Saturday, January 24, 2015

Record Stories and Shopping with a Vomit Inducing Ending

I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriously, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends. - Almost Famous

Every now and then, Sal and I will take $20 out of the ATM and dive into the dusty archives of a used record store.

It's getting harder to find the wish list records as they become popular again. Things like Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, The Ramones, Wilco, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd are having their prices inflated beyond $30 an album. 

Part of our record shopping rules is that we refuse to spend over $20 unless it's a special edition or one of the holy grail records. 

Following this rule, we made a successful run getting Carly Simon's "No Secrets," Cat Stevens "Catch Bull at Four," The Who "Live at Leeds," and John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Double Fantasy" for roughly $21 at the Slackers in Columbia last weekend. 

Another rule with record shopping is that they cannot be put into the Peaches crate until we've listened to it, making sure that we never skip a record. We spent roughly 6 hours playing records last Sunday while cooking and screwing around on the internet. It's probably my favorite way to spend Sunday.

One of our unwritten rules is that if there is writing on the slip cover, we grab it. We have an ELO record that says "blank + Sue Haegle heart, true love." The blank is a scratched out name, obviously a love that wasn't to be. But that handwriting on the record means there was a story. It means this record meant enough to someone that they would declare love or "best friends forever" in the margins. To me, it makes the record just a bit more valuable. 

We went to Vintage Vinyl today with Sal's parents to rummage through their stacks.

I like how Vintage Vinyl does it. They know all the cool, hipster kids are going to wander in and find their Radiohead records and gladly pay $30. But if you're willing to dig through the $2.99, unorganized milk crates, that's where you earn great music.

Last year we found Queen's live record in there. Today Sal found a great "Doo-wop" compilation album, featuring "It's My Party" by Leslie Gore.

It's not often we have the time or money to flip through the records, but when we do, we take full advantage.

Storage of our records has always been a head scratcher for us. Ideally, we would have the giant bookshelves built into the wall where you could flip through our hundreds of records easily, sit in the giant leather chair sipping a cocktail, letting the music wash over you while admiring the alphabetized history lesson.

We inherited a Peaches crate where roughly 100 of our records live and like it. It's still a thing sitting on our floor, but it looks legit. The other 50 records we have live in a milk crate, which looks much less classy.

The Peaches crates soak up history in the wood fibers. Decades of dust, pot smoke, tears, smiles, shag carpeting, lead paint; all of this lives in Peaches crates.

We've had our eyes out at flea markets and record stores for additional Peaches crates without luck. I was beginning to think all the crates were made in the 70's and the world's supply was running low. That was until a faithful internet search (during the 6 hour listen-a-thon last week) I discovered and someone bought the rights to the Peaches name and still makes the crates in multiple sizes.

I would still love to find a crate out in the wild, but I think at some point soon, Sal and I will probably just order a new one and start caking it with our own dust. Maybe under one of the boards, I'll gouge deeply in pen, "Dan heart Sal = Forever." And when I'm long and dead, some other kid is going to discover the benefits of listening to a record in the track order it was meant, and as they lay on the floor hearing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, they look at their prized Peaches crate, and make up a story of their own about Sal and Dan. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions are interesting as they are something we promise to do in the new year, which is an amount of time that humans created. Basically, we split up the passage of time based on this glowing gas ball and our rotation around it, and once in every 365 times we move around that gas ball, we say, "I'm going to make myself better in the next year."

Most of the time, we fail. According to Forbes, only 8% of New Years resolutions are kept.

I can proudly say, that in 2014, I completed mine. I wanted to brew 12 beers in 12 months and I did it. My last beer came off the fire on December 30, 2014.

I want to continue my trend of being in this 8% in the new year.

In 2015, I want to accomplish 2 things.

1. Give a donation to 12 podcasts I've been listening to for free.
2. Volunteer to work 20 hours of some sort of charity or community service work.

The first one is relatively easy as most the podcasts I listen to are funded almost exclusively by donations. Next time This American Life or The Moth asks for money, I'll throw $10 to them. Actually, we already have accomplished one of our 12 by giving money to fund a season 2 of our favorite podcast, Serial.

The second one is only slightly harder. Wells Fargo will actually give me paid time off to volunteer. It's something I wish I would've taken advantage of last year. But things get busy, I don't have a car, and I just don't know where to start. Next thing you know, it's 2015. So this year, I'm determined to work for my community whether that means working in a soup kitchen or helping in a community garden, I'm going to do it.

So here's to the new year. I hope everyone finds peace and makes life for them and others just a little bit better.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Four years ago, I gave you all the complete history of Christmas according to Dan.
I covered the history of Santa and his buddy Black Peter, the history of the Christmas tree and lights. This year, I thought I'd bring back that post, with some more classic traditions and terms and explain their history.

Yule Tide/ Yule Log
Yule Tide is basically an old word for Christmas. The Yule Log however... well, it's what it sounds like. It's traditionally a large log burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve in Europe. This, like most Christian traditions, appears to have come from the Pagan tradition where there was a fire-festival to celebrate the winter solstice.

It seems the log is still burned fairly regularly in Europe, but in North America, it's been replaced by the Yule Log channel. It's a 2-4 hour video loop for a fire with Christmas music playing in the background.

Now if we could only get TV's that has smell-o-vision, we would have the full experience.

Chestnuts Roasting

Most likely, we all know Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire as one of the most classic Christmas songs created. Nat King Cole really nailed that feeling of sitting around the Christmas tree in your pajamas, watching a fire on Christmas Eve. But what does this mean? Is this one of Nat's family traditions? A marketing ploy by the evil Chestnut Growers Association of America?

The few articles discussing this seem to agree that this tradition started in mountainous regions where cereal grains couldn't grow. Like present day humans, who undo 11 months of dieting and working out by stuffing every sweet baked good offered into our mouths, chestnuts become sweet when they are roasted. Thus, these people just wanted a sweet snack around the holidays.

Elf on a Shelf

A relatively new tradition, parents position an elf around the house every night in order to keep their kids in line.

This was inspired by a book written by Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell, and Satan himself. It's all about teaching children to give into Big Brother, and you'll be rewarded with Capitalist gifts. Just make sure you stay in line, otherwise Darth Elf will kill your parents.

I'm not the only one who thinks those blank, souless eyes are creepy. There's an entire Pinterest board dedicated to him being creepy. Tumbler is filled with Elf on a Shelf having sex with Barbies, murdering GI Joe, and writing creepy messages in sugar. In fact, just search "Elf on a Shelf Creepy" returns 426,000 results on Google as of 12/22/14.

Leaving Cookies and Milk for Santa

No one appears to know exactly when this started, but most people reference children leaving hay and treats for Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse, in hopes that the duo would stop to rest and leave treats for children.

Now it's an excuse for parents already high on ham and eggnog to cram a couple of cookies into their gullet, always leaving at least one half eaten cookie on the plate.

Some children would leave carrots for the reindeer as well and it wasn't until I was older that I linked having some sort of roast with carrots a few days after Christmas as the way to get rid of those carrots.

Christmas Caroling

I haven't had carolers to my house in nearly two decades, but I know it still happens. In fact, my cousin and his buddies have a few beers and spread holiday cheer to the suspecting neighborhood every year.

Pagans used to sing and dance for various rituals. The Winter Solstice has traditionally been December 22nd, so singing songs of praise that the days were going to get longer became tradition. Christians eventually took this idea, put a lot of Christ into the pagan songs, and took them as their own.

Christmas Cards

In the true spirit of marketing and Christmas being tied together, the Christmas card was thought up by Sir Henry Cole, who wanted to figure out a way to get the average person to use the post office.

He came up with the Christmas Card with John Callcott Horsley in London in 1843.

Now, any number of services will print up a collage of pictures of you and your dumb pets with the entire story of the past year on the back. These can be most often seen covering up refrigerators until January 3rd, where they are promptly stacked several inches high, and thrown in the trash can. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sitting Around the Radio

With how busy Sal and I were this year and how much traveling we did, we bonded over several podcasts. These were the ones that I would see downloaded in my app and ignore for several days knowing that we were headed for Chicago, Columbia, Rolla, or Madison. 

There were some old standbys that have tapered off like Hollywood Babble-on, but there are some that have become such favorites that we don't talk to each other until the end of each episode like The Moth or WTF. 

There's only been one podcast that has us hooking the phone up to to speakers while we sit around, staring at the radio like kids waiting for an Ovaltine advertisement between the Lone Ranger episodes.

That podcast is Serial. You've probably heard of it. It's the number one podcast in the world right now.  It's a story, told weekly, much inspired by famous documentaries like Thin Blue Line and pulp stories of the 50s. 

It's a look at a crime that took place in 1999, a teenager that might have been wrongly convicted, and all of the witnesses, jurors, and evidence (sometimes lack thereof) that lead to Adnan Syed being imprisoned. 

I love mysteries. And in an increasing environment where half the country doesn't trust the justice, this podcast was due to catch fire. 

I started listening to Serial without Sal. But after six or so episodes, I needed a ringer. Sal has this annoying ability (she gets it from her mother) to solve a mystery within 15 minutes of starting the movie. I thought for sure, she would hear a piece of evidence I missed and Sal and Dan would be famous detectives, doing the talk show circuit with Sarah Koenig, because we had solved the case much of the world could not. 

Over the past 13 weeks, we've listened to the weekly episode. Discussed in depth the topic of the episode. We changed our opinion multiple times. I've re-listened to every episode 3 times. Scoured Reddit and Facebook for more information and fan theories, always wanting more.

Around week 8, I realized since Adnan was still in jail and no retrial had happened. We weren't going to find out the solution to this mystery. I was worried that I had dedicated all of this time to this story and there wouldn't be a satisfying conclusion.

The final episode was this week, and surprisingly it was a satisfying conclusion. No, we did not find out who actually committed the murder, but what we did find out was significant evidence went un-used, Adnan's lawyer might have been losing it a little, and the jurors seemed significantly misinformed. 

If nothing else, Adnan was not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he committed a murder, and thus, we hope this goes to retrial.

We donated a few dollars to have season 2 created. This podcast has pulled us in far more than any television show or film or videogame has since we've been married. I cannot wait to see what topic they tackle next year. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Words Don't Work

In recent years, I've felt my brain getting weaker.

My memory is shot for things like, "What actor was in that movie?" I rely on Google, the world's most powerful search engine, always available in the palm of my hand to feed information.

But after last night, it really hit home. I have all of these emotions and feelings and I have no way to express them. The city I love is in flames, divided, and I feel I can't elegantly describe anything.

Of course, both sides have their knee-jerk people who all of a sudden have degrees in Law, Sociology, and American history.

Some want to answer centuries of racism and oppression by shooting "all those hood rats." I'm not kidding, multiple people on my Facebook feed had this as the answer.

Some believe a prayer will bring peace. Unfortunately in this instance, we need to not only pray for peace, but we have to pray for a solution to the problem.

On the other side, I have friends that are happy and excited that police cruisers are being burned. They discuss times of police corruption ignoring that evidence is available for the public's eyes to see. Ignoring that if the Grand Jury was unable to get 9 members to vote for indictment, there was no way a unanimous decision would be found if the trial went further.

And this is where teenage Dan comes into conflict with adult Dan. When I was a kid, I was moody like most. But I had a sense of purpose. I didn't just hole up in my room listening to sad music. I was a man of action.

I knew things were bad in the country in 2003. This was when I first started paying attention to the 24 hour news cycle.

And when I was punk rock Dan, there were times I believed that a brick through a Starbucks window was the only way to get things changed. My philosophy was, "things are so bad, we have to burn it all down so we can truly start over."

And then last night I saw looting at mom and pop convenience stores. I saw Little Caesar franchises burning down. I saw people warming their hands over burning cars at a dealership.

And I couldn't figure out what this accomplished.

A major reason for the severe disparity between say West County and North County is the unemployment rate and pay scale.

As thousands of people left the older, northern, suburbs in the 80's and 90's for larger houses and greener grass out in western Missouri, jobs started moving too.

And thus, those that once were in the city and finally scraped up the money to move to the suburbs, to give their kids a better life, found a mostly abandoned neighborhood where there were no jobs or enough tax money for the school system to run properly.

The cycle continues of unemployment, people turning to crime to feed themselves, dropping out of school because why go when the school isn't teaching you anyway. I saw it many times over in Myrtle Beach. 17-year-old kids left behind by the world, relegated to a live fast, die young world.

So why would destroying businesses that remained in your community help?

I was excited when people were starting to address the segregation that exists in St. Louis. I imagined that some public figure would step up like Martin Luther King Jr. and lead successful peaceful protests. I imaged a scene, much like this one. And I was honored that it was going to happen in St. Louis.

I looked forward to marching with my neighbors and possibly fixing some of the underlying issues for all the hate.

Instead, my neighborhood burns. Silhouettes highlighted by the senseless fires of a few people that want to take advantage of a situation. People ruining their community and reputation for some hair products and snack food.

And the camera's love it. The "leaders" coming in from out of town on both sides of the debate, just here to stir the pot and see themselves on television again. We feed the 24 hour newscycle. Reddit is filled with constant postings about safety when visiting St. Louis. We will not recover from this for many years to come.

Then again, maybe we haven't earned the right to recover from this.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Rules of Attraction

There's a lady I collaborate on projects with fairly often. We have enough of a rapport that we can usually get a hours worth of work done in 40 minutes and then we spend 20 minutes dishing.

I told her about the week we were having. Lot's of drama, long days, and flat tires.

I was telling her about it because it was like a movie. It was comedic. She laughed for a moment and then said, "Dan, you have dark energy in your life. You have a great perspective on everything, but the amount of negative stuff that happens to you is wrong. You have to change your energy."

She went on to tell me that I need to put rose quartz under my bed because it attracts love and positive energies. She also told me to get the house cleansed with sage and to watch The Secret.

Humoring her, I did watch The Secret on Netflix. It's corny. There's a lot of famous quotes thrown on the screen while someone whispers the words in the background. There's a guy with his shirt half unbuttoned talking about how he kept envisioning that he would have a better car, and soon he did.

It's really a bunch of rich Californians dreaming of big houses, beautiful women, and fast cars. BUT... the main message is solid.

If you put out positive vibes, you'll attract positive vibes.

Instead of being pissed in traffic on your way to work, focus instead on the podcast you're listening to or how good your coffee is. Think of it as a way to have some leisure time before work. Or just envision being at work and sort of block out the traffic.

I've been trying this since Thursday of last week. Just trying to send out positive vibes. And guess what, I had one of the best, most relaxing weekends I've had in a long time.

On Friday, I spent time with Brett and Rosie. We had some killer Pasta Carbonara and prepared some bottles for one of my new brews. Saturday, a bunch of us got together to watch the Blues game at Southtown Pub. We had great barbecue, had delicious beer, watched a Blues win, and some got up for Karaoke.

And today, we woke up at our own pace, went to Steinberg Skating Rink, and for the first time since my injury, I ice skated in the snow while listening to some Floyd blasting from the speakers. And it felt good and natural. I'm hooked again. I couldn't skate backwards very fast and I couldn't do a hockey stop, but I had speed and control going forward. The other's will come back as soon as muscle memory kicks in.

So, the positive vibes and stuff might not have actually caused the greatness of the weekend. But, I figure if nothing else, it's good to throw positive vibes out in this messed up world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Hamster Wheel

It's been a rough month financially. Between the roof stuff, my computer crapping out, the trip to Phoenix, and Sal having to rotate every week between going to the dentist and doctor, we've been tapped out.

When I've discussed finances with those that have been in the adult world longer than us, we most often hear the same thing, "You will always be in debt."

That sounds crazy and wrong on so many levels. It's like being stuck on a hamster wheel. Like I was only shooting for a better paying job, to get a bigger house, a newer car, a better cable package and keep the debts managed. If there was no end in sight, why would I wake up at 7 every morning to clock in.

It sometimes made me want to drop Netflix, sell our car and take public transportation, and move into a one bedroom apartment.

There have been many times where I wished we didn't own a home. I hate doing the yard work. I hate seeing the house projects that need to be done. I get anxiety thinking about selling the place in 5-10 years knowing that there are big ticket items I need to fix first.

The tax deduction and the equity we're building on the house don't seem to equal the amount of money and time we put into it. (Yes, I put a financial value on my time often to figure out if things are worth it)

There's often a part of me that would rather have pay $250 less a month on utilities and mortgage than owning a house. At least then, we could put that money toward the car or student loans.

But, there was a conversation I had recently that gave me the warm fuzzies inside.

A lady I work with has a similar story to ours. She turned 40 this week and said, "I would never want to go back and relive my 20's or early 30's."

She set up her story by explaining that she had a similar job, similar student loans, and similar debt.

She's now 40, her debt is paid off, she owes a little on her house, and she is able to go basically anywhere and do basically anything whenever she wants to.

She told me that they bought a house within their means, they struggled for 10 years with debt, but kept pushing, and now that she's 40, she's having the time of her life.

That gives me hope. Instead of being told the doom and gloom of, "You will always be in debt" I was told, "you have some great times ahead of you."