5.27.2015

Randomness For a Sunny Afternoon

The past couple of weeks really have been crazy.  What's really crazy is that I have been able to, since they have happened, step outside of myself and see the events of the past two weeks detached from my self and have come to realize that there is nothing in the events themselves that was significant.

Which is to say that, for all intents and purposes, ALL of my life could be that crazily awesome if I would just let go sometimes and live the fucking thing, ya know?

Aside from the wicked weekend of epiphanies set to music (detailed in an earlier post)...I actually saw some great bands last weekend (or was it the weekend before? Yeah, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend).

Here's the list:

  • Friday (for the low, low price of a groupon):
    • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
    • The Who
  • Saturday (for the kindness of strangers):
    • Haelstorm (partial)
    • Anthrax (partial)
    • Nick (somebody...was doing a Dimebag Darrel tribute)
    • Balsac (the Jaws of Death from GWAR)
    • Rival Sons
    • Motionless in White
    • Volbeat
    • Tech N9ne
    • Rise Against
    • and Linkin Park
It was a pretty epic weekend of music. And that was only doing one day of Rock on the Range. Next year, I'm definitely doing all three days. 

So...yeah...there was the music aspect the past couple of days. And then this past weekend there was the angle of meeting a friend of my friends who is a real honest to gosh book writing author. And of course finding out that my neighbor and a couple other friends are actually published, too. f

Surrounded by music and by supportive people who write.

Seriously?

Those things are enough to push the constant pain far from the surface of continual cognition. And while I am having surgery for my neck in a few weeks, for the weeks leading up to the surgery, it will be pain. As it has been. On a never-ending (it seems) cycle. 

And that's kind of funny to me, actually. When I'm driving. When I'm reading. When I'm at work...I get little nudges to remind me that, "Oh...hey...yeah...my neck is still fucked up." When I'm writing...when I'm experiencing live music...when I'm playing music; the pain is no where in my field of vision. 

The mind is a pretty amazing thing. I think it has to do with not being tied to this plane when I'm doing those things. Those things are purely in the moment. There is no time. And sometimes, there is no space. I don't know how to really explain it other than, at those times, I feel as though it's my soul experiencing those things.

What? The randomness is confusing? Not sure why...I pretty much said as much in the title of the post.

I feel now as though I'm in that 'in between' realm where you are just tired enough that if you closed your eyes, you would drift to sleep. Or that you just woke up from a dream that you can recall the faintest wisps of in the pre-dawn light. 

Only I don't necessarily mean that I'm sleepy per se. I just mean that my life feels like that. Like I either need to go back to sleep and dream. Or fully wake up and remember the dream as it was, but go on living the life I was meant to live. And that 'ride'...the 'game' of life that almost all my friends think is real, is but a dream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily.

Life is but a dream.

-AT

5.23.2015

Huh, Writers Are People, Too

I'm going to start this post with something I never do. Which is to say, something I'm sure I've done in a past post, but have completely forgotten by this point and am quite entirely too lazy to go back and look through past posts and check.

Dear Universe,
I got it. Seriously. Finding out that my neighbor has been published should have been an indicator that yes, real people do, in fact get published, too. It might have been heavy handed to have me show up to an engagement party and have me interact and meet with a friend of theirs who is also a published author.

No...for real (check it out here). And to top it off...he does the whole first initial middle name thing. As if that wasn't really the third piece of 'ok I fucking get it' that I needed, not sure what was.

And here's the funny part. I write. It's in my blood. I talk about it more than I should, I'm sure. And this particular friend of the two friends that were having the cookout, was never on the radar.

There's a better way to say that.

Steve and Sarah may or may not know I write. But they DO know that they are friends with a writer. One who has published books 'n' shit.  And somehow that never came up. Until today.

So. Yes. Universe-I fucking get it.

Great, Todd. Can you let the rest of us in on what the universe told you?

I certainly could do that. I'm not going to, though. Bit of a tease, I know.  Sometimes it be that way.

So..here's why today really rocked.

I have an instant camera (Fuji Instax Mini90 NeoClassic). I love the thing. The photos come out right there and spark an instant feeling of nostalgia. Each shot is unique, and if you fuck it up, you take another shot. There is no delete, tweaking any settings pre-shot, nor any editing or 'fixing things in post,' as it were.

All of those reasons make it brilliant to me. I'm not ready to sell my D300 just yet, but I do love the Instax. Sarah and Steve have seen it. They were with me when I took it to Put In Bay. So, they thought nothing of me bringing it today and taking pix. They thought nothing of me having the camera bag around my shoulder for most of they day.

I got there close to when they said it all was set to start (about thirty minutes after, actually) and met people (the author whom I did not know to be an author at the the time, included). I took pix.

When Sarah and Steve were out of ear shot, I let the other guests in on the plan. I had brought with me old business cards of mine to recycle. On the backs of the cards, I wanted them to write messages to Sarah and Steve. I'd pair those up with the photo album I had pre-decorated and in my bag.

It took 6 hours to fill the album with cards and shots. And I think I managed to get most of who was there today captured.

It was amazing. It felt good to give it to them. It was unique, to be sure.

And to top that feeling of, add the feeling of meeting a published author that was down to earth and cool as fuck.   Do this and you will understand the awesomeness of the day I had.

So, yes, universe, I do get it. You are putting people in my life to make the reality more real for me. A friend who edits manuscripts. At least two published authors. My own parents had a print company and my dad said he would fund my first printing for fucks sake.

Jeebus, Skaggs! What the fuck is the hold up?!?!

That is a good question. Actually that is a GREAT question.

My speedbump is, to a degree, the same thing that slows all people down. Fear. Fear of the unknown. A modicum of fear of failure. Although, I have to say that reading Dorthea Brande has been amazing with that. She has a way of cutting through the bullshit and the mental nay-saying sabotagee that I am finding to be quite useful.

That aspect of today can easily be summed up in the following passage.

Right place, Right time, and more importantly--right people.

I love it when a plan comes together.

-AT

5.20.2015

You're Probably Sorta Racist, Too

Racial Bias. Prejudice. Racial Privilege. They go back to fear.

I want to wake up one day in a society where fear is not the norm. Where we are not fed fear morning, noon, and night by the industry that is supposed to be informing us of what's going on in the world. Or shown reasons to be afraid by the people that are supposed to protect and serve us. Or being explicitly told along party lines just what the fuck we should be afraid of if that other party makes it in to office.

Seriously. What the fuck?!

I was born in 1971. So, pretty much half of my childhood was spent in the 70's and the rest was spent in the 80's. And I grew up exposed to racism and prejudice in my every day life. And I knew it wasn't quite right. I spent my summers in the eastern Appalachian hills of Kentucky. I learned what a nigger was before I ever saw one (to be honest, I'm still not quite sure I've seen a nigger). My papaw was someone who would go out of his way to help anyone that needed help. Color or not. I can only recall him using the word nigger one time around me. And it wasn't in reference to anyone in particular. It was an expression about how hot it was. I didn't understand it. I didn't know what a nigger was. Based on his reference, I thought it was a person that was nervous about elections. Later when telling my parents how hot it was, I learned that it wasn't a word that we used. That it was a very hurtful word. That was enough for me as a child. I didn't want to hurt people. That word hurt people. I didn't use that word because I didn't want to hurt people.

There's a good chance that I've lost some of you by now because I've been typing out 'nigger' this whole time instead of saying 'the "N" word.'  I'd apologize for disturbing your sensibilities, but to be honest, we NEED to be uncomfortable by that word.

It's become OK to say 'the N word.' Like somehow saying that negates the fact that what you wanted to say and what you actually meant to say was 'nigger.'  It's not OK to say the phrase 'the N word.' It's not OK to say 'n*gger' because it's the same fucking thing.

Somewhere in my teens, homosexuals started taking the word 'faggot' and 'queer' and embracing it (queer more than faggot, I think). They said it was to take the power back. If they used it to talk about each other, then somehow it lost power when hateful people used it as a slur.

As I started listening to rap go from hip hop to the Gangster Rap to the gritty reality TV caricature that it is today, I have seen a similar trend.

And here's where being light in the melanin arena gets tricky. Racism is such a hot-button topic that there is no comfortable way to make a distinction even for the sake of argument or discussion. Can I say 'black people?'  That's not really accurate. Brown-skinned people? That sounds off too. African-Americans?  I don't fucking know.   So, I will stick to the genre. In rap music there is an acceptance for using the work nigger. Or is it?  I have heard that it's actually 'nigga' which is supposed to be a term of affection (as in 'What up, my nigga?'). Is it cultural? Quite likely.

The problem that I have with it is that it doesn't teach me, as a lighter skinned American of largely European heritage, the proper way to help bridge the racial divide.

I started listening to rap in high school. I took some shit for it. For listening to 'that nigger music.'  I always shrugged it off, because if you want to get right down to it, with the exception of blue grass, nearly every form of music popular in this country owes its roots to cultures that are not of largely European heritage.  But I made friends. Friends of differing skin tone. I made the mistake of giving a greeting along the lines of 'Nigga WASSUP?!' to one of my friends. I was quickly pulled to the side. He made sure that none of his friends heard. Not because he was embarrassed, but because he didn't want me to get my ass beat. "Look Skaggs. You and me cool. You're my brother and I love you. But if you call me 'nigga' in front of my boys, I'm a half to beat your ass."

I asked if it was ok for me to call him my brutha.  He smiled. Gave me daps and said, "fuck yeah, nigga, you ARE my brutha."

And I get it. It's not just the word (whether it's nigger or nigga), it's the person saying the word. And, it's not even the intent. I thought I was delivering a genuine greeting. Again, it's the person saying the word. I'm 'white' (or whatever passes for that these days).

You could call me 'cracker' a million times with as much hate as you could muster and I would not feel even one-millionth the pain felt by someone called a nigger out of hate.

And there's fear of the word.

That's our word, you honky. You can't use that word. If you use that word, you're as bad as the fucking slave owners that had my ancestors in chains.

And maybe that's true. There were slave owners in my family tree. I can't deny that. I have no desire myself to own slaves or subjugate an entire peoples.

I like to think that I'm not racist, but there's a part of me that knows that I am. When I stop for a beat too long to assess whether or not something I say or do might come off as racist, that's probably a good indicator that there is (or was) some racial bias in there somewhere.

I'm trying to get better about it. I honestly am.

I think what bothers me the most is that word, and it's a fucked up word, but the word nigger just really has no place in our vocabulary.  There's no reason to use it in any kind of conversation, even for irony or effect. At least not by me. And that includes 'nigga' and 'the N word.'   In fact, other than this blog or other writings I may do on how the race shit is fucked up, you'll not see nor hear me use the word in any of it's iteration.

But back to racial harmony.

It can happen. It has to happen.  I guess, for me, the biggest challenge is the whole 'white'/'non-white' thing.

It's really not a black and white thing. Or even a blacks and whites thing.

I don't have the answer. All I know is that we need to talk about it. We need to talk about the shit that makes us uncomfortable. We need to talk about the differences. We need to talk about what the fuck we're afraid of.

If you want to take the power away from something, don't take the power away from a word. Take the fucking power away from the fear.

Take the first step in facing it.

It has to begin with someone. Might as well be you. Might as well be me.

-AT

5.18.2015

Just Three Things

I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here. And I'm going to contradict something that many of you probably take as Gospel.

I work for a retail company. I don't work on the retail side of the company, I'm in IT. But I did. For three years I worked on the retail side. I have also worked in Food Service, which in many ways is worse than working in retail.  I have also worked for a software company that delivered customer service solutions for Fortune 1000 companies. So...I have a bit of experience in Retail and Customer Service.

And I'm here to tell you...the customer is NOT always right.

Sometimes the customer is a narcissistic asshole.

I was in a local retailer this evening, checking out my items in the self-serve area. There are six check-out stations and one store employee to manage the customer service duties for up to six customers at a time. Six. This can be daunting during a rush (where all stations are occupied and there is a mounting line of customers waiting to check out because they all think self service will be quicker).

I'm scanning my items and putting them on the bagging platform. I'm contemplating asking for help on a item I have a quantity of 8 on. I reason, though, that by the time the attendant came over and did her voodoo just to add "8X" to my order, I could have them scanned already. So I continued.

"Excuse me." I hear a customer say. "Can you check me out? I only have three things. You can check me out right here, right?"

I see the attendant looking at  full stations and a line of people.

"Ma'am. I can't. I'm here to help people at their registers. I can get in trouble if I just ring you out."

Now. At this point, any normal, compassionate person would understand that working retail sucks. And that putting a complete stranger in danger of getting some kind of reprimand is a bullshit thing to do. At that point, the normal, compassionate person would return to the line and wait.

"Yeah...but it's just three things. It's no big deal, right?"  At this point, she puts the three items up on the counter, giving the trapped attendant--who is trying to take care of the customer--no choice but to ring her out. Studious observers in line might take note of this and use it against the attendant later.

Some of you might be reading this and think Jesus, Todd. Relax. It WAS only three things for fuckssakes. No need to get all sanctimonious about it. 

And sure.  On the surface I can certainly see your point.  But look deeper for a second.

Anyone who has ever gone through a self service checkout knows two things. The attendant is there to help people when the machines (or scales, or registers, or card readers) screw up. And secondly, the machines (or scales, or registers, or card readers) frequently screw up.

I'm going to let you in on the business side of retail.  Companies look for ways to shave mere seconds off of your transaction time. These seconds per transactions shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off of the store's cost per year. It's a big deal.  So, the self-serve stations were supposed to be money savers (profit-makers) because the store only needs one employee to manage six registers and the flow of customers should be quicker than if you had six people go through a single register.  So, that's money for the company.

Because of this, I have no doubt whatever that the employee could get reprimanded for ringing out a customer who was not already having a problem at the register.  Did you catch that? The attendants can absolutely complete transactions for a customer. But the intent is for them to pull a customer off of their register (or assist them at their self-serve station) and continue to aid in the flow of traffic.

And now, because one lady only had three things, every one pays.

Here's what pissed me off about the whole thing. The lady, by her actions was demonstrating several things...

That she didn't care one bit about the attendant. Knowingly doing something that can put someone's job at risk after they've already made you aware of this fact says that you only give a fuck for yourself.

She didn't care about any other people checking out. While she was there with here 'only three things,' two other customers needed help. She actually had the audacity to look at one of the customers and say, "she's almost done, just be patient."

Are you fucking kidding me?  They only reason they have to wait is because this lady felt that she was too important to have to wait.

And when she was done, she just traipsed off like the universe had just farted unicorn glitter and rainbows on her. Meanwhile, the attendant scurried off to help the visibly agitated customers who had been waiting patiently.

SHE is the one who had to apologize for this lady's rudeness and try to salvage the day by delivering outstanding customer service to the remaining shoppers.

But she shouldn't have had to do that. Because as soon as the employee said, "I can get in trouble for that," compassion should have kicked in. Empathy should have kicked in. The realization that serving others can sometimes suck big hairy ones should have fucking kicked in.

So...no. Regardless of what you think, the customer is not always right. And that mantra does not give you carte blanche to shit all over people serving you just because you are the customer.

How about you be a decent fucking human being for once?

Granted, I know that the person to whom this ire is directed will likely never read it. From what I can tell she is neither a BaceFook friend nor someone I've ever known in my life. So, this post, while directed at her will only do 2 things at this point. Clear the rant from my brain bucket. And perhaps give someone I do know a wake up call to treat people better.

And now I need to go put the groceries away. Most are done...I think there's just three things...

-AT

A Weekend of Epiphanies*

*or rather, one epiphany that was continually reinforced throughout the weekend.

Bliss.

It's a funny word. Very similar in appearance (and many many other ways to 'bless').

Bliss may mean different things to different people. And many may think they have experienced bliss. I think it's important for a person to have a clear understand of what bliss means to them before they set out trying to find it (and for the purposes of knowing what it is when it hits their life).

For me, bliss is the following:
A moment where time ceases to have any meaning and for which I am connected to the cosmic consciousness and experiencing love in its purest elemental form as the foundation of the universe.

The epiphany this weekend came in the following gift. I identified a handful of things which bring or have brought me bliss at one point in my life or another.

And it started this weekend with The Who.

I got a groupon to see The Who at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH.  The groupon was to get a seat for $39.50 flat. No taxes, no service fees. This saved about $10 so I was down. The catch: you didn't know what your seat was until the night before the show.  You knew the seating area: Upper Bowl, section 207-213.  I was cool with that. I wasn't going to SEE The Who. I was going to HEAR and FEEL The Who in what may be one of their last live tours.

Thursday night I checked to see where my seat was.

Club Section 111.

Wait. What? Club Section 111. Row D.

I read the fine print of the groupon. They reserved the right to upgrade my seat to a better seat for the same price paid.

OK.

That started the awesome weekend off.

I got there in time to see Joan Jett kick things off. It was amazing. I don't know how old she is. But she's still hot. And she can still rock the balls of an arena.  A hint of how surreal things were about to get this weekend came when her and the Blackhearts started playing "I Hate Myself For Loving You."  That song was one of the songs I played with two of the bands I was in for the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in 2008.  Something happened during that song.

I was transported to a place beyond concert spectator. I was transported to the stage at the Fillmore playing that song to a sold out crowd. The elation of that moment was magnified by being in the presence of the original artist playing that song live.  I was lost. Lost in a moment. There was no time. There was the music. There was the feeling of playing that music. Of experiencing that music. Of being that music. The pure energy of that night 7 years ago melded with the energy in that arena Friday night.  

Bliss.

No one knows what it's like...

That Joan Jett moment was the first inkling of the epiphany to come. At the time it happened and in the moments that followed it was little more than a 'feeling.' Nothing I could really identify right then. I was still awash in the waves of energy as The Who took to the stage. There was a palpable electricity in the air.

Countless songs flowed over me. And then the acoustic strains of "Behind Blue Eyes" rang out over a crowd that was, by that time, in a state of energized reverence. I found myself singing along. The song, one I have identified with since the moment I first heard it, hit me full on in every energy center of my body. Daltry, for all the issues he might have been having throughout the night bled his soul in to singing that song.

There are certain songs that touch me in such away that for whatever reason, I am unable to do anything but feel the purest and rawest of emotions when I play them. There are times I can force that in to the background by relegating the listening of that song to 'background mode.' Other times I can do nothing but feel.

To hear that song live...in that venue...with thousands singing along put me in a place that I can only describe as the pure bliss I defined above.

I was at once elevated to a place so far above myself and crushed to my soul. Immobile...singing the words from my heart....smiling the smile of an idiot with tears streaming down my face.

Had I been questioned at the time, I quite easily would have been mistook for someone on some substance or another. But the substance I was awash with in that moment was pure, unadulterated love. There was a giant blue eye on the jumbo screen behind the band. And in that moment the universe said to me, "I see you, Todd." Even now, what the acid-tripper would describe as flashbacks, flow through me as I recall that moment.

I was wrecked.

And it was amazing.

There were a few other moments during the show that approached that level. When they played, "Who Are You," I had a similar out of body experience that I had felt with the Joan Jett song, because it too was one that we played during one of the shows at RRFC.

I was leaving the concert. The following came to mind as I was exiting the parking garage (posted in FB at the time):

"You see the place you want to advance. Another also wants that space. An impasse. Others behind you and behind them. Also anxious to move forward. Yet all are stuck. Mired in themselves. You yield. Letting another advance in the space you wanted. The one behind them yields for you. And so on.
Suddenly all are moving. All advance when we yield to strangers. Allowing others to move ahead of us lets all move as one."
Life lesson learned in a parking garage.

It's true, though. Couple that life lesson with the fact that only one word was going through my brain at the time: Bliss.

My brain did a very sneaky connect-the-dots that it didn't tell me about. Memories, seemingly random, were being recalled as I was driving home. With each of these memories, a feeling washed over me.

The pattern and significance hit me as I stepped in to my apartment Friday night.

These memories were the times in my life when I have felt (or feel) that purest bliss.

  • The day my daughter was born.
  • When I experience the energy of being in a crowd lost in the music of a live band doing what they clearly love to do. And if they are a band that plays a song that has personal meaning to me, it it doubly so.
  • BEING in that band, doing what they love, playing live music. (I later realized that I feel this way even if it's just me jamming with another person. It's the energy of people creating).
  • Being in the throes of making love. For me there is a moment, not the orgasm, but as it's approaching where there is no separation. There is only an energy. A passion. A moment where time ceases to exist and there is nothing but pure bliss and pleasure.
  • Writing. Not all my time writing. But the times where the mechanics of writing are happening without my knowledge. The times when I look and 3 hours have passed and I have something on the screen in front of me that I was nothing more than the conduit for. You see, in those moments for me, I am an observer. I don't make up the story. I'm watching it unfold in front of me. THOSE moments when I write, when time is irrelevant, are the moments where writing brings me bliss.
Once the pattern hit me, I collapsed on the couch. Unable to do anything but weep.  This was perhaps the 2nd greatest gift I had ever been given in my life (the first, was the top of this list--the birth of my daughter).

(warning, potential jumpcut ahead)

I had a list of everything I wanted to get done Sunday...but really, the gift and its importance were still swimming in and out of my waking brain (and, it seems, my recently awakened brain).  Rock on the Range was happening this weekend. The closing act Sunday was Linkin Park.

There are MANY more songs by Linkin Park that hit me in the core of my soul in the same way that Behind Blue Eyes does. There was a nagging I couldn't shake. You have to get to that concert. Ticketmaster was no help. The show had been sold out for months. You have to get to that concert.  I posted on bookFace that I was looking for a ticket. A friend pointed to another friend of theirs. I contacted him. He didn't have tickets, but a friend of his was looking to get rid of two. I didn't need two. You have to get to that concert. The lesson needs to be cemented. I called the guy. A guy who was the friend of the guy who was a friend of my friend.

Yes. He would sell a single ticket.

It was shortly after noon on Sunday.  I got in my car and was on the road by 1245 to get to a venue 15 minutes away. Two and a half hours later, I get the ticket.  And I enter the arena.

The energy immediate floods my senses and soul. 

You have done well. But there is more. Welcome to your life.

Throughout this whole weekend a friend that I had grown to know through Facebook was also at the arena. In from New York with her friends for ROTR. We wanted to at least meet up, because...how cool is that when you get to know someone on Bacefook and you can actually meet them?!

Getting the ticket was part of that. Seeing her and her friends was another gift. They welcomed me in to their group of friends and I had connection. Not one guy in an arena, but connection. 

Now...to be fair, that was a bonus. I would have still seen the concert by myself, but seeing it with friends made it way cooler.

And then, like that...6 hours of live music later...it was time for Linkin Park.

By the time they were done, I could no more have told you my name than told you what planet I was on.

The lesson of bliss had been forever scorched in my brain. 

And it seemed so simple.  Looking at the list.

There was only one thing on the list I could never do again.  The birth of my daughter was a singularity in this universe. A moment in time where everything I had known before suddenly vanished. It is the purest bliss I have ever or will ever feel. 

Everything else on the list, though.....EACH of those things are things I can continue to do. Some easier than others.  Some I can (and will) do every day. Others when the opportunity arises.

I know I've written a lot to this point, but believe me when I say...I will re-read this post and realize that I still have not put in to words in any adequate way, the feeling that this weekend left me with.  

The only thing I can do is honor the gift. Share it. Help others find their bliss.

That's the lesson.

-AT

5.08.2015

A Day In the Life of Awesomesauce

So...yeah. I'm going to start by...shit...hold on...

Had to trim my nails. I swear I never had to do that before I got this dental work in my lower front. Something about biting my nails or something. But yeah. If they are too long I can't type or play guitar. Which..for the guitar I guess it's probably why I don't play as often...but the writing...shit. I have to do that.

One sentence in and I'm digressing. Brilliant.

But it is characteristic of how uncharacteristically awesome this day is. So...I start this morning by heading to the Dr. Not my normal doc, but the surgeon I've been seeing for my neck issues. And by surgeon I mean the third surgeon I spoke with.  The first one emanated quite the dick vibe. The second one was the Laser Spine Institute. I have to be honest...I was pretty excited about them. Until I found out they couldn't actually give me a laser spine. I mean, what the shit? That's just shoddy advertising.

The third doc. Yes. The second second opinion I got was the guy. He's the one who set everything in motion by saying I want to develop a good care plan with you, but I can't do that with a six month old MRI.  As soon as he said that, I knew he had my best interest at heart. OR at least an interest in not failing at this kind of surgery (which I'm OK with, too). But he came off as very genuine and very interested in doing what was best for my overall health. And he spent time talking to me. BOTH visits, he did this. Both visits the DOCTOR spent more time talking to me than the nurse or assistant. This was unheard of to me

The MRI I got on Monday was positive. The results were good. Per the Doc, there was no bruising of my spinal column. This is good. Bruising is bad. It's the indicator of permanent nerve damage.  So...he gave me a choice.

I know right?!?! A doctor giving enough information to make an informed decision and then actually letting me make that decision. I had to look around for the camera and director because clearly I was in some Hollywood make believe world.

So, for those playing the home version of the game, I opted to have surgery. I have to be completely honest. I'm so fucking sick of the constant pain.

June 29th. That's the magic date. The date I pay some dude to slit my throat and carve in to my spine. And put an 'appliance' in there and use part of the bones he's cutting out to fill said 'cage.'  Well...sure. I could have said Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion...but dude, my way was so much more epic.

And that's really what the day has been today. Epic. All that epicness happened before work. It was especially (did you know there is NOT an 'x' in especially??Hmmm.)  awesome when he told me that I should be cleared to go back to work after the first 2 week follow up.

Score.

So I get in to work. There's shit breaking. But it's cool. Because my team has it under control. I had a proud papa moment there for a second. And THEN...we got a new generator.  Even just writing about the awesomeness today makes me say to my self, "Self...no fucking way dude!!!"  And my other self is all like, "Oh believe it dude. Because this awesomely awesome day just keeps getting better."

The rest of the day at work was pretty cool.  Nothing specific to tie in to the coolness per se, but things just came together. Things gelled like they were supposed to. And that was a good thing.

OH WAIT. Totally just lied. So...I decided to go over to HR to check in to getting the FMLA set up. I needed to do this, and I had a date for the surgery. So...no worries. I figured I'd start the ball rolling. The HR reps looks up my file to check vaca and sick time and the like. And says, "Oh. OK. Looks like you have both short term and long term disability."

Wait. What?  I had been operating this whole time on the fucked up delusion that for some crazy reason that Present-Todd couldn't fathom, Benefits-Enrolling Todd canceled both of those things.  Turns out, in fact, that Benefits-Enrolling Todd knew that Present-Todd was going to need surgery and didn't want him doing something stupid. So...he upped the short-term disability to the max allowed.

Holy Balls I love you Benefits-Enrolling Todd!!!!

Then I get a call from a friend who asked if I had left work yet and did I want to meet him out for a couple beers? No...and yes. So...given that I was ahead on hours for the week anyway, I headed down to Lineage Brewery and had a few beers. And got a cool glass. 90 minutes passed and I had no inkling of the time. And that was cool. The tell tale sign that you are in the presence of a good friend is that you have no idea of the passage of time.  I was in such a state. It was cool as fuck.

I headed home. Got home (which was in some doubt after getting stopped by a train) and decided that it was definitely a night for WUI (Writing Under the Influence),  which is pronounced, "WEEEEEEEEEEE."  I put some beers in a cooler and headed out to my charming little bistro set on my nice little Cape Cod of a patio.  I had always heard that in the real estate biz, "Cape Cod" meant "small ass house." Don't know if that's true or why it means that. Either way. I was having beers and starting to blog out on my Cape Cod Patio.

My neighbor Justin comes over and I offer him a beer. We chat about old Dos games from the 90's.  I'm geeking out. He's geeking out. Awesomeness ensues. My neighbor from upstairs has just done some laundry related chore and was heading around to her place and gave a casual 'what's up?'  I said something along the lines of chilling on my cape cod bistro set and did she want a beer?

So...the evening progressed to chilling with neighbors. Again...the passage of time was not an issue. Mostly because by this time I was sufficiently buzzed to not notice and also because the conversation was fun (remind me to tell you how we re-wrote the Bible at its core and kinda turned religion on its ear for a split second....because it fucking rocked).

Yeah. I'm sitting here writing all of this knowing that the words you're reading aren't really doing a good enough job of conveying how fucking awesome this day has been for me. Nor are they conveying the massive (seriously FUCKING HUGE) sense of relief I feel at actually having a date for the surgery and an end in sight.

And now there's pizza. "Palladio" by Escala is on Pandora. If you don't know the song by name, I assure you (we're open) you know it.  It's the music used for either the Diamond Cellar or Jarrods (dunh dunh dunh, dunh deenh dunh duhn duhn). So. Yeah.

Pizza. Pandora. Prose (-ish). harPs.

This day has been epic as fuck (even without the sunlight causing exploding Psychos).

Tomorrow, though, could be even better. It involves Dungeons and Dragons and later launching eggs from a giant sling shot.

Awesomesauce. Off now to order one of those old school listen to the bugs get crispy bug zappers.

Enjoy the crap out of your weekend my friends (I know I will).

-AT.


5.06.2015

Separate Not Equal

I struggle with this. This feeling. This post is probably going to offend someone. Someone else will probably call the post or its author a racist, privileged white suburbanite sitting in his white bread all-American apartment on Main Street, USA far removed from the very real struggles of race that are facing our nation in cities across America. Some very prominent on the news, others boiling just under the surface, ready to explode at a moment's notice.

Maybe that's true. Maybe I am a racist. I don't think that I am. I would like to think that I have moved past judging someone based on the color of their skin. But maybe I haven't.

I don't think there is any question that our government and institutions of this nation are (and/or were) built on a foundation of white privilege (take a good look at the original draft of the Constitution if you doubt this).

I remember as a young child in elementary school, my first experience with someone who had different color skin. His name was Dante. I came home and told my mom all about my new friend. Somewhere in there was the wide eyed fascination because his skin was brown. And that was it. No fear. No excluding him. None of that. It was a footnote to me telling my mom all the cool things about my new friend.

My new friend.

Not my new black friend. Not my new brown friend.  Not my new African-American friend.

My new friend.

As a young child I got it. Somewhere along the way as I grew older, I felt compelled as so many have to use skin color as an identifier. So, I went to lunch with Jerome the other day. You remember Jerome, he's black.

I mean, what the shit is that?!? It's fucked up. That's what it is. I've done it. I'm not proud of it. And I'm working on eradicating that kind of bullshit. It's tantamount to saying, you remember Rick? My gay friend.

My new friend.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a rap star. I had rhymes for days. I had a group of guys I would rap with but mostly I made tapes in my bedroom. I wound up doing a pep assembly. I rapped a capella while some friends clapped along in time. Others stood dumbfounded at the white kid in their gym rapping.

At that time...rap was not a white person's musical genre. The fact that I even think (or thought) of music in terms of a certain color or race's genre shows how fucked up and ingrained this color wheel bullshit actually is. But I digress.. So for me to stand in front of the school of 2000+ students rapping seemed like a big deal. I was terrified.

Some people that I thought were friends found delight in calling me wigger after that. Which, depending on who was saying it could stand for either white nigger or wannabe nigger.

Yes. I said nigger.  It's part of what I was called.

Now...don't misunderstand me in the slightest. I in no way think I'm qualified to talk about racism because some idiots in high school threw that ignorant slur my way. My struggle was not and is not that of the African-American culture (then or now). It's completely separate from that. But the ignorance thrown my way is a direct reflection of the racism in their hearts. Evidenced by the fact that they felt they needed to hurt me because of who I associated with. No, I'm qualified to talk about racism because I believe it is more rampant than ever. And  I want to change that.

It might bother some that I typed that word out. And I get that. I thought about saying 'the n-word' which, in my mind is worse. I don't throw that word around lightly. I use it here only to illustrate the power, the negative power of such a word. I have re-read this post no less than 8 times. And each time I winced as I read the word. Wondering if I should use it at all.

Words have power. Words have all the power we give them. And if you're afraid to say a word in a discussion, how can you ever hope to change it?

Fear.

Fear of a word. Fear of something different.

Remember when it was easy to identify the racist? Signs on their lunch counters. Rallies where white hooded sheets were worn. Some would say racism was worse during those times. I would disagree. I think racism is worse now.

Now the racists can hide behind a keyboard. Spewing hate on all dark corners on the internet. And there is little fear of reproach and no accountability.  How can you fight back against a nameless faceless avatar on the interwebs?

I do it one word at a time.

Under our skin, the makeup of all humans is basically the same. Same bones. Same organs. Same biology. The only difference is the level of melanin in our skin. If we were animals in the wild, that difference would be in the coloring and patterns on our fur.  How does the color of the skin make someone more or less of a person than you?

It doesn't. It's a thing. Like blue eyes or blond hair. It's a trait. Not a defining characteristic or indicator of what kind of human being someone is.

I imagine there was a time when survival of our species was such a high priority that it didn't matter one doodlyfuck if OO'g from three caves over was darker or lighter than you--that goddamn saber-toothed tiger was coming and you had to band together to defeat it. OR everyone died.  I want to go back to that time. When people didn't have qualifiers. I want us ALL to think to that time, when people are described as people--without any fucked up modifiers. Maybe the answer is not going back to that time, though. Maybe that answer is moving forward. Maybe it starts with a conscious decision to make a fucking difference.

**UPDATE**
It is the next day and I still struggle with this. The racism is real. The struggle for all sides is real. It is very much a situation where powers far removed from the cities and urban battle grounds seek to keep the people of our nation in an US and Them. Black versus white. Thug versus cop.  Fear. Be afraid White America, the Black man is coming to steal your dreams. Be afraid Black America, the White man already has.

I don't have the answer to this. I wish I did. I wish I could say Hey-wake up. Stop fighting. Stop fearing. Stop focusing on the differences between your races and celebrate the differences in each other.

I can say it. I can try to live it. But I'm one person.   And even then, I'm not sure it's enough.   I guess, like most things I try to do in this world, if I can make a difference--even a small one in just one person's life, I can feel good about the day.

Like I said originally. I was all over the fucking map with this post. I don't know of a good answer. All I know is that we have to start having the conversations.

I can remember as a teen, there was a thing...don't know if it was a movement or what. But a lot of my friends had embraced the slogan It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand.

And you know what? They're right. I probably wouldn't. And I may not now. But I understand pain. And I understand suffering. And I understand that I don't want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of ending pain and suffering. So...I guess that's that. I mean, not like this is Hollywood wrapped up at the end of the 22 minute episode resolved or anything. But the more I plow through this post, the more I know.

I really only have one choice in this life.  Lead from love.  Fear is fucked up. And I'm done with it.

Love.

It's not a black or white thing.

It's a human thing.

-AT

5.04.2015

Slowly Waking Up

43 years is a long time to be asleep. And to be fair...I'm not completely asleep. And yet, there are times when the facade of this world holds on with such tenacity that I almost believe its real.

Case in point. Fight Club.  I finished reading it and instantly made a list of shit I didn't need in my apartment (or my life) anymore. The obvious target was the Blu Ray movie 'library' that has been sitting in the corner gathering dust.


That's the stack of what they bought. The money I received from the disks was put to better use than pieces of plastic sitting idly by. They sent me home with about 6 of the disks I took. But of course there was about 20 movies...OK 40 (20 on Blu-Ray and 20 or so on DVD) that I talked myself in to holding on to. Because..you know...they meant something to me. And who knows. Maybe they do. Or maybe that's the illusion of this world not willing to let me walk away from abject consumerism.

There is not one single movie on that shelf that I needed to buy. The library lends DVDs and Blu-Ray disks out to cardholders for free. FREE. And if I go and they don't have the movie I want to watch, so what? I still got in a good walk to and from the library and maybe I pick up a movie I never thought about seeing. Or who knows? Maybe I pickup a book?  I don't know. To be honest, I just renewed my library card online tonight so this whole walk to the library to get a movie thing is kind of a proof of concept at the moment. But in theory it would be a good thing. There's a strong chance that I'll take the rest of the movies in  this weekend and complete the purge. That's what Tyler Durden would do. And I'm ok with that. Minus the lye kiss on the back of the hand, that is.

I guess that's the part lately that's been bugging me. The passiveness. Content delivered to every connected device we own. And the funny thing is...selling my record albums isn't an option for me. They aren't the same kind of devil that the movies and the TV represent. When I have a record playing, I am still free to create. To do something else. The music engages me on a deeper level. The level beyond obvious thought. I play music while I write. While I do the dishes. While I read a book. While I pay bills. While I file my taxes. Sometimes it's background, sure, but almost always my subconscious is absorbing it on a deeper level.

When I'm watching TV or a movie or whatever, I'm engaged in that. And engaged is misleading. Focused is a better word. I have to focus on that content. The story. The dialog. The images. To split attention from that is rough. It's like a part of my brain won't let me disengage when the idiot box is on. It's much like the illusion of this world. Crafted in such away that your focus...your vision. This massive vision capable of imagining dimensions beyond sight and sound is trapped in to focusing on this tiny box. This small patchwork square of fabric that represents an infinitesimal portion of the universe. The TV is the metaphor for the trappings of this world. This life is very much just a TV show (or one big commercial). Why is it then that so many of us have become passive observers in this show? Oh sure...just like the TV world, there are those in this universe who write their own shows (and even the shows of others). But most of us are content to sit back and watch. Dial up some microwave pop corn while we watch the latest episode of fear tearing down the house that love built.

I think I'm going to go back to my policy of only watching the TV certain days (or ever just one day) of the week. If I catch up on my shows, great. If not, at least the rest of the week was fulfilling.  I know that this won't be easy.

But I'm equally certain that it will be a vital step in releasing the person I was meant to be.

Stay tuned to see what happens next !

-AT

5.03.2015

Insight

So, if you've seen Inside The Actor's Studio, you'll recognize these questions. They originated on a French talk show hosted by Bernard Pivot. It might be kind of a cop out, but I figure it's a bit of insight in to me. Perhaps I will expand each answer in to a separate post. Because, you know, I know you really want to see how fucked up my brainbucket really is.

Without further ado...

  1. What is your favorite word? Creativity
  1. What is your least favorite word? Nigger
  1. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? To know my work has inspired others to be creative.
  1. What turns you off? Mediocrity
  1. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck
  1. What sound or noise do you love? A child's laughter
  1. What sound or noise do you hate? The dentist's drill
  1. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Game show host
  1. What profession would you not like to do? Police Officer
  1. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? "No, I get it. About that whole Old Testament thing...I fucked up. Total dick move on my part."

There's probably a few tales here and there that would take me deeper in to each answer. The beauty of the show is that the guests don't really get to provide that much context to their answers either, unless James gives them the latitude to do so. Maybe I will just leave these here without context or backstory. It might be kind of fun. But knowing me, I'll dive in to each of them in turn at some point or another.

I'd love to go deeper now, but I have to be honest--I walked more today than I have in months. So my ass is dragging. I'm going to take it to bed now.

Peace out!
-AT



5.02.2015

Papa's Got a Brand New...Cliche?

Fans of the show* will know that I love bags. In the sense that I have a shit ton of them. And by love I mean that I have a shit ton of them. I don't know that it's actual love per se but it's at the very least abject consumerism.

I could blame Madison Ave. or the advertising powers that be, but the truth of the matter is, this one is all me. I'm not sure when it actually started, but I have this...thing. It's a quest, but not nearly as noble as that of Arthurian legend. No, this quest is to find the perfect bag. And case But it's not just a one-off thing. You see...there is the perfect bag for when I'm on a business trip. There's the perfect bag for everyday carting my MacBook to work and what not. And then...now that I have a Chromebook (which has become my go-to day to day electronic writing tool of choice), I need kind of a day bag for that, too. And by day bag, I mean old school messenger bag.

There are probably worse obsessions I could have. In fact I'm sure of it.

I went to the army/navy surplus store a couple months back looking for a messenger bag. I wanted something I could throw my Chromebook in and whatever else I might want to take with my on a walk Uptown to one of the various patio'd establishments. They had a 'laptop' bag. Heavy canvas. Padding for the notebook and enough pockets for other assorted shit I might need (or think I might need-you know how that is).  But I was stuck on the price. At the time I thought it was high.

Then I started looking on Amazon. And that rabbit hole took days. Who knew that the 'same' bag could be sold by 10 different vendors for varying degrees of price? I'm guessing they all used the same stock photo.

I settled on a vintage (or vintage style, rather) messenger bag. Thought it would be the right size. And I ordered it in Army Green because well...I have be Todd, don't I?

When I got it, it looked like this:


So...I liked the bag. Mostly. As you might be able to ascertain, it's not Army Green. Well...I mean, the strap is...so technically I guess that counts. And...for some reason, the bag is a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be. The Chromebook fit, but to put anything else it in t was almost a bit of a stretch. So there was a little buyer's remorse, but I was going to make it work. Because, well, I spent the money and I hate to return shit. So. Yeah. It wasn't perfect, but it was still pretty much what I and those who know me would call a 'Todd Bag.' 

I had it for 24 hours. Less than. And as I'm zipping the main section closed, I find that I'm holding the little tongue thing from the zipper. So...erm...yeah. It's closed. And I have the thing with which you work the zipper and no convenient way of zipping the inner section. 

I thought about making it work.  I thought about it on the way home. What it would take to keep using it. How it might add character and all the other bullshit you tell yourself when you don't want to do something. And the next thing I know I'm at the Army Navy Surplus store and it's 10 minutes before they close and I go right to where the canvas messenger bags are. I walk out with the laptop bag that was my first choice 2 months ago.

It looks a little (lot) like this:


WAY more of a Todd Bag. And just better built all around. Perhaps it has to do with India vs. China---not really sure.  But I was a happier Todd. And just like that the old bag went back to Amazon the next day.

So...I have to say I'm pretty stoked about this bag. Seriously. It's definitely close to my ideal messenger bag. I don't know if it's quite the perfect messenger bag or not, but it's pretty damn close.

AND....if you order now...we'll also throw in a wrinkle to the story!
Turns out my friend Juan Davide has a messenger bag that he has been telling me about damn near since a week after I met him. "T-Bone...it's a K-Swiss bag I got back in the day and it's a true messenger bag with pockets and shit everywhere....you could definitely rock the shit out of that bag."

For a while it was like the split screen in Donkey Kong. More myth than anything.

The other day I get a text. STOP BY AFTER WORK. I HAVE YOUR BAG

And I do...

And it's a thing of 80's awesomeness.

Behold:
The laptop fits in vertically. Everything else that I would likely need for a walk and write Uptown also fits.

So...now I have 2 nearly perfect Todd Messenger bags.

Which means...I have a shit ton of non-nearly-perfect bags available. If you need one, let me know.  I'll hook you up.

Now it's time to eat some grub.

Peace out
-AT

In The Bag

There are a few common threads throughout this blog if you read it long enough. One of these threads has to do with my obsession...er...ques...