Friday, April 29, 2011

The Musician without Rhythm

I always wanted to be a singer in a rock band. I never planned on playing guitar at all. There's reason for this, I have no natural rhythm whatsoever.

With singing, you can feel the music, take your cues from the drums and bass. There's a rhythm built for you. It was a hump I never really got over. I wrote some great lyrics. I'd stumbled through some interesting enough guitar parts, but I just couldn't put them together.

I started playing guitar as a way to have accompaniment (it's weird to see someone just singing by them self) and to have something to do during the parts of the song where there isn't any singing.

Like the thousands of other people in high school, I played guitar decent enough. There were always talks of starting a band and inevitably the bands would fall apart sometime after the first practice.

By the time I got to college I would say I was proficient. The problem being, I had no time to play guitar and there were thousands of other guitarists more proficient than me. I almost didn't play a single chord the last year of college until recently.

Work has been tough lately and one day at my bursting point I picked up my guitar and just started hitting chords as hard as I could. By the end of the day, my fingers burned. Calluses that had become soft were raised from my skin and the stress seemed to be gone from my body.

Over the past month I've been playing something like five hours of guitar a week. As much as I would still love to be a rock star, I still just don't have that natural rhythm. I have enough to get me by, and my voice is decent enough, but I doubt I'll ever play in front of a 3,000 person crowd. The few college classes that I played in front of will probably be the largest crowd I ever stand in front of, but I got a hell of a lot farther than most those guitar players at my high school.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Canoe Away for True Happiness

The past two weeks of work have been one of those disgustingly busy times where you go into auto-pilot mode. You're knocking things out as they come and doing a great job. You never really feel rested. You have trouble sleeping from your caffeine induced alertness. You know that you can get through it, as long as no curve balls come your way.

Today, I got smacked in the face with a fast curve ball as I logged into my email.

A fix for an issue we've seen over the past few weeks had been passed around between various help desks. It was one of those unwritten fixes everyone knew. I documented this fix to make sure no one messed it up, and hell fire rained down from there. I don't want to go into the details because I don't like to talk specifics of work, but I spent the rest of the day trying to recover and prove my innocence.

It's a three day weekend for most of the employees because the market is closed for Good Friday, which means highly stressed brokers trying to get last minute things finished before all the support groups leave. Which means they are short-tempered and willing to tear anyone that will listen down. It seemed like everyone was in this mood.

After a day like today, I lean back in my chair and close my eyes and try to think of my happy place.

For some reason the first thing that pops into my mind is me, by myself in a canoe, in the middle of a lake. I'm not sure if I've actually ever been to this lake. It seems familiar but I can't quite place it.

I'm surrounded by the tallest trees, all of them draped with Spanish Moss. The air is thick in pollen and flowers, but my allergies are just fine.

I lay back in the canoe, reach behind me into a cooler, and grab one of the coldest beers imaginable. My legs hang over either side of the canoe and my feet dangle into the refreshing water. The sun shines on my body and the only shadow cast is that caused by the smile on my face.

Then the phone rings and I'm back at work, the computer monitors are my prison walls and the wireless headset is just a pseudo freedom. I'm still very much chained to my desk.

Speaking of Spanish Moss, there's an Against Me! song called "Spanish Moss" that is exactly about getting away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fallout Shelter

When I moved to the city, there was a Cold War remnant I had never seen before.

Large government and public buildings had radioactive signs hung outside the door indicating that that building was a fallout shelter. This is the one on the school down the street from me.

I walk a lot in my area and I really started to notice more and more how many of these buildings exist. I start to think about the era. I've never really had to worry about nuclear bombs falling. I only saw U.S.S.R. printed on globes until 2nd grade. I've never worried about a country, so similar to my own, that we knew we had to be protected from them.

I also think about how likely it is that you would be able to make it to a shelter in time to survive a nuclear bombing. To me, it almost seemed like a false sense of security. Yes, I guess if you weren't at the epicenter of where the bomb was dropped, you have a little bit of time to get to a shelter before radioactive fallout started raining from the sky.

But that's a big if.

I know the threat was real, but I think there was a false sense of security. In the back of the minds of people in charge and in the military, they sort of knew that because we had nuclear missiles, Russia wasn't going to launch. It was basically going to be a standoff or total world destruction, and no matter what the propaganda said on either side, neither country was that evil.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bring Out the Zamboni

And then the lights went low at Scott Trade. The fans filed out to their cars wiping excited tears from their eyes. The season was over, but they hungered for next season. The building is now empty of the echoes of screaming fans.

Sure there will be Bon Jovi and Josh Groben over the summer, but 24,000 people wearing their blue and yellow proudly feed the building an energy it hungers for in the off season. It's an energy that the biggest band in the world couldn't match.

The fans stayed through all of the struggles in January, and we rejoiced together during the high times.

It was a fight being down Perron, Oshie, Jackman, McDonald, and Steen for large portions of the season, but the Blues managed to keep a respectable level of play even with a roster of seemingly all minor league players.

There was the heartbreak of having Marek Svatos and Kyle Wellwood snatched on waivers when the Blues really could've used their talent.

It was a surprise to see Eric Johnson, the hailed future superstar of the Blues, traded to Colorado with Jay McClement for Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk. We traded Boyes, Brewer, and Winchester. We're likely to lose Conklin over the off-season. The team doesn't look nearly the same as it did back in September.

David Backes has hit a career high in points, tied his career high in goals, and has become a leader that will most likely be wearing a "C" on his jersey next year.

Chris Stewart picked up his goal scoring production the moment he put on a Blues jersey, and if he can keep up this pace, will be a potential 45 goal scorer next year.

Next year will be a differnt team. Every though we've said it several years in a row, I truly believe we finally have the makings of a playoff ready team. So for this year, yes, the Blues join 13 other teams, in not making the playoffs. But Lord Stanley's Cup will be there next year, danging like a carrot in front of a hungry horses mouth.

So bring out the Zamboni, I'll see you in 2011-2012 St. Louis Blues.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Learning to be a Man

There's a definition of what a man is that was born out of the early 1900s which was in turn a screw on the definition of what a man was before.

He's the provider. Fixed things around the house. He hunts. He fights. He's a big flesh sack of testosterone.

Well, technology has sort of wussified that definition of a man. Nowadays a man doesn't need to hunt his food. Many guys just get a good job and buy their food. They can pay people to change their oil. Instead of trying to take the pipes under the sink apart and figure out the clog themselves, they call a plumber first.This is the sensitive, suburban, male.

I started out as one of these guys, but I feel I'm slowly morphing into more of the old style male.

I was never into sports. I liked going to Cardinal games as a kid. I always had a special love for the Blues. I've never been able to hang with the stat slinging, beer drinking, backwards hat wearing sports nut... until now. Hockey is my sport and the Blues are my love affair.

I've had incredibly bad luck with cars. This is part of the reason that I drive a scooter and haven't tried to get a car. Mine will always break at the worst time. It's always when I send in that last payment on the car and POW! transmission falls out the bottom.

Well, I've had such bad luck with cars that I've learned how to do a lot of things on my own. My dad did some good basic prep work, but fixing a car is one of those things that you can't learn, until something goes wrong. I've learned how to change a tire, clean the air filter, install a new battery, headlight, fuse, change the oil, and fill all of the fluids. Now, this is all mostly easy maintenance, but if I asked five of my peers how to do any of this, four of them would stare at me blankly.

Owning a house has also taught me a great deal, such as, when you own a house, you don't have any free time.

I remember my parents always doing cleaning or yard work on the weekends, but it always seemed like they would at least get a little free time. Maybe Sunday, there were no plans. I never felt like they were constantly catching up on issues and chores like I am. I probably was busy living in my own world to really notice, but now that I'm in the thick of things, I understand where the phrase, "There just aren't enough hours in a day" comes from.

I'm constantly cleaning, fixing, or installing something. I'm glad I work from home now because I spend most of my lunch breaks doing chores. I do have a little more free time now, but man, it still doesn't seem like enough.

I guess the point of this little ramble is, I am learning to be a "man" as best I can. There was a running joke in Calvin and Hobbes that there was a manual on how to be a father. This magical manual gave you all the information you'll ever need to know. Well, I'm not good at learning from a book. I have to be shown how to do things. But I've been able to get the ladder out and attack most problems with a screw-driver and hammer in hand.

There are a few "man" things I still need to learn. If anyone knows how or can hook up the activity, let me know cause I need all the help I can get.

Man things:
-Shoot a gun
-Fix back kitchen window. (Don't have a tall enough ladder and just haven't been able to get it to work.)
-Clean a carburetor on a Honda scooter
-Get my lawn to grow thick and even
-Build a fence and 2 gates
-Get into a bar fight defending someone's honor
-Find the most incredibly illegal and dangerous firework ever, keep a lighter in my possession, drink 4-6 beers, and see what happens.
-Go camping in a situation where a crossbow is necessary
-Rescue orphans from a burning building
-Wear a cowboy hat as an accessory to a formal event

Basically I need to be a combo of Burt Reynolds and John Wayne.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Proposition E Passes

So the one ballot initiative that I cared about yesterday did pass and I made the mistake of going to the Post Dispatch's website to look at the comments.

I do this from time to time because I want to see reasons why certain people vote one way or another, and by the time I was done reading the comments I wanted to throw a brick through a window.

First: What is Prop E?
Prop E is the 5 year extension of a 1% tax on any residents and commuters that work within the city of St. Louis or Kansas City. This money is used for police, firefighters, parks departments, and road crews.

Its a very important tax for anyone that uses either downtown.

But the comments were astounding.

Most the complaints were people that lived in Clayton, St. Charles, Ofallon saying that they shouldn't have to pay for those utilities for the city, when they already pay for them in their area.

Why should I, who lives in Clayton, have to pay a city tax because my job happens to be downtown?

OK, that's a fair point. But let's look at it this way.

Who makes up most of the crowd at Cardinal, Rams, and Blues games? Suburbanites and out of towners.

Who makes up most of the crowds at the Zoo, History Museum, Art Museum, City Museum, Fox Theater, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra? Suburbanites and out of towners.

What is the first thing you do with people coming in from out of town? Bring them downtown, show them the arch, Forest Park, and maybe take them to a ball game.

Maybe you go out of your way to eat at Crown Candy, Schlafly, or visit the brewery. All of those places are within the city limits.

St. Louis and Kansas City are relatively cheap compared to other cities. If Proposition E was shot down, there would be other ways to raise the money. Sales tax would increase, toll booths could be set up, sin taxes could be initiated... this is what other cities have done to make this money.

At least with Proposition E, the people paying the tax are the ones that use the downtown areas most often, those that live there and those that work there.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vote of Die!

Ahhh, election day in St. Louis. The sun is shinning. The birds are chirping. The temperature is a crisp 38 degrees.

Yes, I woke up to be one of the proud 10% of registered voters to turn out today.

This is actually my first election in St. Louis. Through some processing error, they were unable to get my registered to vote for the Barack Obama election, but somehow requested my presence for jury duty only two weeks later.

This actually has bearing on most of St. Louis. This vote today determines if that 1% commuter and resident tax for the city stays in place. I bet if people paid attention to that, we would have a turnout closer to 35%.

I guess voting was made easier since my polling place was at the school on the corner of my street. I woke up, ate a donut, and walked up to vote.

Anyway, it was a quick vote. Four things were on the ballet, 2 of which were uncontested, and the 3rd might as well have been. (Democrat vs a Green party member. Wish they had a chance, but I just don't think so.) And the 1% tax issue.

I tried to look up information about the candidates, but I couldn't find anything. Really the only literature I found was a bill-board for an alderman not in my area. But Gus, I would've voted for you if I had the option. Everyone else, I found nothing. Not even a Facebook or Linked in profile. No government pages. And I didn't see election covered on the Post Dispatches website until this morning.

I wandered into the gym to find eight volunteers, several of whom were munching on huge bags of spicy chips. Did the electronic voting, which was hella easy. And was out of there within five minutes. I had set aside 15-20 minutes for the whole thing, but had only spent seven minutes walking there and voting.

So I walked the long way home, enjoying the beautiful crisp jacket weather one last time before the humidity rolls in and makes the next four months an un-enjoyable, baseball filled, allergy ridden, hell.