Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hotel Life

Sal left not too long ago. It sucked. It definitely highlighted how tired I am of the hotel life.

I'm getting irritated at not being able to cook whatever I want to, when I want to.

I'm tired of hearing the AC unit kick on and off every 90 seconds.

I'm getting tired of the TV that always defaults to HLN, turns itself off on an auto-timer after 2 hours, and has sound going up and down while you're watching.

I'm getting really tired of paying $20 for 2 mbps internet and not being able to stream stuff from my favorite website.

I'm tired of listening to music from my phone speakers.

I'm just tired and I know Sal is too.

It especially hit when I got an email reminder of a few things I would need to get from Amazon to work from home. I was supposed to be able to go back to St. Louis this week, but some in person meetings were booked. I'll unfortunately be up here for the full 9 weeks. Only 4 to go.

Sal and I had a good time.

We sort of made up for all the time apart and did probably too much while she was here.

It's a shame that I'm feeling so tired of being here because the weather today is about perfect. 68 degrees, nice breeze, enough cloud cover to not burn, but enough sunshine to feel the warmth.

Only 29 days until I sleep in my own bed again. It's a mantra I repeat to myself every time I'm feeling lonely, frustrated, and isolated.

Hotel life definitely loses that glamour when you're living in a room for more than a couple days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dan's Big Day Out

A combination of exhaustion from being in the office, Blues games being scheduled for terrible times, and general apathy for being outside has kept my exploration in Madison to a minimum.

I went to the movies by myself once, I've got for a post work beer with a couple guys a few times, and I've hit all my favorite places from previous trips.

Well, Saturday my buddy Rob had house chores to do and a soccer game in the afternoon and Lacy scheduled a solid 4 hour nap, so I decided to have a Big Day Out.

Rob dropped me off at Johnson and Broom street and my more than 10 mile foot journey began.

It was basically the most perfect weather. Just enough cloud cover to never feel sun burnt, but just enough sun to never feel cold, and a great breeze carrying the lake mist across the land.

My original plan was to take an Uber from around here out to Karben4 brewing, but there was a race in town this weekend and my 15 minute Uber ride was estimated to cost around $30. Karben4 would have to wait.

First, I walked next to the lake to the east side of town to have a few pints at One Barrel Brewing. I arrived shortly after 11 am, right when they opened, and took a seat at the gorgeous wrap around bar. There were only two other people in the bar at the time.

I chatted the guy up who quickly noticed that I was wearing both a St. Louis Blues shirt and a Schlafly hat and called me out on my St. Louis uniform. I swear, I didn't plan it that way.

One Barrel is the type of neighborhood bar where you stop every Friday after work for a pint and catch up with the regulars. I really liked the atmosphere and can't wait to go back.

I ordered a pint and some swag, and soon my relative peace was over.

There's a documentary on Netflix called The Barkley Marathon: The Race That Eats Its Young. I haven't seen it yet, but the 25 bikers that swarmed the bar had, and created the Beerkley Marathon: The Race That Drinks Its Young.

Jess, who appeared to be the coordinator of the race, invited me to join them. She said the only qualification to join was wearing some sort of plaid... which as luck would have it, I changed into plaid shorts right before I left.

So she gave me a race number, 67, and explained the rules. The group was biking to every brewery in Madison that day, and at each brewery you had a beer you had to drink and a special objective you had to complete. The full list is below:

  • One Barrel: Barrel Roll - Roll something that no one else has rolled.
  • Ale Asylum: Seek Asylum - Find a tunnel and go through it.
  • Karben4: Karben 4-en Accents - Speak in a foreign accent the entire time at the brewery.
  • Next Door: Next Door Neighbor - You aren't allowed to pick up your own drink.
  • Great Dane: Man's Best Friend - Adopt a stranger and bring them to the next stop.
  • UW Terrace: Cool off on the Terrace - Use nature to cool down.
  • Vintage: It's Not Old, It's Vintage - Find something vintage
  • Rockhound: Rock Out - Karaoke a song that shouldn't be karaoked. 

Unfortunately for me, my marathon would be short lived since I didn't have a bike. 

After two pints at One Barrel, I wandered down the street to NextDoor Brewing.

Now my biking friends told me that NextDoor has the best cheese curds in Madison. That is a hefty claim because I've had some really awesome cheese curds here. 

They were right... the cheese curds were amazing.

On top of that, I ordered a flight with every beer they had. Usually breweries have 8-10 beers and pour like 3 ounce samples. Nope... not here, 11 samples were delivered to me... and I drank 'em.

With a belly full of cheese and roughly 5 pints, I walked to Brew & Grow a home brew shop, but I got distracted by a skate park across the street. I just stood there, taking in the breeze, watching some really amazing college kids pull off all sorts of tricks. 

After the skate park, I wandered through the east side of town, right to Wisconsin's State Capital. I still haven't taken the tour, but it's one of the most beautiful capitals I've seen. The building looks too clean and it sits on top of a hill, flanked on either side by Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. 

After that, I went to Earwax, a vinyl shop that specializes in Punk and Metal. I didn't find much, but I did find a special edition copy of No Doubt's Ska classic Tragic Kingdom. Then, I wandered into A New Hope comic book shop across the hallway and scored two Punisher comics signed by famed Marvel artist Jim Lee. 

Now, I was still feeling great about the day, I had some more podcasts to listen to, and you look at that map below and everything seems pretty close... so I walked back to Rob and Lacy's not realizing I was adding a solid 90 minutes to my walk. 

By the time I got back to their place, my feet hurt, my back hurt, my eyes were filled with dust and sunburned, and I needed a shower. 

I showered, napped, then woke up to watch the Blues beat the Sharks in game 5. 

What a day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Getting Stung

My friend Lacy is incredibly scared of bees, hornets, wasps. Like, obviously, no one really likes to be stung by any of them, but she has an innate terror the likes of which you don't often see outside of horror movies.

We were having a beer on her deck, enjoying a Friday afternoon and she showed me a hornets nest from the year prior that was built in their outdoor light. She basically said, if the hornet comes back this year, she's hiring someone to kill it with a flamethrower.

The ironic thing is, she just got stung for the first time ever a week prior on the bottom of her foot. She admitted it wasn't too bad, but then back tracked and thought maybe that's because it was on the part of the foot that is really tough. The anxiety is still there at the extreme levels it was before.

I've only ever been stung once too. The soccer fields by my house had thousands of those small yellow flower weeds and there were always tons of bees when games weren't going on.

On the other side of those fields were woods that me and my buddies used to play in. One time I went sprinting across the fields towards the woods where adventure awaited.

I didn't even realize what was happening. I thought it was a mosquito until I looked down and saw the bee still attached to my leg. I had those dumb kid thoughts like, "Hmmm, this sort of sucks. Should I react? Do I cry?"

I don't think I did much other than curse, which was something my friends and I had just started doing when no parents were around.

But anyway, this conversation reminded of a time back in third grade. I had this baseball coach I didn't like. He was always yelling at us, his son, his wife, just everyone. He was an angry bastard.

Well, this one game I remember being particularly tired, it was incredibly hot, and when you're on the baseball field and you feel hot and you're wearing those thick baseball pants that don't breath and that dust is getting kicked up... well, let's just say that's all my least favorite things in one experience.

So I'm angry, and I don't like my coach.

I'm sitting on the bench, my time to bat was still at least six or sever kids away. I'm just praying for some sort of relief.

Then, I see a wasp start working it's way up coach's leg. I raise my hand to get his attention and then I hear him grumbling as he looks at the batting order on the piece of paper in his hands. My hand went down, I watched as the wasp crawled up his shorts, and a few seconds later he got stung near ... well you know where near.

He swatted and started cursing and got really red in the face with how angry he was.

I was sort of a jerk as a kid. I think even if someone I didn't like was in the same situation now, I'd probably tell them... probably.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Two Weeks In

I'm about to finish my second week at the new job.

It's been tough for sure.

I really like the company. Actually, working in the office makes me wish I were closer to the office so I could go in there once or twice a week. It's a great loose atmosphere. People work outside on the new deck. Great free coffee is available to every employee. Premier league games are put on the TV Friday afternoons and everyone crowds around with their laptops to watch.

I even joined the brew club and have Sal bringing up a bunch of St. Louis beers for everyone to sample on the deck in a few weeks.

I sort of still don't believe it's a real place.

And Madison is beautiful. They really built the town around nature. There's paths through the woods, a geese rehabilitation nature preserve right outside my work, and it's just so green. The most important thing, almost no humidity still. I saw St. Louis was thick with 90% humidity, and I'm walking to work in gorgeous 70 degree weather with a light breeze.

But it's really hard being away from my home, my dumb cats, and especially my dumb wife.

Hotel life is hard. Hotels are one of my favorite things when it's for a couple days, but going on my second week, I'm tired of not having my own bed, hearing the noises of the other tenants, and fearing that the cleaning crew will bust in on any random Friday morning before I left.

My second night staying in the hotel, some jackass even pulled the fire alarm. We all had to file outside, in the cold, at 2:30 while the firefighters cleared the building. It's just that dumb college stuff I'm dealing with again, except now I'm older and more tired and know what it's like to have control.

I'm breaking the days up by meals and the weeks up by weekends. It's all I can really do.

It's also hard not being around the city while my Blues are doing so well. As much as I love watching the game with my buddy Rob on his couch, it just doesn't compare to being in a bar filled with people dressed in blue going nuts.

I actually might have some tension at work because the guy behind me is a Blackhawks fan, two of the guys I get along with are Penguins fans, and NBC loves to tell me that Madison is Wild country. I'm surrounded by people the Blues had to / will have to crush on the way to the finals.

Two weeks of nine are finished. That's almost 25% done. When you break it down like that, it really doesn't seem that long, but at the same time it feels like infinity.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let Me Earn Your Praise

Sal and I have a friend who is getting married. How do we know that? Well because she made a hashtag, and if you search for that hashtag she has six daily reminders that, "this is the last laundry day until my wedding," "last sandwich until my wedding," "last date as fiancees."

Now, someone excited for their wedding, no matter how much of the patience of their friends they are spending, is a good thing. But this person also wants all eyes on her for everything. She wanted a bachelorette party, a wedding shower, a housewarming party, and she even tried to set up a present unwrapping party for the day after the wedding.

I like when all eyes are on me. I love attention. I will gladly take control of a room and get everyone listening to my quips and stories.

But I like to earn it.

I've always had a hard time where all eyes are on me and I didn't do anything to earn it.

Like my birthday for instance, I've always hated the cake and song and opening presents while everyone watches. Yes, celebrate me! Yes, I love getting presents! But all I did was not die in the womb. Everyone's eyes should be on my mom while I open presents. Sing to her. That's sort of my ideal birthday.

Same thing for college graduation. I was going to go to college anyway. I looked at the roster, saw there were 600 people I didn't care about graduating at the same time, didn't recognize the speaker, and thought, "meh, I'd rather have free time."

Even my wedding, I had to win over Sal and by the time the wedding came along, I had already done that. Now everyone wants to congratulate me for what? Being attractive, funny, and locking things up?

And then I was awarded "Team Member of the Year" at my old job. I didn't realize I was signing up for exactly the thing I hated. I showed up in a button down and tie and soon saw everyone else decked out in suits and dresses, I heard the music hit, and realized... "uh-oh, I stumbled backwards into an award ceremony."

I guess what I'm saying is... only throw me parties if I've won the room over on my own? I don't know what the point of this really is. Just been hearing a lot about weddings and graduations today and it is really weird how different I feel about those situations than most people.

Edit: After giving this a second read, I think I realized the point of this was a humble brag about how awesome I am.

Friday, April 22, 2016


In elementary school, I was in the gifted kids program. Once a week I was shuttled off to the high-school where we did incredibly more interesting studies than we did at our normal schools.

Usually we would study something in history in the morning (middle ages, Greek mythology), do something language related around lunch (poetry, French), and something science related in the afternoon. (weather studies, engineering). 

The lesson plans were usually written out to last about 6 weeks before moving onto a new subject and typically at the end of the 6 weeks you had some sort of presentation to give. 

Well there was one time where we had to come up with an invention. 

Being the selfish video-game addict I was, I would get incredibly irritated anytime my mom vacuumed the living room and I was watching TV or playing a game. Not only do you have the noise from the vacuum, but with older CRT TVs you would get all the static fuzz on the image.

So my idea was some sort of vacuum muffler or insulation. Something to kill the noise and interference. 

Now, I'm an idea man. I've never embraced math or science. I tend to blame having really boring math teachers never gripping me in the studies. I remember really enjoying balancing equations, but that's about the end of my math love. 

Now, I also loved building LEGOs. So I had a sort of engineering / problem solving mind, but without the math background this never really matured. 

So... my idea, incredibly solid. My implementation... meh... maybe not as much.

I remember the two teachers telling me it would be hard, but as long as I tried, even if the invention failed, I would get a passing grade. 

We had to call places and ask them if that product existed as part of this. I called Sears and asked their home appliance department if they ever heard of a vacuum muffler. They sounded really confused for a moment and then said, "No, I don't think so, but if you figure it out, we would be really interested in that."

And then I ignored the project for the next four weeks until I had that panic grip me because I was never going to get this done.

So, idea man happened again. I figured I could use recycled materials and get a bonus for being environmentally friendly. (I also did not want to go to stores and figure out what material I would actually use for this.)

So how did I solve the problem? I cut (probably my mom actually) several gallon milk jugs in half, taped them together, and then spray painted this monstrosity red. Once the paint dried, I glued a ton of cotton you use to stuff pillows with to the inside.

Success bullet points:

  • It fit nicely over our vacuum.
  • There was a mild noise reduction to what I considered to be acceptable levels. 
Failure bullet points:
  • The vacuum got really hot since I essentially put a blanket over it.
  • Spray paint does not stick to milk jugs, so the red paint chips went everywhere in the classroom and on my hand.
  • Static was still an issue.
  • I lied, the sound reduction was not at an acceptable level.
So basically, if you need an idea or a brainstorming session, I'm your guy. If you need me to build something for you... you should really just call literally anyone else.

I did get a passing C+ since I did build something and it was a good idea, but my teachers knew this was a last minute and half baked idea.

And to be fair, the inventions that did work were really dumb rip-offs of things that actually exist. Come on Brandon, there are already utility belts you can wear that stores your tools. Don't be dumb. Just look at every handyman in the world. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Memory of Spencer

I had one of those insanely vivid dreams that I was on an adventure with a very old friend, and of course a stream of memories were accessed in my brain when I woke up this morning.

I just had one of those feelings that my brain was getting ready to purge this information for some new stuff, and I felt sort of sick to my stomach not having a memory of my friend Spencer.

Spencer and I hit it off in 4th grade, when during our scheduled restroom break, we were sitting cross-legged in the hall of the school. Most of my friends were in the other 4th grade class, so not being shy about just talking to whoever was around, I turned to the guy behind me, pointed at a roster for the 2nd grade class, and said, "there's a kid in that class named "I-ON." (Phonetically how I said it)

Spencer looked at the name, and looked me in the eye, and said, "You're an idiot. That's my brother. His name is Ian."

And that is how we started hanging out.

Spencer used to spend the night at my house fairly often, especially early on. We would spend nights drawing from comic books, drawing on huge pieces of paper, even drawing on my unpainted wall in my basement room.

I remember how he used to tell anyone that would listen, how great of an artist I was. He's honestly probably the reason I kept with drawing for a few more years.

I know Scully, my face exactly.
He'd often spend the night on Friday. I remember this because he had an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Andersen's (Scully) boobs.

After NYPD Blue showed a bare butt on TV (a dude's at that), Spencer was convinced that Scully's "bowling ball boobs" (his 4th grade words, not mine) would eventually be shown on TV. So every week, around Wednesday, he would start hyping up the Friday X-files by telling me his older brother heard this was the week.

It obviously never happened.

Side note: This may be where my love of red heads came from.

After we had been hanging out for a year or so, he started inviting me to spend the night at his grandma's house, but not his.

His grandma and grandpa were pretty well off. They would pick me up and take us to Mid-Rivers mall in their giant, leased SUV. Spencer's grandma would give him $30 to spend while we putz around the mall. I always thought Spencer was lucky to have so much money at his disposal.

We usually ate mall food (me Sbarro, him Chic-fil-a), comb through all the books at Walden's, usually buying a comic-book (me, Calvin and Hobbes if I had money, him Batman vs Predator), and then head back to his grandparents's really nice duplex around a lake.

Normally we would then play his grandparent's Gateway PC which was incredibly powerful
compared to any computer we had.

There was a largely forgotten game called Hunter Hunted that was our favorite, where one of us would play as a beast and one a man, and we would fight our way through a post-apocalyptic future together.

To this day, these warm memories usually have me loading the game onto my PC once a year to play through it.

We would fall asleep on the couch bed and every hour I was woken by an incredibly loud cuckoo-clock.

It was probably year 2 when I got my first invite to Spencer's actual house. Even then, I remember feeling really bad for him and his dad.

It was an ideal Bellefontaine Neighbors suburban ranch home, probably built in the 50's. It was down the street from a middle school, had fenced in yard, made of brick, and had a market on the corner.

Except that this house was on the western side of the town, near Glasgow Village and the river. White flight had already started in the area. The middle school had closed down from lack of kids. There were 10 houses on sale and not taken care of in the area. I remember how the street used to shimmer under street lights from all the broken glass.

And Spencer's dad... he was the man I really felt for. He had a 900 square foot house, filled with five children. He worked long hours, 5 in the morning until 7 at night from what I understood. Some sort of manual labor. He would come home, pass out fast food to everyone, and sit to watch TV.

He was nice, never hit anyone, but he did have a temper. He was too tired to really pay attention to the kids, so instead he would yell for them to do things.

I remember eating pancakes off a plastic plate at Spencer's one morning and the pancakes tasted like soap. Spencer's dad flipped out yelling at Spencer, "I told you to rinse all the soap off of the dishes when you're done cleaning them." We all sat in silence eating our soapy pancakes.

I think the worst I felt for Spencer's dad is even though he had all the kids, Spencer's mom got them in the summer and she got to be a superhero. All the kids couldn't wait to go out to Arizona where there were no rules.

Every year, when Spencer was coming back from his mom's, excitement built again. I couldn't wait for nights filled with games and comic-books.

Then one year he came back. I rode my bike to his house, and we started walking to our favorite market to buy candy. He pulled out a cigarette. This must have been before 7th grade. I felt a sea change.

He offered me one, I said no. Then he got antagonistic, "Oh, I guess you're too good for me now. You think I'm a piece of crap for smoking don't you?"

Despite me answering no, something had changed. We both knew it. We got some candy, made some small talk, and this is the last time I remember hanging out with Spencer. I was at a different school now, we were both at different places in our life. It's one of those friendships where a coming of age film could be based off of it. It was probably a few years too short, but I really appreciated having it at all.

I saw Spencer once, maybe six years later, at Jamestown mall. He looked exactly as his older brother looked back then. Him, just stretched longer, some stubble on his upper lip, wearing a Charlotte Hornets Starter Jacket.

I think about Spencer every now and then. I think because it was such a short friendship, I don't have as many stories about him so he doesn't come up as often. I hope he's doing OK.