

When I was a kid, I was way more painfully shy, awkward and introverted than I am today.  I was a senior in high school before I really ever asked someone out.  And those “asks” probably didn’t go well.  I think my Dad knew, but didn’t have a clue what to say to me.  He was always on the extroverted side: no such thing as a stranger, just a friend he hadn’t met.  And apparently he was a little bit of a player back in the day so he just couldn’t relate.  I never really moped about it much, but once he felt the need to try and cheer me up a bit.  I actually think it was when I didn’t make a basketball team in junior high and his pep talk had nothing to do with dating.  He just admitted that he grew up gawky and awkward and had to get by on his personality.  He told me to hang in there, that when I was 30 I’d be a catch.  When I was 13 or 14 that wasn’t a helluva consolation.  I can remember when I was finally in my 30s and things didn’t really get better, thinking I’d been cheated!

That girl texted me today.  She’s working for a florist and doing all these arrangements for Valentine’s Day.  She’s single, so that’s a special kind of hell.  “You did a lot of cute romanticy things for me when we were dating.  I appreciate those things so much more now.  It’s been years since anyone tied my shoes.  And years since anyone did anything really romantic for me.”  Now to be clear, I don’t have a creepy foot fetish.  She’s 4’11” and had tiny feet.  I used to love to tie her little sneakers for her.

Anyways, it was…  something.  A weird validation or something.  I’m not happy to see her life as the big mess that it is.  Yeah, there’s a petty part of me that is happy that the woman that broke up with me way back then now wishes she had someone like me.  But it’s more a validation that the work I’ve done over the years is good.  Getting over the things that happened in the past and opening up and making myself vulnerable is essential for connecting with people, for making good, lasting relationships and reconnecting with that goofy, romantic side of me is fun.

 

 

My Jam

This is a goofy little story about my song:

I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it, I bought my first set of speakers specifically so they could handle the heavier bass of it.

I’ve quoted this before, but I’ve always liked the saying “When you’re happy you enjoy the music but when you’re sad you understand the lyrics.”  I’ve been listening to that song for almost 30 years and never, ever really heard the words.  I just loved the beat.  It’d get me jazzed up for whatever, work, running, rucking.  Whatever I needed to psyched up for.

I was hanging out with my son tonight, Christmas Eve.  He decided to go down the block to a friend’s house to stick his head in for a Christmas party his friend’s family was throwing.  I took the time to load up his stocking and realized it came across as a little light.  So I ran to Target to get him some extra filler items.  On the way this song came on one of the radio stations.  It’s one of those that I recognize the beat instantly and love the intro.

I’m not really sad, but J and I were supposed to go away the week after Christmas and possibly get married.  I’m aware of that.  Us breaking up is a good thing.  But hearing that song was a nice little Christmas present of a reminder.  I’ve done a lot of work the last couple of years.  Came to understand myself, what I want and need, what’s good and bad about me, trying to drive undesirable behaviors out of my system.

With all of that, I realize that I’m still not perfect for everyone, that personality and physical attraction and things like that still come into play.  But I know for a fact that I’m a much better partner now than I used to be.

That song came on tonight.  “It takes two to make a thing go right”.  Obviously, the rest of the lyrics aren’t about relationships, but it was good to hear those words.  I was feeling a little…  remorseful about the implosion of that relationship, wondering if maybe I could’ve said or done something different.  I tend to look inward in such situations.  There weren’t really “bad times” perse.  There were a lot of good, and then the realization that it wouldn’t be good long term, that certain behaviors would cause resentment.  Hearing those words though, reminded me that I can’t take responsibility for everything.  She’s been through an insane amount of trauma in her life, and done a wonderful job of doing the work to overcome it and become a functioning member of society again.  But she isn’t ready to be in a relationship again.  And isn’t willing to own her issues or do her own work to improve them now.

 

Evil Girl

There’s a girl at work that is, obviously, evil.  Very two faced.  Has bragged to her employees about the people that have been perceived as obstacles to her career advancement that she’s gotten fired since she’s worked her.  Has admitted that if she’s stressed out at work and someone else isn’t she is resentful of them and will attack them.  Has actually admitted that she filed a fake sexual harassment/discrimination complaint against a guy here in the office because of that.  She was having a terrible day and he was happy and things were going well for him.

She’s incredibly unprofessional to boot.  Treats information as power, throws a fit if she feels she’s being left out of something, etc.

Anyways, I’ve bumped heads with her numerous times and have tried pretty much everything I know to try to smooth things out between us.

The other day I was talking to a former co-worker who left this place in the summer and hated working with Evil Girl.

Me:  I’m actually thinking of buying her a Tokyo Joe’s gift card

Her:  Wow, you’re really thinking of everything. I wouldn’t waste my money on her! But that’s because I really really really don’t like her. I know you don’t either, but you have to work with her. And I understand that.

Me:  Yeah, and I like me and want to keep on liking me, so…

And that’s really what it’s about.  I have this self-image and I want to be able to look in the mirror at night and feel like I honestly did what I could to extend and olive branch.  I’ve tried to understand what she’s scared of, what makes her feel like she has to be mean and unprofessional.  I’ve tried to be a professional ally to her.  I want to give up and just throw her under the bus at work sometimes, so instead I’ll give extending some kindness to her another shot.  Who knows, maybe it’ll be a Christmas miracle!

Holiday Cheer

I’m normally a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.  I’m generally somewhat slow to anger, then it flares, then it generally passes quickly.  Some of that may be a result of being a people pleaser, I’m not entirely sure.

Anyways, that’s just to say that it’s not like I’m sitting around mopey, staring at my belly button or anything.  I’ve got decorations up, shopping done and I’m looking forward to Christmas day and seeing my son open his presents.

But Christmas has lost some of its “magic”.  I think this is normal for adults.  Sure you can focus on the religious aspect and be humbled by it, but it’s also easy to see the money flying out of your checking account with every gift, to get cranky by long lines in stores and to flip someone off because they cut you off in the parking lot.  You know Santa isn’t real and you know that most gifts aren’t going to leave a lasting impression on you.

I had travel plans for the holiday that fell through at the last minute.  I’m scrambling to make some new ones in order to take advantage of having the week between Christmas and New Years off, but I was a little bummed by the change in plans.  I was laying in bed Saturday morning, totally planning on being a bum and staying inside and catching up on binge watching TV shows and napping.  My son was at his mom’s house and nobody was expecting anything from me.  Normally that’s my definition of a perfect weekend.

As I was laying in bed, I grabbed my phone and started checking social media.  On FB a friend of a friend was posting about their issues.  We’d been dumped on the night before and her little car couldn’t handle the snow and got stuck right outside her house.  She was sick and couldn’t make it to the drugstore.  I drive a jeep and I enjoy being a little kid and laughing when I go driving in the snow.  So I bundled up and headed out in the 5 degree (F) to get her meds.  She’s a single mom who is trying to do right by her kids and is struggling financially.  So on the way I stopped and got iTunes gift cards for her daughters, a Target gift card for her for when times are tough and take-out for lunch.

While I was driving around town a former co-worker who moved out of state called me.  Her son was flying into town to visit friends and she was worried about the weather.  He’s in the Army and still considers Denver home, even though she moved away.  His friends are cops and got called in to help deal with all the snow so he didn’t have a ride.  She was tempted to have him take an Uber or the bus.  I offered to pick him up but she said no, she didn’t want to impose.

After I dropped off the meds and food and Christmas presents to the friend-of-a-friend my former worker texted and asked if I’d still be willing to pick up her son.  I was on the same side of town as the airport, he needed to go back towards my house so it was easy.  I wandered around shopping for a couple hours then picked him up.  He was a great kid and it was fun to spend a 45 minute drive talking Army with him, and just hearing how excited he was to see friends and flirt with girls.

Sunday started about the same.  A friend called and asked if I wanted to meet them for brunch and to go see the Costumes of Star Wars exhibit @ the Denver Art Museum.  As I was getting ready and checking social media, single mom was on FB again.  Friends were offering to help but I sent her a message saying that if she needed anything else I’d be near her later and I’d check in with her before I went home.  After going to the museum and saying good bye to my friend I called her.  Her showers weren’t draining in her brand-new home.  So I ran by home depot, picked up a disposable snake to pull hair out of the drains and some drain-o and got her and her kids dinner.  Got her squared away and went home.

Short story made really, really long?  It was a super fun weekend.  I loved being able to bounce around and help people with no expectations of anything in return.  It really made me feel like Santa to be driving around in the snow.  And it was great to see people really grateful, not that I was doing it for gratitude, but compared to giving a co-worker a gift that you both know is lame and the false enthusiasm from it.  I think I was actually singing or whistling Christmas carols everywhere I went.

 

Sam McCain

Being the son of an Iowa farmboy, there are two mystery series I’ve really enjoyed over the years.  One were the Donald Harstad books, set in contemporary times to when they were written and the other is the Sam McCain series by Ed Gorman.

I found “The Day the Music Died”, the first in the Sam McCain series on some bookshelf during some deployment somewhere and I was hooked.  With both series, it’s fun to think of crime and indecency happening in Iowa, the same type of bad stuff that happens in New York or LA, in the sleepy little farming communities.  The McCain series is set in the 50s however, and the protagonist is a young guy trying to find his way in the world.  The mysteries are sometimes a little weak, and the stories begin to follow a certain formula but the characterizations are generally great and that’s what kept me coming back for more.

What I loved about the early books in the series was the Betty-Veronica-Archie triangle he had going on.  Sam pines away after Pamela, who is pining away after someone else altogether while Mary pines away after Sam.  Sue me, I’m a sucker for angst, especially when it’s well written.  To me, well-written = relatable.

I had read through the books in my reading list and was looking for something this weekend, when Amazon told me that with my Kindle Unlimited subscription I could read “The Day the Music Died” for free.  I hadn’t read it in years, so figured why not?  I’ve been frustrated that more books I want aren’t available through KU so the opportunity to exercise my membership seemed great.

Sometimes when I read, I skim a little.  Or sometimes a passage will hit me once when it doesn’t another time.  For some reason this one hit me this weekend, it’s a spot where he’s establishing the characters so he’s “remembering” a time in high shool:

I didn’t say anything.  She started to cry and I didn’t know what to do and I sort of slid my arm around her and while I was doing it I could see down the front of her formal.  She had small breasts but they were very sweet.  I mean there’s all kinds of breasts when you think about it, noisy breasts and quiet breasts and angry breasts and melancholy breasts and sincere breasts and superficial breasts and arrogant breasts and shy breasts and probably lots of other kinds too; her breasts were just very sweet, like Mary herself.  I guess that was the first time I wanted to love her.  I mean I couldn’t love her, not in the way she wanted me too, because I loved Pamela that way.  But right then, if God had given me a choice, I would’ve said reach in my brain and take Pamela out and put Mary in.  Because it would’ve made her so happy if I could have loved her that way.  Pamela didn’t care if I loved her at all.  But Mary would have been all shiny and new and fine with it, just a few stupid words that you h ear on the juke-box all the time, and she would’ve been so happy.  So I held her and I kissed her and then we really started kissing and then we started rolling around on the grass and then it got real serious and while we didn’t use the Trojan, we came damned close, damned close, and then we were in my older brother’s 1946 Plymouth and headed out on the highway to where there was supposed to be a  beer party at the old quarry and the radio was blasting Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins and the prairie night air was so cool and fresh and s he sat so close to me and I was so almost in love with her that I didn’t have a single though of Pamela for at least an entire hour.