Saturday, May 26, 2007

(untitled 149)

Every so often in my life, I have moments of doubt and second-guessing. Who doesn't? I'll be at the grocery store, for instance, with a Jones soda in my cart, when I'll catch myself wondering about the correctness of my intended purchase. (Note: This is especially true when it's something I haven't tried before. For the sake of this discussion, let's assume that I've never had a Jones soda before.) Will I like this soda? Wouldn't I be better off with something else - something safe?

Sometimes I buy the soda, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I end up liking the soda, and sometimes I don't, and if I don't always like the soda, you can imagine why there's more than a small amount of hesitancy when I make larger, more life-altering decisions.

Some of those recent decisions follow, in ascending order of life-altering potential.

I tend to stock my iPod with music that I know and am familiar with - the old standbys, like Radiohead, the Decemberists, Joanna Newsom, the Arcade Fire, and so on. Recently, I decided to empty my iPod completely and fill it with artists whose music I'd never heard before (2G of it!) just before an eight-hour workday. While walking toward work, I began to have second thoughts. What if I didn't like Built to Spill? What if A. C. Newman wasn't who I wanted to hear? What if it turned out that the Flaming Lips were a sound I wouldn't agree with? Wouldn't I have been safer with Radiohead?

Of course it turned out for the best. I can imagine more than one of you out there screaming at your monitor, "Built to Spill? The Flaming Lips?! How could you not like those bands?" Yes, in retrospect, of course it was a good idea. That didn't stop me from worrying about it beforehand, though.

I was scheduled to start my student teaching experience in January of this year. The last three and a half years of my undergraduate education had been building up to this point, and I was pretty excited about it. However, as the date drew nearer, I began to worry. What if this wasn't what I wanted to do after all? What if those last three and a half years had been a waste? What was I going to do with my life after that? Maybe it wasn't too late to back out and do something safe - something where I'd never have to deal with people. Something where I could just read books all day.

Of course, it turned out that I loved the experience. It was insanely difficult and demanding, but it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It's definitely what I want to do with my career. It's scary, and it's going to involve me putting myself out on the line sometimes, but it's what I want to do.

About a month ago, I managed to convince Genuine Draft that she wanted to marry me. At the time, it not only seemed like a good idea, but a perfectly rational one - one that felt inevitable. I came back home feeling as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. When I woke up the next morning, though, the full impact of what I had just done hit me. What on earth had I done? Supposing I made the wrong decision. Had I just tied my fate to someone who was going to bring me down in life? What if I ended up miserable? And was I anywhere close to ready to start a grown-up and responsible life?

Between that moment and now, I've had about a thousand little moments where I realize that yes, I made the right decision. (We made the right decision, Genuine.) Really, I've had those little moments that come after I make big decisions nearly every time. I'm a worrier, by nature (and I know that I'm not the only one), so it's nice to have little things like this to reinforce my resolve every so often. It's nice to know that every once in a while, I make the right decision.

More than ever, I'm realizing that God is in the details.

Friday, May 18, 2007

(untitled 148)

I destroyed my back at work a couple of days ago. It started hurting a little more than an hour into the shift, and it just intensified as the day went on. It's a miracle that I made it home at all, teetering and tottering down the street. Once I got home, I threw myself on my couch and didn't get back up for quite some time.

I'm not actually looking for sympathy here. Rather, I've found quite a few things that were normally second nature to me that have become extraordinarily difficult. There are few things like losing the use of part of your body to give you perspective. For instance, standing up is a chore now. My sister took me to a health center so I could get things looked at, and it took me the better part of five minutes to stand up and get to her car, something which would have normally taken ten seconds. I even had to crawl for part of the way.

Coughing doesn't hurt. Sneezing hurts like you wouldn't imagine. Who knew that back muscles contracted when you sneeze?

Sometimes I'll be laying on the couch when my phone rings. I reach and reach for it, but it lies just outside my grasp, and moving to where I can pick it up causes far more pain than answering the phone is worth. (Friends, if you've called me and I haven't answered lately, that's why.)

Going to the bathroom is surprisingly difficult, as well. Standing up is difficult in and of itself, but finding a way to remove my pants and reclothe myself is far more arduous than I could have imagined. Taking a shower today was every bit as difficult. Holy cow.

Here's hoping this never happens to you, dear readers.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

(untitled 147)

1 Action star ____ Damme
4 "Once _____ a time..."
9 After noons?
12 "Dies _____"
14 Really funny, online?
15 Computer support org.
16 "_____ Yankees"
17 Rabbi ben Joseph
18 Peter Fonda title role
20 Advil rival
22 Indiana Senator Bayh
23 D'Back, say
24 "No way!"
27 "_____ a Bad, Bad Man"
30 Second Amendment org.
31 It's often found in brackets
32 Car starters?
34 One of twelve?
37 _______ Lama
41 "No way!"
44 James and others
45 Jazzy Fitzgerald
46 Thermal beginning?
47 Student activist soc.
49 One of two?
51 Like Br'er Fox's baby?
52 "No way!"
58 Concerning (abbr.)
59 Profanity
60 Four A.M., say
64 Nevada Senator Harry
65 To incur excessive costs, as a bill
67 Movie watchdog (abbr.)
68 Sash
69 The year (Sp.)
70 Tall tale
71 Marsh
72 Ntwks.
73 Jet ______

1 "La _____ Loca," Ricky Martin hit
2 Russian sea
3 1995 Goo Goo Dolls hit
4 Lithuanian river
5 Start to a game
6 Occasional pizza topping
7 The Office's BJ
8 Rocker Morissette
9 Weighty dessert?
10 Singer Vanilli
11 Dutch painter Jan
13 One of seven?
19 Energy unit
21 A long, long time
25 Genesis author
27 "_____ have faith..."
28 Irrelevant
29 To be next to
33 Like sardines, say
35 Part of CNN (abbr.)
36 Twister co-star
38 Navel development?
39 Words before partridge
40 J. K. Rowling's Karkaroff
42 Food regulation assoc.
43 Rockies catcher
48 Fungus propagators
50 Washington to New York dir.
52 IP address org.
53 "You're _____ a kind"
54 Clan, e.g.
55 Shore of Biodome
56 Vesuvii?
57 Shandling or Olandis
61 Middle Eastern currency
62 Tomb Raider's Croft
63 Part of a Taoist symbol
66 Not neg.

I wrote it myself. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

(untitled 146)

Genuine and I took a trip back to Portland this last week. We had initially planned on going to take in an Andrew Bird concert, but we added more and more things by the time we headed up. We ended up seeing the Decemberists live in Eugene, meeting the family, and picking out a ring (which I gave to her in a windmill outside of Baker City). It was a pretty exciting trip. There's a lot to be said about it, but at the insistence of nearly everyone I know, I'm just going to provide a review of the concerts.

In order of how much I was impressed by them:

4. Apostle of Hustle. The opening act for Andrew Bird and the only act of the four that I hadn't heard of before. They're a band from Toronto that had a really solid sound. What was funny about the group was the near-constant references to marijuana that the lead singer made. At one point, he told a story about a horse that had a sack of peyote on its right side and hashish on its left, mounted by a man holding the severed and bleeding head of George W. Bush in one hand and the severed and bleeding head of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the other. He was quite the character. I liked the music, though. Go to their MySpace page and listen to it.

3. My Brightest Diamond. All I knew about this group was that Shara Worden, the lead singer, got her start as an Illinoisemaker on Sufjan Stevens' masterpiece, Illinoise. It turned out that her sound was very different from Sufjan's. She sounded a lot like PJ Harvey, actually. It was a very pleasant surprise. She would have been more lively in concert, but apparently she dislocated her left knee during her previous concert in Las Vegas. Even relegated to a chair, however, she put together a pretty entertaining show. She took everyone by surprise by ending with Softcell's "Tainted Love," a song that nearly brought down the house in the opening act. Solid.

2. Andrew Bird. I was really excited for this concert, and even though it didn't turn out like I thought it would, it was still impressive. Bird is a really intense performer in person. He seemed very distant from the crowd, talking in low tones and standing close to the microphone with his hair conspicuously in his eyes. The way he makes his music is extremely interesting to watch. He tends to play the violin most of the time, opting to pluck or strum it rather than use the bow. He sets up loops that he builds upon slowly, causing the songs to grow and become more intense as they go along. They're great to watch, but not especially entertaining. The biggest impression I was left with upon exiting the Crystal Ballroom on Friday was the pain in my knees from having stood still for so long.

1. The Decemberists. This was easily the most fun concert I've been to in my life, and I've seen They Might Be Giants in concert. It started out fun before we even went in the theater - two guys were standing around the corner asking for money so they could "get drunk." No beating around the bush here. They just wanted money for beer. The show got even better inside the theater. Colin Meloy is a natural showman. He took songs like "The Island" and stretched them to nearly 20 minutes. At times, it felt like being in a jam session with the Grateful Dead. Members of the band started acting out bits of the songs in the background, my favorite instance of which was from "The Landlord's Daughter." Rhythm guitarist Chris Funk drew a mock gun and sword during the lyric "Produced my pistol/Then my saber/So make no whistle/Or thou will be murdered," dragging his index finger across his throat for emphasis.

The Decemberists are famed as a hyperliterate band, and they didn't disappoint. One can hear semicolons in their lyrics. Toward the beginning of the show, the band were debating what someone from Eugene could properly be called. After rejecting ideas like "Eugenies" and "Eugenites," Meloy announced, "I've got it! Eugenots! With a T! It's French!" Lest you worry that they alienate fans with such references, however, you can rest assured that they go out of their way to have a good time. Meloy opened up three dance circles during "The Perfect Crime #2," crowd surfed at the end of the show, and even took a fan's camera on stage to take up-close pictures of the band. He also combined hyperliteracy and entertainment at the beginning of "The Mariner's Revenge Song." He asked us to provide the sound of a theater full of people being devoured by a giant whale with this caveat: "You may think that the secret is in the screaming. Not so. It's in the moaning. And the groaning. And the lamenting." He had us practice not only our scream, but also our moans, groans, laments, gnashings of teeth, and our death rattles. It was incredibly fun.

The way that I knew it was a great show, though, was seeing the look on Genuine's face throughout. She absolutely loved it, jumping up and down and clutching my hand tight during the whole show. I would have had a great time seeing the Decemberists by myself, but having her there made it about a thousand times better. It makes me wonder if I shouldn't settle down in Portland after all so I can catch shows like this more often.