I Did It Right

Often times, when I’ve been asked to head out on either New Years Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, I politely decline.

Partly, it’s because these days have become Amateur Hour Serious Bummers and I’ve hit what I refer to as “The Murtaugh Point” in my life, where’s I’ve become (and openly acknowledge that I’ve become) too old for this sh**. There are people who should never drink and there are people who should never drink seriously. Unfortunately for the rest of us, both of those groups are in full bloom on those days and the shift from “bystander” to “collateral damage” happens quickly.

However, the other reason is because once upon a time, I managed to do both those days right and feel no need to try and improve at this point in my life.

I believe it was 2002 when I took the day off from work to dedicate an entire 24 hours to St. Patrick’s Day. My favorite band (Revels’ Glen) would be playing at my favorite pub (Biddy Mulligan’s) and I figured this was as good a chance as any to enjoy it.

I opened the pub with the bartenders, had lunch, a couple pints, and spent a lot of time listening to house music and writing in my journal. It began to fill up in mid-afternoon, but I already had my turf staked out and the band was showing up for an early set. Guinness was being served in plastic cups in order to keep up with demand and, I imagine, keep projectiles and breakage to a minimum. By early evening, friends began showing up and a couple pints were had with the band.

By the time dinner was done, the party was in full swing. I have no idea how much Guinness was in my system at this point, but I was openly dancing so we could easily classify that amount as “too much”. At some point in the night, I had a shot of peppermint schnapps – more as a breath mint than anything at that point. The night ended with us having pints with the band and gently being ushered out the door right as the lights were turned out.

Aside from one of the mightiest hangovers I’ve ever encountered, I escaped that night unscathed and with a smile on my face. Personally, I don’t see a reason to tempt fate by trying to top it.

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I Don’t Suffer From Insomnia, I Enjoy Every Minute Of It

All right, so that’s not entirely true… There’s definitely times when I’d like to be asleep when my brain and basic body chemistry seem to be conspiring against me. However, by and large, I don’t “suffer” from insomnia in a traditional sense.

Back in the day, I used to survive on a couple hours of sleep for months at a time. It became a regular thing for me and I found my own ways to deal with it. In high school, it was watching the local PBS marathons in the hopes of catching a block for 2 or possibly even 4 episodes of Red Dwarf or maybe some Red Green. Remember, this is back before streaming, DVDs, and widespread TV-on-VHS. Cue the old man voice, but we had to actually wait for things to show up on TV!

To this day, I don’t “suffer” from insomnia. It’s a part of my life that I deal with and try to account for. Times when I need sleep, I’ll do everything possible to make myself conducive to being ready for bed – sleepy time tea, reading, and melatonin are fast friends at this point. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s better than nothing.

However, I’m not scared to be awake late at night (or early in the morning). As I type this, it’s half past midnight and I have no regrets. Of course, being self employed, I have the chance to account for this and adapt my schedule. It’s a luxury, but it’s also one that I pay for too – go ahead and ask me about my health insurance and pension plan.

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Sitrep

At the moment, I’m working on a book which may or may not be good.

Maybe that sounds a bit pessimistic, but I don’t think so. After all, nothing is really decided until someone else reads the thing and even then, it’s still mostly that person’s opinion. And even then, that person’s opinion really only matters to them the most – anyone else is still free to read it.

Actually, I tend to look at this statement as a positive. Just because it might not be any good, that also means there’s a decent possibility that it could be good. At this point, I’m giving myself solid 50/50 odds, which is better than what you’ll get on most scratch tickets and definitely better than what you’ll get on the powerball.

Not to be coy, but I’d rather not get into what the whole thing is about, but I will say that it’s a concept book of sorts. In my own simplistic terms, it means that I’m writing poems around a certain theme or topic rather than collecting old poems or doing what I did with my previous attempt at this whole book thing, which was collect a bunch of poems and then realize there was a theme afterwards.

Nope, none of that. This time, the theme is right up front and I’m trying to write in a specific direction, which is a first for me when it comes to poetry. Which is exciting. It’s making my brain work in new and interesting ways. Either that, or I’ve begun to deteriorate mentally and have forgotten that my brain works that way normally. Either way, it’s a bit of a thrill.

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2018 Reading List

One of my goals for 2018 was to read more, but I also had a numeric element as well – I wanted to read twice as many books as I did in 2017. Considering that 2017 worked out to be an even dozen, I thought 24 books wasn’t an unreasonable goal. As it turns out, I came up three shy of my goal by turning into a reading slouch for a few months towards the end of the year. My goal for 2019 is to read 25 books, but here’s a look back at what 2018 held. I’ve done a quick list and then a list with some comments after the read more if you’re interested.

  1. Starship Troopers by Richard A. Heinlein
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. The Adventures & The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
  5. Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough
  6. Wool by Hugh Howey
  7. Brothas Be Yo, Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton
  8. How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
  9. Yeager by General Chuck Yeager & Leo Janos
  10. World War Z by Max Brooks
  11. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
  12. Two Years Eight Months And Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
  13. Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie
  14. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
  15. Kill ‘Em And Leave: Searching For James Brown And The American Soul by James McBride
  16. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  18. The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe by Douglas Adams
  19. Life, The Universe, & Everything by Douglas Adams
  20. So Long And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams
  21. Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
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Bite The Toe

Bill Duke is a serious dude who doesn’t mince many words. His interviews for the Film Courage channel on YouTube have been must-watch material for me since day one. This one in particular has a lot of good stuff in it, but in particular, this attitude stands out…

When the Boogieman has his foot on your throat, you have two choices – give up or bit his toe.

Now, that’s a terrible paraphrasing, but it works for me. The point is, when something seems like it has you down for the count there’s always a choice – give up or fight back. Notice that there’s no guarantee that it will do any good or that there’s even a vague chance it’ll lead to saving yourself or victory. It’s more about how you choose to live than about that. Are you ready to cave or willing to fight even when it’s absolutely hopeless?

Back when I used to play pick-up basketball, my only valuable skills were: 1) a natural tendency to be in the way – which meant I was pretty good at defense, and 2) I was too dumb to stop running. You might score a bunch of point on me, but I was going to run with you all day until I dropped. There’s times when I see that in my life now – that really the only reason I’m still walking around is because I was too stubborn or dumb to lay down. I don’t pretend that makes me brave or brilliant – it just happens to be my tendency and it’s served me well.

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Wildly Functional & Handcrafted

Over the last couple of years, I’ve derived a lot of inspiration from the work of Casey Neistat. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock or trapped underneath a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Siera since the Dubya administration, Casey Neistat is a YouTuber of serious renown who lives in New York City. He has a serious gift for storytelling, a unique style, and a serious “don’t give an eff” attitude that has served him well.

As much as I’ve been inspired and influenced by his videos, it’s been his studio that has given me a serious case of envy since day one. It’s handmade, funky, and as described in the video below, “wildly functional”.

This video is just over five years old, so there’s been some serious changes made in that time – however, the overall aesthetic remains the same. As soon as I saw where this guy worked, it made me start thinking about my living and workspace. Neistat personalizes almost everything he has: engraving his name on devices, customizing his sunglasses with spray paint, etc. But he also builds most of the parts of his studio himself, including his camera bench and rig, work stations, boxing speed bag, and his camera storage room (not in this video).

I used to watch all the Jesse James chopper specials and Monster Garage shows that I could. There was something about watching someone make individual frames and tanks from scratch rather than grab parts off a shelf, weld some stuff onto it, and call it custom. Having never been terribly good with things like carpentry or metalworking, it’s something that I’m intensely curious about. Watching Neistat’s vlogs appealed to that part of me.

Which all leads into how I’ve been working to make my work space a little more customized. Back when I set up my standing desk, I wanted a paper lantern on either side of my desk for overhead lights, grabbing that shamelessly from Casey Neistat’s camera bench. The one thing that I didn’t like was that each lantern had its own on/off switch – I wanted one switch in a convenient place to turn on both lights. One catch… I also wanted it to be a hidden switch.

The switch itself was easy – I found a large button switch that’s intended for Christmas tree lights that sits on the floor and turns the lights on and off by stepping on the switch. Perfect. I plugged both lights into it and we’re in business… except I didn’t like it sitting on the desk. Two years later, and I was still looking at that ugly thing on my desk this morning when I got fed up enough to do something about it. A little glue, some cable hooks, and there we go… a hidden light switch under my desk.

Next up…?

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Goals, Not Resolutions

One of the beautiful things I’ve realized recently is that 2018 has been a rebirth of sorts for me writing poetry. Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time writing song lyrics. Perhaps for some people, poetry and lyrics are the same thing or at least close to it, but that’s never been the case for me. There’s a been a touch of crossover – every so often a couple lines from a poem (or a fragment that never grew into a poem) will find themselves into a song, but that’s hardly the rule.

When I’m writing a song, it’s usually aimed in a certain direction, working around a particular idea, or trying to fit the mood and/or phrasing of some music. When I write poetry, there’s a decent chance I have no idea what I’m writing about until I’m either well into the poem or finished with it.

I keep my poems stored on my hard drive in folders by year. So far, I’m on pace to write more than I have in the last three years respectively, which is a big deal for me. So yeah, I have that going for me.

Part of this I attribute to one of my goals for this year – to double the number of books that I read last year. I’ve given up on resolutions because they’ve never worked for me. Too much change that isn’t attached to anything at all really. Goals? I can work on those.

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I’m Sick Of Stuff

Dear reader, be forewarned that this won’t be a clearly thought out or particularly coherent post. Then again, who am I kidding? I have no readers and those who do check in are mystified that I’m still alive and apparently only write about new Star Wars movies. For those humble few, allow me to say… no, I haven’t seen Solo yet and that’s not what we’re talking about tonight. Terribly sorry to ruin your image of me and my current streak of geekdom.

No, I’m getting my typing fingers out of the garage to simply say that I’m sick of stuff. Of the maintenance, the acquisition, the sorting, and the… well… stuffiness of it. I have no idea if that’s grammatically correct or even makes sense, but what the hell – no one’s reading this anyways.

Stuff is part of the human condition. Whether we’re chasing after it, suffering from lack of it, or engaging in the eternal pursuit of a place for it – there’s no way to escape it. Well, what if you were to join some kind of order (religious or non-religious, your pick) where surrendering all of your earthly possessions was a requirement of membership and framed as being vitally important to your spiritual and/or mental well being. So there it goes, all your stuff taken away and leaving you, effectively, stuff-less.

But are you really?

You’d have to eat, right? So there’s bound to be a bowl or plate or utensil to be had somewhere around the temple/monastery/convent/dojo/compound that you’ve taken up residence in. Even if you’re eating straight out of your hand, there’s a cooking pot somewhere or at least a basket where the food was carried from one place to another – surely some kind of receptacle is in residence at your new home? But it’s not my stuff. Maybe not, but chances are you’ll wind up cleaning, caring for, moving, or putting it away – and for the briefest of moments, that’d be your stuff, wouldn’t it? I mean, if we get right down to it, the domicile in which you sleep – whether it be ancient, new, ramshackle, modern, or a tent – could be counted as… stuff.

We’ve had some repairs done to our front stairs over the last few weeks and have spent the better part of that time using the side door to our garage for entry and egress. This is the same garage where my band rehearses, I hang up laundry to dry from time to time, and keep musical gear. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking around out there and this much is certain – it’s chock full of stuff. We have stuff in boxes, stuff in plastic totes, stuff too big for a container, sentimental stuff, stuff laying about on the floor because it fell off other stuff, practical stuff, duplicate stuff, stuff under stuff that I didn’t even realize we owned anymore, stuff that no one remembers where the hell it came from in the first place, and stuff that comprises a myriad of other categories.

One of the beautiful things about moving several times over the span of a year and a half in my late 20’s was that it forced me to whittle my pile of stuff down to essentials. It was freeing and glorious, which I suppose is an overly-romantic way of saying I barely had a pot to piss in. However, I do remember feeling a certain lightness. Sure, I was lonely and depressed and poor, but I was mobile! Now, I dread the idea of buying a new home because it would require a Herculean effort to sort through the piles of crap that fill this current abode so we could fit it into a flotilla of moving trucks. Some people think it’s romantic how their grandparents lived in the same house for 77 years, I think they just didn’t want to face packing.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s stuff that I like and enjoy. My car, for instance, is a pleasure to drive and I enjoy it greatly. My collection of vinyl records brings me a lot of joy. I have a plastic tote with all of my journals and notebooks that weighs about 60 lbs which I treasure. But do I seriously need all of this other junk around here? Will any of it ever be useful again? Was it in the first place?

Quite possibly, it wasn’t and it won’t be. Which means that some kind of stuff-related reckoning is on the way. Perhaps there’s some kind of book on tidying or minimalism that would help me along. Only trouble is, I don’t want to buy it because… well… you know…

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