Saturday, July 11, 2009

More: A lesson in spots, dysfunction and nerves

A lesson for you: Don't judge a banana by the spots on the skin. Because the banana inside might be delicious. True story.

If you allow me to indulge in past banana-eating habits, I will tell you that I like them green, green, green. Call me a reformed picky eater.

But somewhere along the way, I started buying my own bananas, along with other grocery store items. And when you buy your own stuff, you eschew past prejudices and start rationalizing. Hm. The milk expired two days ago, but [smelling it] baaaah, it's still good. If it isn't, then it'll at least clean me out.

Or: Hm. I just bought those bananas three days ago and already with the spots? I'll just open one and if there are more bruises than banana, then I won't eat it. Oh, a perfectly clean banana -- bottoms up, my friend.


I went to bed last night at 11 PM, rather early for a Friday. Wait, let me backtrack. I got home from work, and a couple of friends were on their way to my place before driving out to Longview for some obligatory family function. I personally can't stand being obligated to go ANYWHERE, but my Catholic guilt always gets the better of me, so I oblige 85% of the time. So I can relate to my friends, who would rather postpone this trip to Small Town, Texas to come hang out on our couch for a couple of hours.

This couple is funny. They're funny individually with their insolent views of the world and filthy mouths, but together, they are an unstoppable force of dysfunctional entertainment.

For instance:
Her: Did I tell you the story about how I punched him in the nose?
Him: They've heard the story.
Her: Not from me. Okay, so he and I were fishing [blah, blah, blah], and he pissed me off, so I was getting in the truck, about to leave. He tried to stop me [blah, blah, blah], and I was just trying to get away, so I punched him in the face.
Him: I thought you'd broken my nose.
Her: [laughing] Yeah. And then, with blood all dripping down his face, he walks away saying, "All I ever did was love you!" Faggot.

Sounds like a sad story, no? But he's just as bad. It's like the story about the chicken and the egg. You don't know the original asshole who set the precedent for this highly troubling behavior.

Her: [in a skirt, showing me her legs] Oh man. I don't know why, but I have all these bruises!
Him: Close your legs.
Her: Shut up. So the other night, we were all hanging out drinking and HE was in the bathroom and I really had to pee, but he locked the door. I banged on the door so he could let me in, but it was too late. I pissed my pants.
[Laughter erupted.]
Him: That's cause you're all loose. That's why I told you to close your legs. So you don't piss all over their couch.
Her: Eat shit. I hate you.

Their visit lasted an all-too-short hour and a half. Then they went their merry way to Longview, where I'm sure they a.) Didn't speak to each other the entire drive, b.) Pulled over on the way and made out in the back of the truck, c.) Told each other to eat shit, or d.) All of the above.


After a glorious 11-hour's night of rest, I woke up at 10 AM, ready to spend the next three hours drinking coffee, lazing around, practicing the guitar before my lesson at 2 PM. As I sat down at the computer to start my morning routine, my phone buzzed. I recognized it as a reminder buzz, and checked it, thinking it was some stupid reminder I'd set months ago about some bet like "Matt bet Dewayne a bottle of whiskey that the stock market will be at X points today" or "By this time, Matt's cousin will be engaged to his girlfriend."

As it happened, this was a more urgent buzz. I had to be at a work screening in 45 minutes. Fuck. Thankfully, I know how forgetful I can be and had the foresight to schedule this reminder.

Cursing the stars, I quickly got dressed and jetted off to this tweeny movie (which I loved, BTW), and pretended grown-up for the next two hours. But dammit, my morning plans were ruined. Chiefly, my plan to practice before my lesson was thwarted, as I'd mentioned in previous posts that I have been uber lazy when it comes to practicing guitar.

On the slim chance that Guitar Teacher might've sent me an e-mail to reschedule, I checked my inbox for such a message. And holy relief! Cancelled lesson.

So I relaxed, made some coffee, and ate a banana. So far, I like this weekend.


"Lazy with music" might be inaccurate now, as I think I'm regaining my music mojo.

Sunday night, my brother was playing a gig at a small-ish mid-scale bar just north of Dallas, so we went to check it out. I like those gigs because they're low-key and more intimate than the big-stage late-night venue gigs.

We sat with the random musicians who happened to be taking a break from the song, and their girlfriends. At one point, they asked me to come up and play a song. Joy! I remember at this time last year, I was one part terrified and one part ecstatic to go up on stage. It's hard to describe, but the terrified part is gone, and replaced with "Who me? Oh, I'd be glad to."

I played "Death Came a'Knockin'" -- I am happy that I have moved on from the typical "Me and Bobby McGhee," although a great song, I have beat it to death at home and on stage. Maybe it's appropriate that I've adopted "Death..." as my new song to beat to death. Give me about four more years with this song and I'll tell you how I feel about it then.

So I got on stage, started playing, and I was feeling pretty good about it until the nerves came out of nowhere. I can't explain it, but the more I heard my voice in my head, saw the people looking at me, looked back down at my hands playing the guitar, I got that weird feeling in my stomach that streamed down my arms to my hands and all of a sudden, in the middle of the song, I was inexplicably nervous.

It used to happen all the time at piano recitals. I'd practice a piece for months and months, to the point of comfortable imperfection. I'd go up to play, confident, ready to do it. Then, about halfway, I'd realize where I was, that everyone was so quiet, looking at me, and all I wanted to do was finish and get off the stage.

I ignored the nerves, concentrated on finishing the song with poised awesomeness, and after what seemed like an eternity, I was done. Like any insecure artist, I asked Matt what he thought, and he gave me this gem, "I wanted to hear more."

There will be more.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I can't help myself. I am a sucker for sad stories. So now you are, too.

Sad things happen all the time. To everyone. But it isn't often when something sad hits close to home. It makes you feel. It's that pang of hurt wakes you up, in your chest, and you realize that you are not the center of the universe, and that people might really need you. And I am always obliged to reciprocate.

My friend's partner of 10 years died. Since I've known them, he'd always had health issues, so this doesn't come as a surprise, but the news still hits you and lays on your chest like a too-heavy blanket.

To hear my friend saying things like, "This is the hardest thing I've ever gone through," and "I'm not okay" is heartbreaking.

And it's so natural to put yourself in that situation. Like, what would I do? How would I react? Would I sleep all the time, too? (Yes.)

I am naturally curious. I don't know how much of that is part nosiness, and part "I actually care," but I asked her all kinds of questions. Typical questions like, "where were you when it happened," etc. What I'm feeling kind of guilty about is that I AM nosy. I want to know what is going to happen to his stuff, and who is making the funeral arrangements, and how she is feeling at this very moment. RIGHT NOW. Are you numb? Did you mentally prepare for this? I want to be there when she moves out of that house, partly just to see it. Will she cry? What will her face look like when she moves the last of her stuff out of the house they shared?

I feel guilty that I want to know all these things, but at the same time, it's a human study. This is what grief looks like.




Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Home, etc.

1. I am so tired that I am keeping track of the light and deciding when is an appropriate time to turn in. Exhaustion City.
2. My room mate, D, likes it when I go grocery shopping. He told me on day when I came home with shredded sharp cheddar, Oreos, and "good" luncheon meat from the deli. This tickles me. I still know this is true because the Oreos are only two days old and half the bag is gone.
3. Speaking of room mates. There has been some discontent in our kitchen lately, as we have all been exercising, which turns us all into ravenous beasts when it comes time for dinner, but tonight has been okay in that they made dinner and shared, and I am for once not a ravenous beast, so all is calm in casa de Sch-mith-ton-dler (yes, we have named our household) as all the moons have somehow aligned and I have somehow exercised all my demons during the day, leaving nothing but an exhausted heap of a mildly content zombie to scrounge for leftovers.
4. We all know that I like farts. Thus, my disclaimer to this tidbit. When my godfather felt the urge coming on, he used to yell, "Birdcall!" and let it rip. I kind of miss that.
5. I am feeling a new song coming on. It's time.
6. I love, love, love "Prairie Home Companion." Really. The show's passable, but it's the music I truly love. I still stand by this: I hate country music. But dammit, there is a gem in every one of the shows in the guise of a steel-string guitar and lovely lady voice telling of mamas and papas and aunts and uncles. Fuck, it brings me to my knees every time.
7. Operation Six Pack is going strong. I have abstained from the fast food (for the most part), and have been good about exercise, but dammit if I'm not satisfied. More lines! MORE LINES! The belly button skin is stretched across the hole like seran wrap across a bowl, but I need to see more definition. As if every line defined each hour, every five miles I've put into this dang OSP, which has taken the place of my music obsession. I MUST make time for both. Balance.
8. I had a really good weekend. Really good. I won't bore you with the details, but everything I did exceeded my expectations: kick-ass concert, movie experience, lounging around, more lounging at the pool, jam session at my brother's, then the anti-climactic cherry experience on top with 1.5 hours at a lackluster jazz bar, complete with shots and service from the usual tired waitress and music talk. We always seem to talk about how music can be better somehow.
9. My favorite belt is on its last legs. Tre sad, my friends. I bought it at Wal-Mart for $7.99 or something crazy like that. It's plastic, and is British-flag-themed, and I am sad that there is a big crack where my favorite buckle hole is. Thus, time to retire the British flag Wal-Mart belt. Probably in four weeks or so. I must find a new favorite belt. Soon.
10. A vacation is in order very soon. I am planning to go to the hometown this month for some much-needed R&R. It will be epic.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Man Day

In one gasp:

Yesterday I had a "Man Day" in which I worked out and sweat like a mo-fo, went to play Top Golf, BBQ-ed with friends, then drank and played poker in which I bluffed people and belched and cursed and peed standing up (not really), the end.

Favorite Dad Moments

1. The first favorite dad moment that comes to mind is when he explained the menstrual cycle to me. I was a budding "tween," and er, had a question, and my mom was out, so I went to the second adult in charge of the house with my question. I had already been briefed on what I was to expect in the coming years, but I didn't expect this change to come so early. And while my mom was out. And while my dad and brother were content in their boy-lands playing Nintendo in the other room.
I have to commend my dear father for explaining the mestrual cycle to me in such clinical terms. I remember standing in the hallway between the kitchen and dining room, which is probably where I ambushed the poor man with my question. Mary, our housekeeper at the time, who spoke English, was hanging around, wiping the counters ever so quietly as she listened in on this embarrassing scene of a little girl who may or may not have taken the first steps in becoming a woman.
My dad used all the scientific words: uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, "every 28 days." All Greek to me. There was no emotion in our little chat, either. So when my dad excused himself to go back to boy-land and play Nintendo with my six-year-old brother (who I'm sure he was relieved to think that he will never ask him period questions), I was left with Mary the housekeeper who had been stifling herself all this time, and gave me a big hug saying, "You're a woman now!" I was still processing the science lesson my dad had just given me, and hoping my mom would come home soon.
2. It was my 14th birthday, and as it happened every year, it fell on Spring Break, so I was never in school for my birthday. My dad, the serial car buyer that he is, had decided that today is the day we go to the Island (South Padre) and purchase this Winnebago he'd seen in the papers. I saw this as an opportunity to 1.) Perhaps convince my dad to take me to the beach and/or 2.) Get him to take me to the Dairy Queen in Port Isabel for a sundae or something. I didn't get my way, but I do remember having a surprisingly good time watching my dad negotiate the price of this Winnebago -- a magnificent, giant machine with blue interior and no power steering or A/C. I believe he got away with paying $650 for it. Kind of an anti-climactic story, but still a nice memory.
3. My grandmother died when I was about seven or eight years old. I was moderately unaffected by this event -- the only things that were on my mind at the time were that the whole family was coming into town and that I was so, so scared to go to the funeral. I was petrified that they were gonna make me look at the dead body.
Anyway, my dad was sitting at the dinner table, just kind of relaxing with a cigarette. Maybe he was waiting for a snack or something, I don't remember. Now that I think of it, he was probably waiting for nothing and reflecting because afterall, his mother had just died. But he flagged me down and said he wanted to explain something to me.
He took out a tall, empty glass and a saucer plate and said, "You know, Mom just died. ("Mom" is what we called that particular grandmother.) You know what happens when someone dies?" He took a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke into the glass and turned it upside down onto the saucer plate.
He said, "The body quits working, but your soul is still there. It doesn't have a place to live anymore, so the soul leaves the body and finds a new home." Then he turned the glass full of smoke right side up and we watched the smoke slowly leave the glass. I don't remember if he said anything about God or heaven -- I think he let me come to my own conclusions about that.
4. I was in high school, and we lived in a house I fondly recall as the "Sunshine House" (because it was on Sunshine Road). It was late in the evening and my dad was going out the front door for some reason to take out the trash or something and I followed him out. I must have been in the middle of telling him something.
We continued the conversation outside for a minute or two. When it was done, he looked up and said, "Do you hear that?" It was a bird singing -- not chirping aimlessly, but truly singing. We thought it was strange because it was night time, and the song was so melodic and lonely that we just stood there for a few minutes and listened to this bird. He had this bemused look on his face the whole time, as if we'd just experienced something rare and beautiful. This might be my favorite dad moment.

Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dear Facebook Friends

Dear Facebook friends,

Please stop telling me you're hungry in your updates. Also, please stop with the laundry list of your laundry list. I don't care if you're at the gym, or if your baby made a cute face. I also don't care to hear about your happy hour which you are enjoying right at this moment because fuck, you are at happy hour and shouldn't be on your phone telling me about what you're doing because you should be doing what you're doing, and that's it. Cut it out. You are addicted to your phone and you should just stop. Now.

Also, don't tell me what you're having for dinner because I am jealous. I am jealous because my kitchen has been taken over by Nazis and I only eat half a cold hot dog, then throw it away because I am pissed off about the Nazis. They made the Holocaust and that's not right. Four nights in a row. That's the Holocaust.


Entertain me with some pithy quotes and/or snarky observations about the world. Please. Make something up. Tell me how much you hate babies and how you miss hand-drawn animated movies. Bring something up that makes me want to "wiki" it, like the Bolsheviks -- I still don't know what that is all about -- or how Pushkin affected your state of mind right now. RIGHT NOW. Or tell me a joke. But nothing political because as soon as I see the words, "Obama" or "Iran," or "North Korea," I get narcoleptic. So yeah, don't do that.

You have your instructions. Now, go!

Update: The Nazis just handed me a burger, which I so graciously accepted because I am hungry. All the time. Damn you, Operation Six Pack. I am an animal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Heavens. Right when my dear LtFlux is coming out of his hiding, I am entering into one of my own. A small one, I think -- it may not even last the week.

It's the kind of hiding that is reminiscent of hidings of yesteryear. But this time, it's not melancholy or disgruntled in nature. It's more like annoyed and tired.

I'm annoyed at all the noise that seems to come from EVERYWHERE. And then when there is no noise, there's still that white noise -- I feel everyone else's noise. Is that weird? Don't answer that.

No knock on the people making noise around me -- except for annoying co-workers who insist on carrying out painfully detailed, inane conversations about what they had for dinner and what they're having for lunch and how cute this baby is, and "oh, I have to take this vitamin now and then I'm gonna go down the hall because I have to tee-tee..." Everyone else is cool. They can't help their noise. It's just me.

So that's annoying. What's also annoying is that I am tired. My brain is tired. I really want to take a few days off and enjoy this kind of day, or that kind of day, but I am paranoid that if I take a few days off, they'll realize that they don't really need me. That's stupid. But that's what's in my head right now.

I'm just whining now. The truth is that the nice people in my house right now are having a heated discussion about world events and all I want to do is hide on the computer and whine to the blogiverse. This hiding may only last one night.


As for the no hooch rule this week, I am breaking it tonight. Like I said before, I am moody. And Operation Six Pack is coming along. I'm stepping it up a bit, as the summer is right here, on top of us, staring us in the face, heaving its hot, salty breath on us saying, "" Take it as you will, but if I am going to be hot this summer, then I might as well be hot.

I'm seeing shades of muscle wanting to come out. It WANTS to. But I'm at that frustrating point where the body is responding to the diet and exercise, but the skin needs time to "readjust." I've been there before, back in the days of Operation Lose Weight! (yes, exclamation point) and I don't remember how long the skin takes to readjust, but it will happen. It will.

One of the joys of being young. Skin elasticity.

Listen to me, bargaining here. So, yes, No Hooch Rule is on hold tonight. As is my will power. But hear me now, folks -- three is the limit. OSP won't be affected. Much.


I'm kind of worried this week. Okay, the past couple of weeks. I know we can't always be "on" when it comes to an obssession, or passion, but I go through hills and valleys when it comes to music. For the past two weeks, I haven't been able to pick up the guitar with any conviction. I've gone through this before. A couple of months ago, I went to my genius guitar teacher (GGT) and told him that I think I've lost my music mojo. I hadn't been practicing then, the same as it is now.

Hills and valleys.


Hiding is over. I am going to finish a movie I started last night: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not Father's Day...

This weekend I:

1. Thought it was Father's Day.
2. Went to a club, got free bottle service and danced The Cupid Shuffle.
3. Miss my brother and feel like a dweeb for missing him. He's on vacay in Austin and I am not jealous.
4. Yes I am.
5. Saw Mad Max for the first time and I want to see it again like now.
6. Showered every day. Rare for a weekend.
7. Had an awkward guitar lesson with a sub.

Okay, let's talk about this lesson. I've had a lot of music teachers in my day. I rate my current as the best teacher yet. Every week, I feel that he makes it his number one priority to target my weaknesses and work with me -- relentlessly -- to the point of exhaustion, all in the name of getting this or that point through to me.

I've always had this issue with teachers. They see potential in me and at first I perform well, but gradually work my way into a zone in which I get comfortable with putting forth minimal effort -- just enough to equally frustrate my teacher and keep me mildly interested. A word of advice, kids: Don't give 100% at first. Always start with 60-65% and work your way up. It takes control, but trust me, it works out better for everyone.

Anyway, I'm at the point right now that genius guitar teacher is working overtime to get through to me. He's pushing me, and while I appreciate the effort, the pressure's on me and me alone. I don't practice nearly as much as I should. In fact, I only practice the easy and fun stuff throughout the week -- specifically repertoire and sheet music/sightreading exercises. The hard stuff (for me) is the dang theory study. The chords. What makes this chord this and how to play it three, four, five different ways on the fretboard. It's daunting stuff, and frankly, a little boring to me. I want the instant gratification of learning a 1-4-5 chord progression, learn the lyrics, and BAM, I've got another song to add to my repertoire.

I know what he's doing. All this pushing is his evil, evil plot to make me finally learn my fretboard after six years of playing. And that's what makes him the genius guitar teacher. But I know his plan, and I am resisting it because I'm a lazy asshole like that.

Anyway, back to awkward lesson.

This new guy was pretty young, and I sensed he was kind of nervous. Must've been my super-sexy hangover cloud and runny makeup from the previous night's club dancing (see #2). I explained to him all the tricks genius guitar teacher was trying to employ to get me to (heh) LEARN, but to my disappointment, he didn't try to employ any of those tactics. It's not like I was disappointed that he didn't try to give me the same weekly beatings to which I have been so accustomed. It's that I was giving him the green light to be like his boss, genius guitar teacher, and in a weird way, try to give him some pointers as to how to brutally beat some theory into a student. Plus, I was hoping to get some new insight from a fresh perspective, and all I got was a nervous guitar dude who just wanted to jam and talk about bar chords.

Let me explain.

Bar chords are easy. If you can put your index finger down hard enough to hold down all the frets and make the same generic shape underneath, you've got all the tools for making a major, minor, dominant seventh and major seventh chord. I get that. That all lies within my "comfort zone" we've already talked about.

And the jamming. This was clearly his favorite part.

I was getting bored/annoyed at the bar chord talk, so I suggested we look at some repertoire. I know the melody of this particular piece (That's All), and I was having some fun challenging him to back me up on chords. I noticed he was one of those insecure musicians who was eager to impress me with his knowledge ("Your teacher is a jazz guy, but me, I'm a classical guy."), so I thought it would be fun to try to play together. Mostly because the fumbling around with bar chords was so awkward, I wanted to do something different, but also to see if he had the chops he was clearly so eager to show me.

Success. We fumbled a bit at first, but in the end, the song came out pretty well. It only took us 26 minutes to finally have fun.

Back to the list...

8. Operation Six Pack is coming along swimmingly. The hardest part is the diet. Damn you, weekends, with your pizza and hooch! All in moderation, I say, but still. Friday night was definitely a night of indulgence, so that's my designated one night this week -- the rest of the week is nothing but good stuff. Now how to define "good stuff"...

Despite these indulgences, I have noticed some improvements. I keep finding these new lines, which is tre exciting. I still have a lot of work left to do, but these new lines I'm finding are oh so encouraging. Nothing to do but move onward. Maybe one day I will allow myself to take an afternoon off and lounge by the pool, which is what I stare at when I am running, running, running. The treadmill strategically faces the pool at my apartment complex, and on the weekends the pool is full of happy, relaxed people who for the most part seem to have achieved that perfect balance between getting in a good workout and drinking beer all afternoon.

That's all for now. Now piss off.