November 19, 2005

Please check the red box.

I moved to Oregon 2 1/2 years ago in a whirlwind of activity. As I recall, a mere four days elapsed as I finished college, dragged all my belongings down to the Twin Cities, jammed to Madison for my sister’s graduation ceremony, drove back to the Cities, packed up the Green Dragon and hit the road.

The entire month of May I was totally jonesin’ to get on the road, and I knew that I had to devise some sort of system to make the move happen as soon as humanly possible. Any loss of momentum, any lingering second, and I was sure my body would cast down its miserable roots wherever it stood. I knew this as I was packing my things in Duluth, and even then I knew I needed to pack those boxes so that the absolute minimum of effort would be required to sort stuff out when I reached the Cities.

I color-coded the boxes. I’m not kidding. If a box was marked with blue tape, everything it contained needed to be dragged out to the left coast. These boxes could have been welded shut for all I cared, as there was absolutely no reason for me to dig through them until I reached Hood River. If a box was marked with yellow tape, however, it contained some stuff I wanted to bring, and other stuff I could leave behind. Sometimes this was stuff that I wasn’t sure I would want/need out there, and other times it was stuff that I knew I wanted to bring along, but for the freakin’ life of me couldn’t fit in another box. And man, after living with the Ford Tempo and moving back and forth from college umpteen times, I’m dang efficient at packing.

Finally, there were the red boxes, full of junk that had no business going to Oregon. These would remain in Minnesota until I returned, if indeed I did return. My timeline was ambiguous, and no one (not even myself) knew whether I would be gone for three months, three years or a lifetime.

Ever since then I’ve been living out of boxes. Wine boxes, liquor boxes, apple boxes, you name it, I’ve jammed my stuff into it. In the past couple years I’ve lived at no less than seven different addresses, accumulating and losing junk at every turn, and yet always coming out heavier in the end. I don’t even know what sort of things I have anymore, as none of it has been packed so that it could be conveniently labeled as clothes or kitchen stuff or thermal underwear. Nay, the pragmatist won this round, as everything had to be packed in a manner that absolutely maximized the use of space, which tends to minimize one’s ability to sort items based on what they actually are. Frustrating? I’m surprised I still have all my blood left.

I’m in the process of unpacking all these boxes and repacking them as logically as possible, making a hefty mess in the process. I’m resorting everything I own based on type, grouping like kinds, as it were. It’s the freakin’ database rearchitecture of my personal belongings. What’s more, I’m cracking open those red boxes, and they’re all little time capsules in their own right. It’s a weird experience because in many ways I remember wearing these clothes, listening to this music, backing up my files on these Zip disks… and in other ways it feels like even these thoughts aren’t my own, that I’m rooting around in the junk memories of some other person.

That being said, this guy had some cool stuff! I’ve found hair wax, neat old pieces of drift wood, chopper gloves, a couple of CPUs, and a framed foil picture of a lighthouse that was obviously picked up at a dollar store somewhere in the world. The king of all finds, however, is an old pair of snowboard bindings sans snowboard. All I need now is a bit of snow, a steep hill and two huge blocks of ice. If you mount the snowboard bindings on the ice blocks you’ve just invented, well, I don’t know what you’ve invented, but I’m sure that it would be hella-fun and probably dangerous!

All I need now is a little bottle of patience, tucked away somewhere in an old case of Leinenkugel’s. As predicted, our Mega Kill-Blast Snowstorm of Nought Five, which was so horrible it triggered the pre-emptive digging of mass graves, dropped a suffocating 1/2″ of snow.

Which has since melted.

November 13, 2005

Blizzard Predicted

It was definitely a pleasant weekend, notwithstanding the fussy weather patterns. Friday night we were up until the wee hours of the morning (er, Saturday morning) locked in an intense multiplayer skirmish of Karaoke Revolution. I performed rather poorly, what with a menu that completely lacked in James Brown, and a judging system that rewarded rhythm and pitch instead of stage presence.

Nevertheless, I’m completely addicted. Video games involving karaoke (or dancing, or playing guitar) are totally awesome. I now dream in karaoke. Sure, the games are no match for nights of drunken revelry at Jack’s or Tio Pablo’s or The Windigo, but they’re totally fun in their own right.

Saturday afternoon I drove to the cabin so we could go out for pizza at Tony’s, an excellent place to visit whenever you need your Northwestern Wisconsin smoky bar fix. Somewhere along the line we picked up a case of Pumpkin Ale, which along with pumpkin was supposed to deliver a delightful bouquet of spices.

Unfortunately, it seems the spices smothered the pumpkin in its sleep and took the place over, so all you can taste in the beer is cloves, cloves, cloves. Sweet, delicious cloves. Instead of Pumpkin Ale I’d call it Broken Head Delight Spice Brew, or Brutally Shocking Autumn Special Reserve, or Uncle Lefty’s Oaken Clove Slugger, or something else that describes its “subtle nuances” a little more accurately.

After returning from the cabin Sunday night the Soob was long-overdue for an oil change, so I jacked it up to the sky and climbed underneath. I haven’t had the nerve to play with car jacks ever since we used them to level the floor in the boathouse while working at fall camp. In the two days it took us to finish the job we only had one jack fail on us. Even so, having a jack suddenly POP and come flying out at you, throwing around thick metal spacers in the process, kinda makes you gun shy. Especially when you know that in the afternoon, you’re gonna need to climb under the boathouse and do more of the same.

So yeah, that oil was lookin’ plenty dark as poured out of the oil pan, and it was plenty hot seeing as how the car had just finished driving a hundred miles, and it felt no shame as it coated my hand, ran down my arm, and flowed off my elbow. Here I am making a terrible mess, covered in oil and cursing an awful lot, and here comes our neighbor pulling into our driveway, wishing to chat about the gigantic elm tree that broke in half and fell in our yard during last Tuesday’s windstorm. My mind wasn’t totally with it and I tried to get him to write his phone number on the side of a can of lighter fluid. He chose a spare 2×4 instead, and after a thought I found that to be a splendid alternative.

They’re predicting huge snowstorms tomorrow night and Tuesday. That is, “huge” if you consider “huge” to mean 4-8 inches. Which I don’t. I consider 4-8 feet to be a huge snowstorm. Once, just once, I’d like to see a blizzard shape up to be at least as significant as the meteorologists think it should be. Think about it. These people are in the business of predicting the weather… don’t you think they would catch on, eventually, that their predictions are almost always grossly exaggerated? At some point, wouldn’t they find it prudent to move the goal posts just a little bit closer?

Just once I’d like to see a weatherperson get up there, shrug his or her shoulders, and say, “You what? It might snow tomorrow. It might not. We might get four inches, we might get eight. We might get nuttin’. Anyway, it’s probably not gonna be nearly as big a deal as you’d like to think it is.”

Instead, we continually get these tiresome predictions of Armageddon, until we are led to believe that hot cinders will rain from the sky and engulf the countryside in firestorms of unimaginable terror and destruction. We could write this off as harmless hyperbole, as sensationalizing in a world that loves real-life drama, but I fear that this pre-packaged hysteria is far more damaging than that.

The problem is that when something truly, truly terrible happens, like the horrid torrent of tsunamis and hurricanes and earthquakes we’ve experienced this year, we have no way of describing them. In sensationalizing the tiny and insignificant we have played our hand. These dire predictions don’t go up to 11.

We have used up all the words on nothing.

November 9, 2005

It is an business.

When you start your own business and there’s an IKEA nearby, you become extremely proficient at assembling furniture. You also learn other important things along the way, little bits of knowledge that eventually will help you gloss over the mundane details of business lordship.

A 31″ x 63″ GALANT table top fits perfectly in the back of a Subaru Legacy/Outback Wagon.

IKEA cardboard smells kinda funny. I cannot recommend letting it steep in your car for a couple days before taking it out.

If you choose to operate your business under any name other than your own (say, Brainside Out Industries in one case), the State requires that you file an assumed name for your business. They say that this is in the best interest of the consumer, so that consumers know your business is a legitimate entity tied to an actual person (or an actual corporation, depending on your business model), located at an actual physical address.

If junk mail is any indication, however, putting your business on public record is actually in the best interest of banks, credit card companies, loan officers, insurance agents and attorneys.

You wish there was a way for you to meet other self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalists.

For you, there are no bouldering gyms within twenty miles. This makes your heart ache.

When you are self-employed, you do not get paid for brewing tea, going to the bathroom, picking your nose or firing up those weblogs. Even when you are incredibly productive, you are lucky if you spend half your time on billable work.

That being said, the road to financial solvency often manifests itself in distractions. Stay focused, but keep your ear to the ground.

Newsreaders are a blessing and a curse. A blessing because they turn what used to be a half-hour traipse across the internet into a five-second refresh hit. A curse for the same reason. Ease-of-access cuts in both directions.

You use NetNewsWire. It is the only newsreader you have found that works well enough, works consistently enough, that you feel you can trust it.

Having been away from it for so long, you are addicted to content. New content. Fresh content. Constant content. Nothing has the capacity to grab your attention for longer than ten seconds. Except shiny objects. Man, how do they make those things so damn shiny? Amazing!

People want to know where your business cards are, but they also find it to be a legitimate excuse that you’ve been so busy with client work that you haven’t had a chance to print them up, yet.

Vans are the best shoes on the planet.

Working while standing up is great. Really, it is. So long as you use a trackball and always wear your elbow pad, your battered hands hardly bother you at all. This is astounding, absolutely astounding, considering that barely six months ago your hands hurt so bad they had you in tears.

After lunch, however, everything but your hands starts to ache. Fortunately, the solution to this has recently been unpacked from cardboard.

All things considered, you wish that you were as familiar with the phases of the moon as you had been last season. Widgets are handy, but it’s not the same.

November 2, 2005

Our world tour was greatly exaggerated.

Hello. We are back from our world tour.

Last Tuesday we saw Ben Folds at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, which was a total powerhouse show that blew my tiny little mind. I had forgotten just how freakin’ good that guy is at slammin’ down those ivories. Had I known about Ben Folds, or had he even existed, back when I was taking piano lessons I would have had something great to work towards. As it were, I redirected all my energies into saxophone. Then I redirected all my energies into writing. I have since redirected all my energies into goofing off. Soon enough we’ll see how far this new focus will get me in life. To this point it’s been pretty dang effective.

Ben Folds. Great. The Fray opened. They were okay. The guy was wearing a funny hat, I remember that much. By the looks of it he should have been selling newspapers on the street corner about one hundred years ago.

Thursday night we went to Psycho Suzi’s in the Nord’East Minneapolis neighborhood, to celebrate Andrew’s 25th birthday and subsequent introduction to the world of cheap car insurance. Psycho Suzi’s is a kick-ass tiki lounge with tacky drinks and snappy waitresses and a huge outdoor seating area that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on a cold October night, but apparently roxxorz joor boxxorz on those July evenings when everyone is sticky with sweat and rum. I will have to imagine what it would have been like out there with 200 people slurring their speech and spilling their drinks on each other.

I got a specialty drink known as the One-Eyed Willy, served in a pirate mug that was so unbelievably tacky that I had to walk away with it. The drink’s iconography implied that its consumption would turn me into a tiki god bedecked in nothing but a towel and a wooden mask, whooping and hollering and spinning my towel around over my head, sloshing my drink (strategically located to shield my sensitive tiki bits) all over the place. It didn’t get quite that bad. Or it got quite worse, depending on your point of view.

Long story short, Psycho Suzi’s rocks. If their hefty specialty drinks aren’t enough to make you puke, the abhorrently tacky decor will more than finish the job. It’s awful. It reminds me of one of my roommates in college.

Friday night we hit up First Avenue again to see Broken Social Scene. They were awesome. They have, like, 20 people in their band and I’m not sure if they’ve all met one another, but no matter. Their music is great, this hugely epic stuff with horns or four guitars or two drummers or everything else at once. This one gal in the band had her hair done in this huge and freakish way that made it look like she had two heads. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t shake that image. Maybe it’s a personal problem, but I find two-headed people to be just a little bit creepy this close to Halloween.

A guy got excited and flung his beer at the lead singer and got kicked out.

Feist opened, who was pretty cool. She used to sing in a punk band before that killed her voice. She wanted to know what her band should go as for Halloween. The audience decided that they should go as The Arcade Fire.

Friday also happened to be the proxy night for celebrating Halloween in downtown Minneapolis. We saw Beaker and a drunk bus. We saw a drunk light rail transit system. We also saw a really short skirt. Everyone else saw everything else.

Sunday I drove down to Madison to visit family, and we went to see Nickel Creek at the Orpheum Theatre. They were super fun, all dancin’ and hoppin’ around stage and everything. Their bass player did a tap dancing solo. I’m not kidding. The Ditty Bops opened, and geez, those guys alone were worth the price of admission. They had put together a special Halloween show, complete with secret costumes and pirate sea chanties and an accordion.

One of their band members was dressed up as Frankenstein and he spent much of the show carving a pumpkin on stage. After the show he was walking around on four-foot stilts, all grunting and growling at people to go out to the lobby and buy their stuff. Tyler got me their “bikinis and bicycles” calendar, which has been signed by the gals in the band with hearts and everything.

Monday, I swear to god, Starbucks sabotaged the power adapter to my laptop, bringing the productivity of Brainside Out to a screeching halt. I drove to Milwaukee to pick up a new power adapter (covered under AppleCare) at the Apple Store, and wandered the mall for an hour while waiting for my turn at the Genius Bar, which is a cool concept that could be improved by the use of more bar, or at least a liquor license. This particular mall had a cell phone kiosk every fifteen feet. For how great and dense this population of cell phone kiosks, and for how irritating the salespeople were at these particular kiosks, very little blood was spilled. I take pride in my restraint.

On Tuesday I turned a Panera’s into my personal office for approximately five hours. That evening Tyler and I returned to the Orpheum to see Guster. They were great fun and played an awesome set, but I was really there for the opening band. I’ve been a huge fan of matt pond PA for a bunch of years, now, but since I’m pursuing an epic and transient lifestyle I’ve never had the opportunity to see them live. Last night I finally got around to it, and geez, what an amazing experience. I was mashed against the ridiculously tall stage for their entire set, singing along and going deaf in the wash from their monitors. All I could think was, Cello, man! I’m losing all my hearing to cello! How great is that? Cello!

They played a lot of songs from their new album Several Arrows Later, which I love more every time I listen to it, but they also played stuff from Emblems, and even a chart from as far back as The Green Fury. After the show I had a chance to talk with a couple members of the band, and they are some of the coolest, most genuine, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. I hope they come back. I hope Guster doesn’t flay them alive and wear their skins on their next tour or something. I know that The Current has been playing matt pond PA in pretty high rotation, which may be enough to pull them back to this neck of the woods.

It’s been a busy October, so much so that it’s not even October anymore.