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Sep. 8th, 2009

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Obama's Speech to Students

There's a lot I could write about my feelings about the people who wouldn't allow their children to listen to Obama's speech today. But I won't...

All I will say is that those children missed out on a valuable message about personal responsibility and taking charge of one's own life; about never giving up; and about achievement through hard work and perseverance.

As one who fights on the front lines of this issue everyday, let me say that students can never hear this enough, and The President of The United States is a perfect spokesman regardless of political affiliation.

The students that I work with every single day are surrounded by examples of passing the buck and playing the victim and it has become their common mantra. How refreshing to hear someone tell them that they are the ones ultimately responsible and not their parents, teachers, or friends.

In the end, each one of us should be held accountable for what we accomplish and what we don't.

Narrow mindedness and ignorance know no political or social boundary. The same can be said for a well thought out message or a well supported argument.

Fear, hatred, and volume should never trump logic and respect.

Wish that were being taught in school, at home, on TV, and on Capital Hill. Sigh...

Now back to our originally scheduled program already in progress...

Jul. 13th, 2009

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

I'm only happy when it rains

So I played Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill on Saturday night. Driade has a special place in my heart because it's the venue that I've been playing at the longest since I moved down here to North Carolina. Saturday night was the 9th summer that I performed on the Driade outdoor stage. For longtime readers of this blog, you know that gigs at Driade can be a bit dicey. The summer weather in North Carolina is somewhat unpredictable, and the venue itself is not a typical music venue.

Caffe Driade is set off a main road in Chapel Hill, but feels like it's in the woods. The building is tiny, cement, and sports a copper or tin roof. There are about seven 2 person tables inside and all the rest of the seating is outside the front or the back of the building.
Driade's clientele are various Chapel Hill hipsters, and the widely varied groups intermingle and mix quite well.
The stage is a 6 inch raised deck that is otherwise used for more seating. There are no standing lights other than a string of lights along the lip of the deck so that people don't fall and injure themselves in the dark.
Performance stage lighting consists of 2 ancient light boxes that each contain 2 colored lights in them. Some might call the space 'Spartan', but I would call it 'rustic'. You set up your PA, balance the light boxes at jaunty angles on chairs and get rocking.

So, Saturday night was pretty perfect. It was warm, but not too hot by NC standards. The forecast called for rain on Sunday, but Saturday night was going to be clear.

I took the stage at 8:00 with my iced mocha, the coffee at Driade is excellent, and kicked the night off with Burlington. On Saturdays, the music runs from 8:00-11:00, and the real crowd usually shows up after 9:00, so I played a few covers and some of my less show-stopper tunes. The crowd wasn't that great, but I was doing okay. Just after 9:00, I decided to take a break and pulled out Bad Dog to close out the first set. I was halfway through the song and making a mental note to readjust the light boxes so I could actually see where the frets were on my guitar, when I heard a strange rumbling/train noise rushing in our direction. The sitting to my right threw up their hands and looked at the sky before toppling their chairs backwards and hurrying for cover.

THEN THE RAINS CAME.

This was no summer shower or passing sprinkle, this was a cascade of water out of the heavens. It was like God's housekeeper opened up the back door to heaven and dumped out the mop water she'd been using to clean the kitchen floor. It took me about 5 seconds to realize what was going on. I continued to play for several measures before my brain was able to clearly tell me, 'Dude, your in the pouring rain with your Martin Guitar and you're hooked up to several electrical devices and surrounded by standing water and 25 year old light boxes. Get the hell out here!'.

I turned and flipped the power on my amp, pulled my guitar close, grabbed my case and headed for dryer ground. I was suddenly joined by both Baristas, Skyler (I think) and Josh, and several kind souls who faced the rain and helped me unplug and drag my gear (in total darkness) out of the flood and under the small covered area by the front door to the shop.

It was on my second trip as I was unplugging power strips and waiting to die, that I discovered my tuner and Ipod Touch that I had placed on a table to the left of the microphone stand. Both were rather wet and probably a little disgruntled.

The rain only lasted 10 minutes, but it was unsafe to return to the stage with my sodden equipment and very wet power source. However, I refused to be driven off. I placed my gear in my car and returned with just my guitar and played a final 90 minute set to the folks who huddled under the small roofed area.

It was a very intimate show, and since my set list had been washed clean, an improv'd one. But I must say, that it was a really important show too. I must admit that the gigs I've been playing of late have left me a little cold and discouraged. The crowds have been smaller and the people quicker to ignore and tune out. After I got washed off the stage I chose to keep playing. I played because I wanted to; because I had prepared for a 3 hour show and I was going to play as close to 3 hours as I could.

It was still a small crowd, but I didn't care. I was playing for them, but I was mostly playing for me. I pulled out all my new songs, including one I just finished the day before. I played covers I had never learned not because I had have ever planned to perform them, but because I had wanted to play them in my living room or with my friends. The rain had managed to wash away all the negative feelings that had been clinging to me and to my music.

I'm not saying that I won't be discouraged after then next mediocre gig, or that I am reborn or baptized. However, for at least one night, I was reminded why I do this.l Why I go up on stage in front of several hundred people or two people. Why I play to crowds who are listening so closely that I fear even the slightest finger stutter and to the crowds who are looking past me at the Michael Jackson funeral coverage or are talking so loud at the table right in front of me that I can hear every word over my own playing and singing.

It was nice.

Now I just have to wait a few more days to plug in my gear and see what survived and what needs to be replaced.

Mar. 21st, 2007

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Sometimes a small is just a small

So, I was standing in line at my favorite coffee establishment this afternoon between classes and the pony-tailed guy in front of me asked the cute barista for "the smallest coffee size you have."
"You mean a small?" she asked him, laughing slightly and giving him that are-you-a-moron-or-just-someone-who-says-stupid-things type of look.
"Oh - - yeah - - a small" he said, looking down at his shoes.
The barista looked past him and raised her eyebrows at me. I gave her a commiserating smile, and it wasn't until after I'd gotten my iced coffee and was back on the street that I really gave the above interaction any thought.
What does it say about our current coffee culture, and our current culture in general, that a person has to assume that the "small" is most likely not called a small but is in fact called something else entirely? Perhaps it will be identified by some sort of secret code that only people who go there regularly will know; a trick to immediately identify foreigners so they can be humiliated and shunned. For example, the whole Evil Empire's short, tall, grande, and vinte bullshit. I had to google those. Just because you make your sizes highbrow it doesn’t make your coffee not taste like shit.
Furthermore, perhaps the small won’t be called by its logical name, but will instead be called by the name of another well known member if the sizing family as demonstrated by the always entertaining “We don't have small pizzas; we have medium, large, and extra-large pizzas phenomenon.” Whatever Buddy, that smallest pizza right there is naturally the smallest and is therefore the small and not the medium. You are a jackass.
I’m currently waiting for this logic to make its way into the bedroom - “No honey, the thing is…well, it’s actually a medium, it’s just that you’re last boyfriend was an extra-large.”
In conclusion, I don't blame the barista for finding amusement in the poor guy's befuddlement when he attempted to order a small coffee. Instead, I feel bad that we live in a world where a person must assume that the most obvious name for something is probably not the correct one; a world where everyday experiences have become alien and strange. The guy just wanted a small cup of coffee that didn't taste burnt.
This rant is over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sep. 27th, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Small White Bear Trapped in Coke Bottle

So, I had a very long day today; Some good, some not so good.
However, the day was broken by a rather surreal experience that I had right before my second 2 hour English class.

For those of you who don't know, I don't drink soda anymore. I used to drink diet soda quite a bit, but came to the realization that it's probably evil and probably rotting my guts out...Anyway, today I was exhausted and very hot (I had just spent an hour in the sun playing guitar to unimpressed college students) and I broke down and decided to get a diet coke out of the machine in the triple building.
I slid my dollar into the machine and pushed the button to dispense my choice. The bottle clunked, and as I reached down to retrieve it, I noticed something odd - well, several things actually.

The first thing I noticed was that the bottle had not dropped all the way through the trap-door, but was still mostly stuck up inside the machine. The moment that I gripped the bottom of it I was struck with how light it was, not the normal liquidy, shifting weight that one comes to expect when they heft a soda bottle in their hand.
As I pulled the bottle out of the trapdoor and into the light, I noticed that there didn't seem to any liquid in the bottle at all, in fact, there was something else, something foreign.

At first I thought it was a joke, the kind that I would pull if I was in charge of refilling all of the damn machines; maybe a t-shirt or a paper towel stuffed inside an empty bottle.

As I pulled the bottle free so that I could get a good look at it, I realized it was neither of those things; it was, in fact, a small polar bear smiling from within the confines of the empty plastic bottle. Like a ship, or a rat.

I don't know if this is a campaign that I just missed due to my busy schedule. At first, I was a bit annoyed actually; I was tired and hot and I wanted a goddamn soda, not a claustrophobic bear trapped in a small plastic bottle. When I looked closer however, I realized that along with the bear were four quarters, enough to buy another soda. I stared at the four quarters and the trapped but smiling face of the polar bear. Upon closer examination C and I realized that the bottle came apart in the middle and the quarters (and the bear) could be easily freed.

I pondered for a moment; maybe this was sign, a message from the cosmos that I shouldn't have that soda that I had decided not to drink anymore. Now was my chance to redeem my moment of weakness and walk away.

The quarters felt cold in my hand from sitting inside the soda machine.

Each quarter made a clean, sharp click as I slid them through the change slot, and was followed by the familiar liquid-filled thunk of an actual soda-filled bottle as it slid out of the trapdoor and into my waiting palm.

Sep. 24th, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

So that's why I like you...

So, I had an interesting realization the other day, and I wonder if anyone else has given this much thought. I mentioned it to Wren the other night and we had a very interesting conversation about it. I then brought it up with C-Cart after a few beers, and she admitted to having this same conversation with her Sig.

I'm currently running with a new group of friends, I guess you could even call them a crew. The other night I came to the realization that they each share one or several significant character traits or interests with Wren, and it led me to wonder about the whole chicken vs. egg-ness of it all. So, here's my question:
Are you drawn to people who share characteristics with the person you partner up with, or is the person whom you choose as a partner someone who has most, if not all, of the characteristics that you are drawn to? In other words, has all this time being with Wren caused me to like all these things about her so much that I now see them in other people, or is she the epitome of what I like, and therefore it is understandable that I would have always been drawn to these other people...

Are we profoundly influenced by those we care about and spend time with to the point that it alters who we care about and want to spend time with? Or does this person enable us to synthesize those attractions and bring them more into focus? What comes first, the characteristics or the person who has them?

Ever thought about it? What do you think?

Sep. 21st, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

You never call, you never write...

Song of the Day: Stupid Club - Spark

Well, I haven’t really written for quite a while, Sorry about that.

Things here have been pretty good, but pretty busy. Let’s see, spent last weekend avoiding writing a mid-term that I just couldn’t get rolling on. It was a literary analysis of a short story, and we had to answer 5 out of the 7 prompts, and each addressed a different literary theory that we’d learned in the last 3 weeks.

My classes are like Summer School right now (only harder) with class every day, each for several hours. I feel like the yard behind my house (I use the word yard very loosely) after several days of rain; soggy, muddy, and unable to absorb any more of the downpour that shows no sign of stopping. The tumultuous, constant drenching of information makes me feel like my nutrients have all leached out, and all the new information is running along the surface and collecting in the gutter.

OK, it’s not that bad, I just need to stop writing these entries so late in the week.

Lately we’ve been have presentations on short stories and they’ve been really good. My fellow future teachers continue to impress me with their creativity and their teacher-like presence. I’m sad that in just 7 more weekdays we will all go our separate ways and enter out high schools full-time. I’m a bit jealous of those who are at schools with other student teachers, I’m all alone at mine and to be honest, it can be a bit lonely.

I thought I might have to present my six point lesson today in class so I got up a little early and was at Kinko’s by 7:00 am using their paper cutter for my activity. I’m cursed with poor paper cutting skills and I didn’t want to hand out small pieces of paper that looked like they were cut by a drunken three-year-old. When you take that I’m scissorly-challenged and add that to my doctor-esque handwriting, you have to wonder what in the hell my pre-school teachers were doing? I mean, damn, there wasn’t standardized testing back then so they couldn’t have been worrying about losing their funding if I hadn’t been able to write a good argumentative essay... Perhaps I was just allowed to spend too much time in the sandbox, or hanging from the jungle gym. I’ll have to ask my folks...

Other than that, I put on the student-teacher hat again tomorrow, grind the transition gears, and head back to the high school. Although part of me is looking forward to it, the rest of me would rather place the thermometer next the light-bulb until it reads 103 and call in sick. I’m pretty sure I learned that from Eliott, the kid in E.T., and since most of my students weren't even born when that movie came out; it just might work...

Sep. 6th, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

The Grind

First off, if you were hoping that this would be a fascinating and enlightening critique of modern culture using the hip MTV dance show as the lens, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed. Further, if you saw the heading and thought it might be my take on the current state of coffee shops and coffee in general, then this tells me I have to revise my choice of subject headers...

In reality, it's just a reference to how I've been feeling this week as I try to keep "One jump ahead of the breadline / One swing ahead of the sword"...(that one's just for you Liz)

Managed to get to my classes today and get to my job tonight. Feel like I've been going flat out since Sunday, and haven't really accomplished much of anything. Plan to head next door tonight and have a beer with my neighbors. I think it's going to be crappy beer, but I'm not feeling particularly choosy at the moment. The event has turned into a celebration of sorts, Roberto just found out that his band is getting back together. See, Bands are alot like dating; constant drama, breaking up and getting back together, fighting over silly things, far too much baggage, unrealistic expectations, poor communication, hard feelings... God, I actually miss being in a band :(

I plan to start looking for a new band myself come November. In truth I can't spare the time until teaching slows down, but forming a band is a long slow process, so I need to start looking and advertising several months before I actually want to start the ball rolling.

I'm really ready for that beer.

Sep. 5th, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Big Presentation

Well,
From the title you can tell that I had a big presentation today. I was in a group of 5 who did a presentation on The Red Scare for our unit on The Crucible. I went last and explained some other examples of the mass hysteria mindset in American history.
The presentation was supposed to be no more than 35 minutes long, but when I started my six minute portion we'd already gone 33 minutes.
I felt kinda rushed and wasn't able to work on eye-contact and keeping the "um's" to a minimum, but overall I guess I did ok.
Prior to the presentation I had been struggling with whether I should write the whole thing out, or just wing it. In the past I have felt good about the times I have stayed off book, I feel they are inspired and have a good energy, but I think the full-written tend to be a little tighter.
It's funny, for whatever reason, I don't get nervous during an actual presentation or performance, but I'm a nervous wreck before an event. I think I might be a little OCD or something. The unknown, unpredictableness of the event freaks me out, but once I get going I'm fine. For example, when I play a gig I get really nervous during the drive to the venue and before I set up, but once I'm ready to hit the stage I'm just excited.
I guess it's better than stage fright, but I'm sure my group was sick of me pacing all around the classroom before we started today... Sorry guys;)
It's nice to be done though, I don't have anything really big for the rest of the week. That's a good thing because I feel off my game, maybe it's the extra day off.

Sep. 4th, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Thanks Steve

This is just a quick entry...
I've been kind of bummed all day today. Although I'm not a huge Steve Irwin fan, I never really watched his show or anything, I always appreciated his enthusiasm and his passion for what he did. I find sudden deaths to be very tragic. Although I appreciate that he probably didn't suffer, there's something sad about not ever knowing what hit you...
I wish that more people truly loved their lives like Steve seemed to.
Very sad day.
Bye Crocodile Hunter...Crikey

Sep. 3rd, 2006

The Green Mountain State, Vermont

Writers Block

Well, I pulled out the guitar again today and just sort of messed around for a while. I can't seem to get anything up and running these days. I've got several things started and even a couple almost finished, but even those seem stuck where they are. Nothings quite so frustrating as having writers block...
I'm not sure if it's that I'm just not inspired at the moment, or if my brain is so preoccupied with other crap that I'm unable to get enough of a focus to be creative. The problem is I feel like I really need to be writing. I feel constricted and anxious like there's something trapped inside my whole body and I need to get it out before I pop like a grape - nice image, I know- it's hard to describe, but that's how it feels right now. There are times when I wonder if I'm ever going to write anything again. I know that part of it is that the more you accomplish as a writer, the bigger and louder the Editor Who Lives In The Back OF My Brain becomes. Everything has to be better than the last things, and I find that I can't even rough draft anything without being ultra critical...Maybe I just need to get really drunk. Often The Editor has less to say when I'm exhausted or wasted.

The irony is that the stuff in my life is hindering my writing and the lack of writing is disrupting the rest of my life. When things are going really badly I write all the time. Conversely, when things are going swimmingly, I don't write because I'm caught up in everything that's going on and I'm generally having too much fun to isolate myself and write.

Right now I'm stuck somewhere in the middle. I'm not upset enough to have anything to work out, but I'm not happy enough to be distractable...

On a side note, I came out of my apartment today and saw posters up that my neighbors cat has gone missing...This is the struggle I have with indoor vs. outdoor cats; I hate that my cats sometimes look outside so longingly, but at the same time, it's just not that safe out there...

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