2008: The Year in Review

Things that happened this year:

  • Still married.  If you know me, you know that’s worth noting at the top of any year-end list.
  • Join the ranks of hipsters everywhere and bought an iPhone to match my 160GB iPod.  Also, swore to consider whether future purchases put me in league with hipsters everywhere before buying.
  • No major health scares; outside of one migraine, and the usual dental fun, my brutally stupid lifestyle kept my immune system heathily in practice.
  • Job changes (see also: 2007, 2006, 2005…) included a new position in corporate America, returning to working with my favorite people of all, computers; and a move backward, from bartending at Bailey’s (RIP) to barbacking at the Barking Kudu.  Come see me, point and stare.
  • Nothing major in the published creative efforts column this year.  The Exhibit(s) chug along as usual, and one of my old songs is background music in a film, and I had a few articles in Birmingham Weekly.  I’m going to attribute this to my nighttime hours being spent working instead of sitting in front of a medium.
  • Finally got back out of town to see my whole family for Christmas.  The niece is scary cute and even scarier smart; the nephew is off to a good start, as well.
  • Sold my first domain!  Utterly unexpected and unsolicited, insomniactive.com sold for way more than I ever would have thought.  Thus, the move after 5 years to here, and the purchase and non-implementation (as yet) of www.insomniactivity.com.
  • Started back into the soccer arena last winter, and played through the year.  It feels good to be back, especially when it hurts.  I’m also remembering how much felt natural, and how much I needed to work on basic skills.  Non-athletes probably shouldn’t rediscovered sports as they approach 40.

End the year smiling

Those wacky looney tunez:


Muckfuppet, yo!


Speaking of those fucking muppets, you’ve probably already seen this.  Watch it over and over again anyway.  Because it makes your liver heal silently.


It’s so irritating that you want to claw your ears out.  And yet you keep listening, and laughing so loudly that your coworkers think maybe you’ve finally gone over the edge for good.  And then Animal comes in, and you know it’s all over; your day just can’t get any better.  Until Statler and Waldorf show up…


Seriously, was there ever a better character than Beaker?

Bartending 101

The six and 1/2 hour drive to North Carolina (and then again back) this past week was a little quicker than I remember, because for once I remembered to load an audiobook onto my iPod.  For some reason, listening to spoken-word makes time pass a lot more quickly than music, particularly if the writing is engaging.  Lewis Black got me to and from Chicago in 2005; Tom Clancy (!) made my 2000 Baltimore trip a little more bearable (note to Jonas: the visit was great; the drive, not so much).

It got me thinking about bartending, listening this time to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. And while there’s a lot of material in there that is really not at all applicable to the bar world — the rules about eating out, stories about his time at CIA and his inspirations for becoming a chef — there’s a lot that is.  As such, I think it shoudl be required reading, both for aspiring bartenders and grizzled veterans.

There’re a lot of different bar atmospheres out there, from corporate restaurant sports grilles to upscale martini- and cigar-specialists to hole-in-the-wall places like Bailey’s to the Cheers-esque bar where I am now.  To the average customer, these places have nothing in common outside of the sale of alcohol; they attract different crowds, serve different specialities, and contain entirely different worlds.  Behind the scenes, though, it’s all the same, and it was listening to a typical (if fictional) day-in-the-life segment from Bourdain’s book that I realized that.

No matter how my bar shapes my attitude on behavior on shift (and the ways I carried myself between Bailey’s and some of my corporate gigs in the past couldn’t have been more different), the job still involves the same things.  There’s inventory and ordering (degrees of detail may vary, but the routine doldrum at the core remains identical).  There’s talking to people you don’t like, dealing with drunks, hoping the regulars will come in to delay the impending onset of insanity by an hour or two.  There’s money — way more than the job deserves, sometimes, and other times way less.  There’s cleaning up the bathrooms or the blood in the entryway, dusting the bottles and ceiling fans, wondering why the owners haven’t fixed the lights yet, wishing the distributors would get your order right just once, haggling with bands about their payout.

Beyond all this, though — for better or for worse, depending on whether you view the list above as the nightmare behind the glamour that you had never considered, or really not so worse than any other average Tuesday night — is the group of people you work with, your coworkers and peers.  The boss (owner or manager) is obviously somewhat important, as they control the overall atmosphere of the working environment.  But it’s the other bartenders, the barbacks, the security guys and cocktail waitresses that will make the job worthwhile or not.

Much like Bourdain describes his kitchen crews, a given group of bartenders is a pirate gang, a military troop, a family.  If you find yourself working behind a bar where this isn’t true, things will fall apart.  I don’t care how talented your crew is; someone will go postal, or the bar will simply peter out.  If you’re a united group, though — and I don’t mean that you want to spend every minute of the rest of your lives together, or even that there’s not a single bad apple in the basket, because there’s always one — you’ll make money, have fun, and get through all the bullshit that is inherent to the selling and serving of alcohol. What made Bailey’s my favorite bar to date — behind and in front of — and what made it so hard to let go of at the end was the group of us.  Jason, Mariel, Daniel, me, Kristinn, Heath, Rick — it was a good mix, a rare grouping that worked well (enough) as a whole.

There are a lot of other things that should go into your choice of places to work (if you have such a choice, of course): clientele, ambience (including the bands that play in your live music club — if you think you hate Genre X of tunes now, wait until you have to listen to it at painful volumes six nights a week), opportunities to grow. But any and all of these things can and should fall second to whether or not the people behind the bar are your kind of folk or not.

In the meantime, find a copy of Kitchen Confidential (and while you’re at it, pick up his other books, including his wonderfully instructive cookbook, Anthony Bourdain’s “Les Halles” Cookbook: Classic Bistro Cooking or seek out an episode or twenty of No Reservations) and keep in mind that there’s a lot of parallel between the worlds of chef and bartender.  If you’re not in the business yet, it’ll help prepare you for some of what you’re eventually going to encounter; if you’re behind a bar, you’ll recognize a thing or two, and maybe even learn something useful.

Season’s Beatings

Awake at 6 AM EST — shift an hour for my body and unconscious brain, and it’s 5 AM, and six months ago I was just getting off work, thinking about sleep two hours away.  Now it’s 6 AM, and I’m up and mostly conscious, watching memories of myself and my kid sister on Christmas morning.  Only now it’s not me and Mandy, but Lucy/Bird and Jack/Linus, Mandy’s kids.  Lucy’s old enough to know who Santa is, to get excited about the presents under the paper; Jack’s old enough to like to pull bows off of boxes, and find temporary distraction when crayons or a puzzle come out.

Only temporary, though.  

I’m glad I’m old enough now to appreciate the underlying side of Christmas, the family and the ambience of the moment.  The hard times have hit everyone — I’ve got friends that have been laid off, and family that is affected by the disintegrating stock market.  Gifts are far fewer and smaller than in years past, even more economic than when I was a kid and we didn’t have much money.  But all that is secondary to me now; I’ve spent the past week watching my wife (who doubles as my kid when it comes to gift-giving times) open her presents with the starry-eyed excitement and impatience of a six-year-old; and having dinner or drinks with friends and co-workers.  I still get immense satisfaction from the giving of gifts, and I’m lucky enough to have been able to afford to give on a close-to-traditional level.  But that’s far from the most important part.

It’s been a year for change, I thought last night, driving through the rain and strangely heavy Christmas Eve traffic.  My initial thought was that it’s been filled with a lot of loss — Bailey’s Pub closing, and the economy, my youth (that sounds much more hyperbolic than I mean, and deserves more explanation, but explanation that will have to come another time).  I remembered, though, that loss and gain are just a matter of perspective, that none of that is defined by the situation but it instead a conscious choice that we can make, overriding the knee-jerk reaction.

I’m choosing (for the moment, at least), to see it as neither gain or loss, but simple forward motion. Everything continues to move, and I find that it’s best not to dwell on anything that has already passed, whether it be regret over the bad or wistful fondness for the good.  Yes, the bar closed, but I’m at a new bar, with different opportunities and possibilities and positives.  The economy is failing, but it’s worth more focus and work on my part if perhaps it can bring about a perceptual shift in the attitudes of the country. I’m not getting any younger, but a lot of changes that come with age are things that I’m learning to like, to be proud of; and the things that I don’t like, or the consequences of bad choices in the past, can be turned into lessons, for peers and the next generation alike.

I can see the cloud outside that sits on my parents’ house in the mountains of western North Carolina finally being eaten away in the mid-morning sun.  I feel the calling of a cigarette and another cup of my baby sister’s way too potent coffee.  Keeping up with the energy levels of a two- and four-year old pair is a lot more difficult that I had imagined; better Mandy than me.  But it’s a nice temporary change of pace for a few days.  Me and the three younger siblings in the same place as our parents for the first time in years.  No work, either programming or stocking a bar, for four days, and although I miss my friends and my wife, it’s a good vacation away from the real-world grind.

Times are tough, but I hope that everyone out there can find something good to focus on, at least for a little part of today. If you didn’t get everything you wanted, look around and see what you’ve forgotten that you have.  If you can’t be with the person you want, enjoy the time by yourself, something you don’t get nearly as much of as you might think.  If nothing else, make yourself an extra-strong cup of eggnog and chase it with another.  At least you won’t care as much.

Happy holidays to everyone, no matter what your religious bent. I hope you all manage to enjoy them.

The end of an error?

I’ve closed down a whole lot of businesses.  In fact, if you’re not a major corporation, I suggest that you never consider hiring me, because odds are good that giving me a job is the surest sign that your business will one day (sooner rather than later, probably) fail.

Not just be less profitable than you expected, but cease to exist.

There’s Hecklers.com, Tapesouth, Cobb Theaters, D.T.’s bar, the Birmingham Post-Herald.  Those are the ones I remember — I know there are more, but I can’t think of their names.

There’s an obvious joke I’m forgetting to add here…

The worst are the ones that I’m there for, though.  Curious George’s Comics and Arcana was where I spent a large part of my teenage years, into my mid 20s.  George sold me my comics, but he became a friend as I grew older, and eventually hired me on for part-time work to help me control the amount of money I was spending in the store.  We shuttered his door in 1995, and I made sure that I made the final purchase (aside from other dealers in the area coming in to plunder his overstock).  I still have that receipt.

At least we knew that was coming with some advance notice, though. At Bailey’s, as it goes, we never had a chance.

In better days.  "Better" used loosely.

In better days. "Better" used loosely.

That’s sort of unfair; in a way, this has been a telegraphed punch for about 2 years.  Turns out there was a lot of money walking out of the door over the years — we took in a whole lot of cash business, but as I understand it, the only deposits ever made were credit card sales, which (so we thought) were more than enough to cover the costs of staying open.  Turns out, though, we were apparently deeply in debt to various and sundry tax agencies — something only the owners know the full depths of.  Which is fine by me, really, ’cause I don’t want to know depths.  Never liked ’em.

On September 31, with exactly 10 hours of warning, we were informed that our liquor license renewal had slipped slipped through the cracks of the owners’ attention, and that at 12:01 that night we had to shutter the bar pending that renewal.  Unfortunately, since we owed back taxes, the license was under lien, so it was to be a reapplication instead of a renewal — converting our few days of downtime to 6-8 weeks (though we were all assured that there were the ubiquitous Friends in High Places that would ensure that we were open in plenty of time for Halloween).

Since then, we’ve heard that we’d be reopening, that there would be new owners that wanted the status quo to remain the same, and then finally last Tuesday night that the landlord has decided that that space is not going to house a bar ever again.  And so with not a bang that it deserved (on so many levels) but with a practically-unheard whimper, Bailey’s Irish Pub is as lively as the Woolly Mammoth and the World Series hopes of the Chicago Cubs.  Nothing more than a memory, no matter how fondly held.

All the places that have fallen by the wayside are sad losses, to be sure, but Bailey’s is particularly painful to me.  I’ve been in there supporting the place on one side of the bar off and on since they opened in 2001, and supporting the bar on the other with sweat and blood since 2004.  It provided me with more than a reasonable income, including a year-long stint that might have been spent unemployed.  I met a lot of great people there, had some really good times, drank waaaay too much, and played 250+ shows with Eric and the Exhibit(s), among others. Andrew and Julie met there; so did Eric and Brandi (my boss and his wife), and Jason and Jessica, and Daniel and Mariel, and me and Cynthia, and who knows how many others.

I’m not intentionally glossing over the bad shit that happened there.  Ignoring that much negativity is akin to saying that Bush was a good President because he … erm.  Never mind.  But I am choosing to focus on the good, because there’s still a fair amount of bitterness and anger over the way things ended — with no resolution, with an utter lack of communication to those of us that made a lot of money for some people — that I still need time and distance to process.

I’m at another bar now, having slid back down the totem pole once again, and the others I worked with are either elsewhere or making plans to get there.  We Bailey’s folks are a resilient bunch (we sort of have to be, to have made it there for any length of time).  And I hope to finally get out of the business for good within a year or two, if I can stabilize my finances enough.  It’s a young man’s game, and it wears me out. It’ll be nice if I have the chance to go out on my own terms, on my own timetable, instead of having the carpet pulled out from underneath me.

I would request a toast to the memory of Bailey’s, but that’s inappropriate.  What feels more right is taking a cheap can of beer or a toxically low-end whiskey, and pouring a little on the ground, and then vomiting on it a little, and then  starting a fight with yourself and cursing the bartender who obviously didn’t like you that much in the first place. So do that if you have a moment.


The Trouble With Music Today

I’ve heard complaints about it for years.  I’ve watched people move away because of it. I’ve conducted a roundtable interview on the subject for the Birmingham Weekly, and tried in a number of ways to improve it.

No, not chlamydia; the local music scene is what I’m talking about.

Birmingham is a hotbed of talent, even moreso than our dominance of American Idol would lead you to believe. We’ve got a few people here who have gotten national recognition (the quality of such recognition, of course, depends on your tastes and your social scene): Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink (formerly of Little Red Rocket and Azure Ray), Brother Cane, Vallejo, Lynam, Dan Sartain, Eric Dover (yeah, Jasper, I know), Remy Zero, Verbena, John Strohm. And, even being tragically out of touch with the local music scene since Bailey’s shut down, I can tell you that there’s some absolutely jaw-dropping talent that tragically few people have heard of — Eric McGinty, the Big Tasties (and every member of that band is a frightening talent on their own), Honeybaked, Heath Green, Stuart McNair,

That’s even more than I thought it was going to be.  Wow. Which is both equal parts exciting and confounding. Exciting, because I had underestimated the amount of very real talent in my hometown, and that’s keeping in mind the fact that I don’t really get out to clubs other than wherever I might be working, so there’s a lot of acts that I’ve never heard or experienced live.  Confounding because, with the amount of talent that has been recognized, I wonder why more hasn’t.

This lack of recognition/difficulty getting noticed in Birmingham has been at the heart of the debates about the usefulness/validity/existence of a Birmingham music scene.  A lot of it is musicians bitching that they haven’t gotten noticed — which to me is equal parts ego, denial, and laziness talking.  Some of it is bar owners or other fans of original homegrown talent wondering why their friends and favorites haven’t found more success, and to me that’s just misunderstanding what the public wants.  Some of it is just cold, hard fact.


A lot of the problems that cross my mind are not the sole property of Birmingham, but rather characteristic of a given population.  Artists — musicians, specifically — are a stubborn, proud bunch.  If you write songs, playing other people’s music is not what you want to do, even if it means making money to invest in equipment or advertising, making connections with bar owners or booking agents, or building a crowd.  And yet, sadly, sometimes you’ve got to do distasteful things, like working for an ad agency while you develop your own graphic style, or doing commercials to build a resume for your film career.

Musicians: none of us enjoy playing set after set of covers, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  It doesn’t mean you’re selling out, or that your dignity has somehow been compromised.  it means you’re paving the road and building the foundation for your success.  It’d be nice if all our demo CDs found their way into the hands of Radiohead, but it doesn’t happen that way for any but the rare exception.

Deal with it while you’re figuring out which songs you can learn that you don’t despise but crowds will still dig (the Exhibit(s) have discovered that Radiohead, Muse, and Failure all go over pretty well, as do Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin — and crowds really dig an original tune that includes a bridge filled with random hip hop snippets).


Ideally, your bar owners and bartenders and booking people are only concerned with business — making money.  If you’re drawing and building a crowd, especially one that drinks a lot and doesn’t cause problems, you should be getting more gigs.  It doesn’t always work this way, sadly; personal politics and tastes enter the equation also.  You might never get a chance at a good club because you’ve pissed the owner or one of the bartenders off, or because they’ve heard bad things about you (musically or personally), true or not, or because you listed Metallica on your cover catalog and they hate heavy music.

Keep in mind that this can also work to your advantage; if you find a bar staff that really believes in you, they’ll push you to all their regulars and new customers alike, and give you chance after chance (even when you maybe don’t deserve another).


Also known in binary logic terms as {var musician != “marketing genius”}.Your art is just like any other product out there: you’ve got competition.  People have to know you exist in order to become a viable option.  You’re up against people who don’t know if you’re any good, or if you’re even worth trying, and other bands that are equally unknown (or worse, well-known and liked).

Why should people give you a chance, especially in a strong market or a tough economy?

This is a collaborative effort, to some extent.  The bar wants as many people to come in as possible, because their bottom line is affected by your crowd as much (if not moreso, in the case of guaranteed band payouts) as yours.  BUT:

Here in Birmingham especially, people generally don’t follow bands, but rather their bars.  At Bailey’s, we had the same crowds night in and night out, to about a 75 – 85% level.  There were bands that would drive people away because of musical tastes or lack of talent, but evens for the biggest bands, we would only pick up 15-25% of a crowd in new or irregular people that were drawn by the band.  Speaking from the Exhibit(s) POV, we have a small core crowd that will come see us at various and sundry venues, but mostly what I see when I look out from the stage is faces that I’m apt to see at that same bar every weekend.

Point of all this being that the bars already have their crowds, and odds are good they’re not going to follow you to the next show.  Unless you really work hard at getting your name burned into their heads, and work even harder at promoting your next shows.  Make phone calls, make fliers for cars and telephone poles, send out mass text messages, utilize email groups and MySpace and Facebook and any tools at your disposal.  Keep in mind that the more people you bring out to your shows, the better life gets: your payout goes up, your reputation goes up, your guarantee gets bigger, your crowd begins to grow organically because hell — that’s where everyone else is.

This ties into another generalization about artists: that we’re a bunch of lazy fucks who think life shouldn’t be this hard.  To which I say: buy a helmet, ice down your aching vagina, and work to change it or shut the hell up.  No one owes you and your grand masterpiece anything.  Bands don’t talk about paying their dues for nothing, and I guarantee you my iPod is filled with musicians infinitely more talented than you that worked hard and still never made it.


And here’s the rub, one that is really endemic to Birmingham: the large mass of people here don’t appreciate or enjoy original music, or really anything that is remotely unfamiliar.  You don’t get a chance to impress them with your own tunes, because even the stuff they enjoy is forgotten the next day.  What they do remember, though, is dancing to Jimmy Buffet or the Dead, getting housed to Nirvana, getting laid because they sang along with the hot guy while you played Hank Jr.

We have a sizable number of people that want to hear the originals that Eric wrote, but they’re a drop in the bucket of the audience we would like to have.  And most of that audience has never heard of (much less supported) Verbena, or Maria Taylor, or Eric Dover or John Strohm.  These folks were successful outside of Birmingham, perhaps even in spite of large chunks of Birmingham.  And that’s the saddest thing of all.


I used to think that I was in a unique(ish) position to help fix the music scene around here, as I’m not approaching the problem just from the perspective of a musician, or a music fan, or a bartender but rather all three.  True, it gives me the viewpoint to see where the other groups are thinking egocentrically or blaming things on others for which they are at fault;  sadly, it also let me see where some viewpoints are likely to never change.

Anyone that has suggestions is encouraged to make them, because all three sides of me stand to gain from them.  In the meantime, I’ll be over here, typing and pondering, listening to all the bands like Porcupine Tree and Devin Townsend and Oceansize that certainly would be rich and famous and appreciated in a perfect world.

The middle of the end’s beginning is nearing it’s finish

Good news to end the year for me:

  • I’ve finally got a vacation away from Birmingham coming up.  First time in a year that I’ve got more than a day trip to look forward to.
  • Credit card debt: finally gone.  It took long enough.
  • It looks like a song I wrote and recorded about 13 or 14 years ago — “theme for an imaginary revenge” — will be appearing in Chance Shirley’s Interplanetary.  I am honored and flattered.
  • And once again putting the ‘free’ in ‘freelance’ (which, admittedly, is better than putting the ‘STD’ in ‘stud’); see the year-in-preview issue of Birmingham Weekly, hitting stands in about three weeks.
  • All that was lost this year is regained, at least to the extent of regain that I needed.

Let the end begin (I)

The year in music, 2008:

Live, it was a mixed bag.  In fact, now that I think about it, 2007 sets up ’08 for a massive dose of failure, but you take what you (and your budgetary and time constraints) can get.  Van Halen’s reunion show at Phillips Arena in February was a tremendous disappointment, certainly not remotely worth the $125 price tag.  The sound was atrocious from beginning to end, and the show itself just sort of felt — enh.  Totally enh. The price of nostalgia, I suppose.

Far better was the Progressive Nation tour.  Opeth is amazing live, Three was spectacular as I remembered, and I was finally able to check Dream Theater off of the list of bands I haven’t seen live. Not to mention that they played one of my all time favorites (Voices) in Atlanta.  Also good, in the really small list of shows I saw this year: Tom Waits (very glad I paid the $120 for this ticket, if only to say I experienced it — Waits is a phenomenal showman), the Tour de Frank (Dweezil Zappa and Co. playing the music of Frank Zappa), and holy crap was that all the live music I caught this year?  I think it was.  Wow. Almost kinda sad.

As for albums… well, this is where memory always gets me.  If some of these are from late 2007, oops, but I’ll say that i spent a lot of 2008 enjoying that music.  Tops this year included In Rainbows by Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-VI and The Slip, Meshuggah’s obZen (rhythmic brutality), A Sense of Purpose from In Flames, the self-titled Flight of the Conchords (old music, new recordings, classic laughs), Anthems for the Damned by Filter, Flavors of Entanglement by Alanis Morissette (whodathunk?), Sigur Ros’ Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Diffusion by 7 for 4, No-Man’s Schoolyard Ghosts, Mygrain’s Signs of Existence, Cynic’s Traced in Air, and The Final Conversation of Kings by The Butterfly Effect.

Album of the year?  From memory and judging from the play counts on my iPod, Watershed by Opeth and Steven Wilson’s new Insurgentes.  Both absolutely brilliant pieces of work. Followed closely by Experiments in Mass Appeal by new discovery (to me) Frost*.  And apologies to Brian May and Co., but Paul Gilbert and Freddie Nelson put out the best posthumous Queen album that we could ever hope for with United States.

I’m totally not counting the best-of compilations from Dream Theater or Strapping Young Lad, though I feel like I should.

Disappointments?  Bauhaus’ Go Away White, Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock by Joe Satriani (I want to like his albums, but post-Extremist, they all sound really, really uninspired), Testament’s Formation of Damnation,  Extreme’s Saudades de Rock (which surprised me, as Nuno Bettencourt’s post-Extreme catalog is well above average), and Let the Truth be Known by Souls of We.

Metallica’s Death Magnetic and the long awaited Chinese Democracy? Both are better than I expected, but I’m waiting to see in the long run how I feel about them, past expectations and long-wait.

I guess the lesson here is that I’m getting old, but not too old to enjoy the Metal. m/  No, wait… it’s that I need to stop expecting to like new discs by bands I discovered in the ’80s and ’90s, unless they make me wait 5-13 years for a new album.  No… no, the lesson is simply to enjoy music new and old, with no preconceived expectations or judgments, and to hope that 2009 has half the quality this year has had.

Or something like that.  I’m getting distracted by that new Opeth cover of Would?

… and better days for all.

The academics and politicians (and if they’re not utterly insane, even the really wealthy people so out of touch with the realities of everyday life for the average American) have finally admitted what most of us have known since well before the stock markets stepped off that October cliff: the economy is in trouble.  Deep, deep, recessional trouble.

I count myself fortunate, because by the end of this year, I’ll have finally paid off most of my debts.  I still have a few payments left on my car, and my wife’s student loans will be paid off around the same time that real racial equality is acheived (read: probably not in my lifetime), but still: much better, thanks.  I’ve got a stable job (albeit one that could pay better, but it pays well enough and the benefits and – more importantly – my co-workers are great) and a second part-time gig, plus I have plenty of opportunities for freelance work, some potentially lucrative.  It could be a lot better — I’m at about two-thirds the income that I was at 16 months ago — but I’ve made adjustments where necessary to make the best of what it is.

Apparently, as I get older, I’m becoming far more conservative, at least in my actions. While I’m still a big fan of abortion and devil-worship and socialism and free homosexual marriage licenses, I’m less willing to take chances with jobs, more apt to make the safe plays, thinking further ahead and diversifying my assets, so to speak. I’m really tired of working 60-70 hours a week, but keeping the second job at the bar is a good source of extra money (allowing me to divert some of my salaried check to a retirement account) and a comfortable fall-back, in case something happens to the day job.  I’m more apt to for substance over style, to make utilitarian purchases, to second-guess my real interest in big-ticket items.  

It’s a strange shift in perspective for me, having lived so much of my life in the moment.  I imagine that was largely a knee-jerk reaction against my parents and kid sister, who always saved and thought about the months and years ahead — but that seemed so BORING.  So I thought about the here and now, because what if there is no tomorrow?  What were you saving for (and thus, denying yourself) then? I took it too far, over time, and ran up an extraordinary amount of debt, all in the pursuit of having what I wanted NOWNOWNOW.  

I’ve learned over the past few years that delayed gratification is not so bad, and not that hard to learn.  I’ve learned to live without credit; with the knowledge that outside of cars, houses, and medical emergencies, if you can’t pay for it all now then you probably can live without it until you have the total.  I’ve learned that it’s not a lot of fun to pay for things that happened five, ten, fifteen years ago, or things you bought then but have long since lost or stopped enjoying.  

But I’ve done what I think is the right thing and paid my debts.  I could have wriggled out of them, declared bankruptcy or ignored the creditors’ calls or pretended like none of it had ever happened.  I didn’t, though, and although I sometimes feel more than a little bitter at people who skirt the system and still prosper while I played the game and still sometimes struggle, I”m glad I took the path I did. I learned a lot — about myself, and about how good and bad things can be.  And I’ve earned a notch or two on my +2 Belt of Moral Superiority, while I’m at it.

I don’t think that you can live happily by saving and saving and saving, because for some of us tomorrow never does come, and a lifetime of self-denial is a horrible thing to go out on.  I also don’t think you can completely ignore the possibility that tomorrow will come, though.  It’s all about finding the happy middle ground, of taking what you have, thinking ahead enough to relax, and then enjoying the rest. And I’m not entirely there yet; the pendulum that swings from knee-jerk reaction against my family to unconditionally accepting their choices as gospel is still working to find the center of it’s arc.  But I’m making progress, and that feels pretty okay. 

And yet, all the rough spots I’ve felt myself in over the past two months are nothing compared to those that less fortunate people continue to experience, born into fascist regimes or abandoned by their parents on the side of a road. And while I’m not one of those people who looks in the mirror or at friends and says, “Hey, you’re lucky — it could have been worse!” I am capable and conscious of keeping things in perspective.  

I’ll go out on a limb and say that a lot of us are less unlucky than we could have been.  But then, when so much of what we all experience is a direct result of our own actions, it’s hard for me to listen to the endless stream of complaints without retching a little.  More than a little, really.

Looking forward into 2009 is a little anxiety-provoking, admittedly.  I’ve seen much better times, which pushes me forward, to keep working to get back there; I’ve also seen hard times, and the prospect of ending up back there, stressed and hungry and struggling to find energy to wake up and try again — no, thanks.  But at the same time, I’m prepared, I think, and in a far better mindset to push forward and successfully push through to the next crescendo, the next peak.

It’s not like any of us has a choice, anyway.  Unless that choice is to bury your head in the sand until you think it might be over, but that’s not much of a choice. I’ll continue to listen to the doomsayers and those in denial, and interpret the facts and the expert interpretations on my own, choosing to guess that the true nature of the future is somewhere in the middle of optimism and pessimism, as it usually is.  And one way or another, me and those around me will be around a year or two from now to watch the sun come back out from behind the clouds.  I just hope we haven’t all forgotten to appreciate what we have while we have it, to learn from that which we experience and witness every day, and to accept the reactions to our actions.

And if we do, there’s always scorn, ridicule and Rumplemintz as punishment.


I think I might have left a sock behind, and maybe a cat. I don’t know for sure, since I have so many that one probably won’t be missed.

I tried to clean up really well, but if I forgot something, so it goes.

As of today at about 2 PM CST, insomniactive.com belongs to someone else. If I’m putting it all together correctly — and I am, by the way, since this is one of those jigsaw puzzle that has two pieces — it is now in the possession of the author of http://insomniactive.wordpress.com. Being that I’ve gotten away from freelance web design/writing/filmmaking, etc., the site was more of a vanity plate than anything else, and I have no problems saving a hundred dollars a year by using wordpress’ free hosting. None whatsoever, especially over the coming months.

Thanks, greedy Wall Street hedge fund fucks.

So I had fun with insomniactive.com and all (two) of it’s various iterations, but now it is someone else’s toy to play with. Me, I’m gonna try to start writing more and worrying less. Maybe.