Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Emerald Isle

It's been over four months since I got married, so I figure it's about time I write something about the honeymoon.

We chose Ireland because of our Irish roots, and at least in my mind, because it wasn't where everyone else goes on their honeymoon. On advice from an NYC friend who has Irish citizenship, the plan was to fly in to Dublin and drive a rental car along the west coast, then down south, and eventually back to Dublin.

That was the plan, anyway. Let's just say that our honeymoon didn't get off to the best start. Because our flight from Green Bay to Chicago was delayed, we ended up missing our connecting flights, the last of which was to Dublin. So, option 1 was to rough it overnight in the Toronto airport, take an evening flight to Dublin the next day, and lose a day in Ireland. Option 2 involved taking a red eye into London that night and connecting to Belfast earlier the next day, which would be our new final destination. After being assured that Belfast, being in Northern Ireland, was indeed safe these days, we chose the second option because it would keep us on schedule, even though it meant a longer drive to our first hotel in Galway.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Warm Feet

Photo by Ardent Photography.

I have a confession to make: For most of my life, I was afraid to get married.

Actually, it wasn't really marriage that scared me—it was the wedding itself. For years I'd built up the possibility of my own wedding as the biggest event in my life. There were all kinds of things to worry about—the hundreds of people watching me; pressure to not screw up or say the wrong thing; dancing.

My fear was rooted in being the center of attention, a place I've always shied away from. And if there was ever a time when all eyes would be on me, this was it. But being single for the better part of my life allowed me to put these worries on the back burner. We'd just cross that bridge when we got there.

That's why it's amazing for me to sit here and say that not only have I crossed that bridge, but I had a great time doing it. My wedding was a blast, and in the months leading up to it, I expected it to be.

So what changed?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The One

Well, somehow I got married last month.

I say that not because I didn't know it was coming for a year prior—indeed, it was hardly a shotgun wedding or an elopement in Vegas. I say it simply because after 31½ years of being single, it's strange to think that it actually happened.

During my college days in Oxford, Ohio, I spent more Saturday nights in my dorm room than I care to recall. I remember being confused as I walked around campus seeing how many guys had girlfriends. It seemed so easy for them, but impossible for me. It was harder because I wasn't as social back then, but it was still frustrating because I knew I had a lot to offer a girl. It was sort of like a job search that wasn't going well—I was more than qualified, but no woman was hiring.

Fast-forward a few years later to my post-college life in Nashville. I was still girlfriend-less in life, and at this point it was starting to feel like a curse. I often wondered if something was wrong with me. Suffice it to say that I had a girlfriend complex. But then I finally learned why it was so hard for someone like me: my personality type.

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, most INFPs (Introverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving) are very selective when it comes to choosing their partners, and tend to only pursue long-lasting relationships. The test revealed many more truths about all facets of my life that were eerily right on the money, but that was the gist of it as far as relationships go. For anyone who's never taken the assessment, it honestly feels like someone's been spying on you as you read about your type because the test seems to know everything about what makes you tick. For anyone looking to gain knowledge and self-awareness far beyond relationships, this test is essential because it can be life-changing. It was for me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Closer to the Sky

NY → NJ → PA → OH → IN → IL → MO → KS → CO

"You're so far around the bend... There is no leaving New York."

Six weeks ago, I embarked on an epic trek and relocation to Denver. But when it began, New York City wasn't ready to let me go.

I had a 10-hour drive ahead of me on Friday, May 13th, so an early departure was necessary. Unfortunately, the entire morning was eaten up by getting the rental car, picking up my hockey equipment, and retrieving some of Erin's belongings in Brooklyn. I figured it wouldn't take anymore than two hours.

It took four. When it comes to moving, underestimation seems to be my Achilles' heel.

I finally experienced the hell that is driving in New York City. Suffice it to say that both Manhattan and Brooklyn were complete and utter parking lots, with one bottleneck, traffic jam, and construction zone after another. Newfound respect for cabbies, I have.

There was a lot of cursing, frustration, and aggressive driving. There was me going down a forbidden street that came to a dead end, and having to turn around and face the wrath of the construction worker I disobeyed (as well as my girlfriend's).

One thing there wasn't a lot of: turn signals.

But there was something else. Something that will stick in my memory just as much.

There was a New York that I'd never seen before.

As I maneuvered my way through the concrete grid on that cool May morning, there were moments, like when I was making my way around Columbus Circle, or driving near the Hudson in lower Manhattan, where the city was bright and fresh. It was almost as if a veil had been lifted, and all notions of cramped, dirty city living were replaced with a sheen of cool and clean. I chalked it up to New York's last-ditch ploy in preventing me from leaving.

But leave I did—but not before running the hypertension-inducing gauntlet that is Midtown at lunch hour. All I can say is, TGINHTDINYCEA (Thank God I'll Never Have To Drive In New York City Ever Again.)

What follows is my travelogue for the journey.

Day 1: New York to Dayton (10 hours)

Below is a series of Twitter-like thoughts that I had along the rest of the day, once I'd escaped the clutches of the Concrete Jungle.
  • Best Worst City Name: Krumsville, PA
  • Forgotten Restaurant of the '90s (and for Good Reason): TIE – Long John Silver's/Perkins.
  • Note to future self: XM22 - Pearl Jam Radio.
  • Wait—free laundry and tennis from now on??
  • Garbage disposals!
  • Billy Squier: underrated driving music
  • A joke: What's the capital of Pennsylvania? Answer: Harrisburg.
  • 3:25 p.m.: I become an uncle for the first time.
  • If Jack Bauer can do it, so can I.
  • What the sign should say: "GAS GOUGING – 1 MILE"
  • Just before Dunningsville, PA, I do a double-take as I see one horse mounting another in the field to my left. A close runner-up for highlight of the day, next to finally making it home hours later.
  • An abandoned rest stop: The spooky scene that should open Season 2 of The Walking Dead.
  • Yup, the Spin Doctors still get played.
  • Two words: cruise control.
  • Not afraid to admit that Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" is a great piece of songwriting.
  • Tragedy strikes as yet another country song is ruined by a heavy male drawl.
I pulled into the ol' driveway just before 11 p.m. My awesome parents were hospitable and accommodating enough to not only cook my requested steak dinner, but to actually wait to sit down and eat with me hours after it was prepared. I blame NYC again for my tardiness.

Day 2: Dayton to Kansas City (10 hours)

No road trip can begin without Bill's Donuts.

Day 2 almost gets off to a bad start. There was a slight scare with me being charged for another day with the rental car despite the fact that we were returning it within the hour. But seeing how far I'd come, the Budget guy was cool enough to waive the late fee.

With more rest and a copilot in my brother Ben, I know the sailing is going to be a lot smoother than Day 1. We think it's a good sign when Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" greets us as I turn the ignition. "Well here I go—ON THE ROAD AGAIN..." Sadly, my brother Ryan's "Coloroado" mix CD doesn't play for some reason, even though it played fine in the rental car. An early casualty.

It's after 11 in the morning, and it's not surprising that we're shoving off later than originally planned. So instead of getting on the road and making up for lost time, we go straight to Bill's Donuts.

Not long into our drive, we place bets on Ben's bathroom tally for the trip. Ben has a woman's bladder, so I predict that he'll have to go nine times during transit. Ben chooses seven. In the end, Ben goes exactly five times. So I guess we both lose. (And yes, I realize it's a flawed game to begin with.) Outside of Bill's, the log indicates that Ben went in Bumfuck, Illinois; Boondock, Missouri; El Buttfuckerosa, Kansas; and Pike Shit, Kansas—if that paints any picture of civilization along I-70.

In eastern Indiana, we for the first time see the actual sign for Tom Raper RVs, "where fun begins." If you lived in the tri-state area, you'd understand the significance of the occasion. All our lives we've seen Tom Raper's commercials and been puzzled how a man with that name has stayed in business for decades. Laughs abound.

I think I know why he likes RVs.

Somewhere in Illinois, I have Ben hand me the turkey sandwich he made for me the night before. Only, this is no ordinary turkey sandwich. As a person notorious for mixing my food, this new creation of mine may take the cake: a turkey sandwich topped with a generous layer of BROCCOLI SOUFFLÉ. Getting to eat it only once the night before wasn't nearly enough.

The verdict? Best turkey sandwich I ever had. And I think it's safe to say it's never been attempted before.

Ben and I end up splitting driving duty in half, and between good music and conversation about life's many mysteries, we're in Kansas City before we know it. I still pride myself on lowballing Priceline for a $40 room at Holiday Inn. The first time, and certainly not the last.

Ben appearing to take a leak at our cheap hotel in Kansas City.

Thanks to what proved to be a great recommendation from a Denver friend who'd done the drive before, that night we feast like kings at Jack Stack, probably the best barbecue I've ever had. I'm also reintroduced to Fat Tire beer, an instant favorite.

Best barbecue ever. Big props to John Campbell for his invaluable tip.

Day 3: Kansas City to Denver (10 hours)

The day begins with the realization that we left our turkey sandwiches in the car for the night (as if sitting unrefrigerated for the entire previous day wasn't unsanitary enough). Desperate for justification not to toss the sandwiches (remember, mine was a special one), my thoughts quickly turn to the temperature, which is cold and was all night. But wait! I tell Ben. "It was cold all night—and the air—and the temperature—it was like a fridge!" Yeah, yeah! exclaims Ben, immediately seeing where I'm going with this.

The real test comes a few hours later when my stomach starts growling. Trying to ignore the universal fact that unrefrigerated mayonnaise goes bad, I go to work on the turkey soufflé. Somehow, it's just as good as it was 24 hours earlier. I thank the iron stomach for that one.

Ben opts to eat the day-old donuts before his sandwich. I already had some for breakfast. This shouldn't come to any surprise to Centervillians, but day-old Bill's Donuts still tops Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme any day of the week. Hell, maybe even two-day-old's. No contest.

As many warned me, Kansas is the worst part of the trip; a type of terrestrial cockblock obstructing your path to Colorado. It just goes on forever. But the Smoky Hilly Wind Farm was a sight to behold.

Just two of hundreds on the farm.

We're in west Kansas, and it's time to stop for gas. Thinking it'll be cheaper in the boondocks, I get off the highway only to find no gas station in sight. Was it wiped out by a tornado? No. Turns out, it's just a few miles down some country roads. We get there to see the price: $4.03⅓.

Opting to get the hell out of Dodge, we get back on the highway and find a less isolated station a few miles down the road. Except this one has been abandoned by personnel. Ben seizes the opportunity and takes piss No. 5 on the back wall of the complex, since the door's locked. I'm also tempted to mark my territory, but I feel like we're being watched.

It seems like it would never happen, but we finally leave Kansas for good and cross the Colorado border. On the brink of a big, symbolic moment that we'd been anticipating from the start of our journey, we envision a few things. A huge "COLORADO WELCOMES YOU" sign. Ensuing honks and cheers. The gleam of a dream in our eyes. Instead, we get this:

So much for that.

A few hours later, with the ultra-cool Tron: Legacy score playing, we ride into Denver. Ben's desperately looking for the mountains to reveal themselves, and eventually he can make them out. I tweet: "Mountains beyond mountains! Journey complete."

As we finish our epic 1,260-mile run on I-70 and head up S.R. 36, we debate where to celebrate the toils of our quest. We end up at Rock Bottom Brewery in Westminster, not far from our final destination. When I step out of the car, I get instant confirmation of feeling at home: an ice arena is just a few hundred yards away.

Closer to the Sky

As I sit here over a month later, the hustle and bustle of the transition to a new life has subsided, and I've been able to catch up with reality. My mind is reconciling the different worlds I've traversed in a short period of time, and I'm getting used to the fact that this is my new home, with NYC now in my rear view.

When I stop and revel at it all, I'm left with one thought:

I did it. Three simple words loaded with celebratory success.

Erin and I have had Denver on our minds for a while now. With our wedding on the heels of our NYC lease that's up on July 1st, we came to realize two things. One: We didn't want to spend another year in New York. And two: Even if we moved to another city we liked, Denver would still be in the back of our minds.

So the mission became clear: Denver or bust. Sure, it was going to make an already busy year filled with wedding planning even more hectic. Our plan was dubious to some, but we knew what we wanted, and doing it sooner rather than later was the lesser of two evils. We could move to our destination city, make a clean break with the lease, and return from our honeymoon to a new, exciting home to begin a new chapter in our lives.

But why Denver?

We were drawn to the landscape and the cool vibe of the Mile High City. We liked the idea of being able to settle down in the western region of the country, territory that was comfortable but personally uncharted. We like the laid-back attitude and the opportunities with the outdoors. We love the microbrews.

In short, Denver felt like home.

This is the third time I've changed my living situation for the better and set myself up for new experiences. And as I look back, I'm proud to say I've lived in Nashville and New York, two of the best cities in the U.S. But sometimes it just takes a few years to figure out where you're supposed to be.

I have no regrets about living in New York. I had unique, unforgettable experiences there that I couldn't have had anywhere else. But after 3½ years, it was just time to move on. In my experience, there's no other personal act that's as incredibly liberating and empowering as a big life change in moving to a different state "just as I'd wanted, and almost as if I'd willed it."

So here I am again in a new place, taking in the sights and asking myself how in the hell I got here. These are the times when I enjoy this surreal, exhilarating phase of newness before it gradually fades.

But for now, I smile every time I gaze into the face of the Front Range.

Many years from now, I hope to still be pinching myself.

"It's easier to leave than to be left behind... Leaving was never my proud... Leaving New York, never easy. I saw the light fading out."

Road Warriors 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wake-Up Time

I got published in Rolling Stone for the second time. I know it's so last month, but I wanted to file this for posterity's sake.

My letter was in response to this article.

See also: The Big Leagues

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hard To Say He's Sorry

Apologizing for a big mistake is one of the hardest things to do, especially if you're Jim Tressel.

After a few non-apologies for covering up a scandal and then lying about it to the NCAA, the Vest finally owned up to his actions on Thursday, requesting that his two-game suspension be increased to five games for the 2011 season—the same of his suspended players.

"Throughout this entire situation, my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them. We can only successfully do this together," he said in a statement.

Since Tressel was busted on March 8th, this was actually just the second time he admitted wrongdoing without equivocation. The first was two days earlier at Cardington-Lincoln High School when he said "I've made a mistake that I'm very sorry for."

Before that, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on March 14th, Tressel was in dire need of a dictionary.
"I sincerely apologize for what we've been through. I apologize for the fact I wasn't able to find the ones to partner with to handle our difficult and complex situation. I also apologize because I'm going to have some sanctions."
This doesn't sound bad on the first read. But take another look. Here's what peeved me:
  • Tressel's curious choice of words. He didn't apologize for what he did, which was hiding the possibility that five of his players sold OSU memorabilia to a local tattoo artist. Instead, he apologized for "what we've been through." He doesn't express remorse for lying to the NCAA about the situation—just that he's sorry he'll be punished for getting caught.

  • Tressel apologized for not being able to "find the ones to partner with" to deal with the matter, which is interesting considering that the only action he apparently took was keeping the scandal buried. After he received the first e-mail from attorney Christopher Cicero on April 2nd, 2010, he responded with "Thanks. I will get on it ASAP."

    But instead, Tressel actually got off it. Two weeks later he responded to Cicero's follow-up e-mail—which included a longer laundry list of probable violations—with "Thanks for your help...keep me posted as to what I need to do if anything."

    "Keep me posted"—hardly an active stance, and hardly one Tressel should take after learning about serious allegations that he'd later tell the media were "a tremendous concern to me."
It gets worse.
As part of the school-imposed penalties announced last week, Tressel was publicly reprimanded and required to make a public apology. During a news conference last week in Columbus, Tressel never offered any such apology. So, before he was whisked off following the event, Tressel was asked if this speech served as his public repentance. He looked puzzled.

"I've tried to apologize all along," he said.
This is where a dictionary would serve Tressel well, because how else do you explain his confusion with contrition? It's times like these and after big losses where the man is just out of touch with reality. That or he thinks he can continue to slide by on his hitherto squeaky-clean image and by saying the right things, however untrue, dodgy, or disingenuous.

And that's what troubles me the most—that, during his 10 years at Ohio State, Tressel has seemed to fool everyone on persona alone: his ultra-conservative, Midwestern style; his buttoned-down, businesslike demeanor; his generic, too-perfect book titles; and his post-game lexicon that includes G-rated words like "neat" and "gosh".

Along with owning Michigan, it's this do-no-wrong public face that's given him a politician-like following and made him unimpeachable in the eyes of most Buckeye fans—not to mention the university itself. So it's not shocking that in the immediate wake of this scandal, Tressel's job was never in jeopardy—never mind that his contract merits termination in such a situation.

But it is disturbing, especially when trust somehow endures.
"Wherever we end up, Jim Tressel is our football coach," said Athletic director Gene Smith. "He is our coach, and we trust him implicitly."

Asked if he ever considered firing Tressel, OSU President Gordon Gee gave an emphatic "no," saying, "Are you kidding me? Let me be clear: I just hope the coach doesn't dismiss me."
But the truth is that Tressel's perceived integrity belies the fact that under the same circumstances, he's just just like any other college football coach—or politician—who breaks the rules in order to pursue his best interests.

And with unconditional loyalty bestowed upon him by the Buckeye faithful, it'll take a lot more than one apology from the Senator to lose his seat in the Horseshoe.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Let Down

Just as I was getting ready to dive into Radiohead's newest album, The King Of Limbs, the eight-track, 37-minute EP-LP hybrid started to grow on me. But the main point I wanted to express didn't change. Which is: I really miss the Radiohead of old.

You know, back when they were a rock band.

Take Limbs' opening track, "Bloom." The song starts out nice enough, with a pleasant Eno-like bed of ambient electronics. 15 seconds later, a cacophonic clusterfuck of disparate snare splices and radio-staticky blips completely sabotage the song.

The only good part is that, five minutes later, it ends.

"Feral" is another instant throwaway. Only this time the cut-and-paste drum loop and lo-fi radio static start immediately. What follows is essentially an instrumental with random synth touches and Thom Yorke's slurred murmurs fluctuating in and out amid a wash of reverb.
"Songs like 'Bloom' and 'Feral' are the type of nerve-shredders Brian Eno used to compose in his sleep. Only underneath the random sounds of chaos, Eno also offered a melody, that on its own, could sometimes break your heart." —Sal Nunziato
I'd like to believe that studio gremlins—and not the band itself—ruined one-fourth of the songs on Radiohead's new album, but it's unlikely.

"Morning Mr. Magpie" is the other song I don't care for, and it's not because of poor production. It's because the song, driven almost solely by a scratch-guitar loop on acid, goes nowhere. And on Limbs, this is too often the case.
"I could use a little less aversion to melody. The King Of Limbs is typically (albeit beautifully) long on experimentation and frustratingly short on old-fashioned songs." —Shawn Amos
It took the world's greatest rock(?) band three years to come up with eight new songs, three of which are demo-quality cuts that would be lucky to be called B-sides? Maybe that explains the band's unheralded, oh-by-the-way announcement on February 14th that their new album would be coming out just five days later.

The remainder of Limbs is listenable with more traditional song structures, and outside of the doleful "Codex," mostly lighter temperaments. Overall though, my biggest complaint is that there are no moments of transcendence—just steady songs defined by funky drum beats, casual guitar noodling, and eerie background noises that we've come to expect from Radiohead.

I doubt the absence of payoffs is a coincidence, considering that the power of the guitars and real drum-playing that defined Radiohead in their prime (1995's The Bends and 1997's OK Computer) have been muzzled in favor of Radiohead lite—an intentionally mellow, lo-fi brand of arty minimalism that's appreciated most by music snobs and the 3 a.m. stoner crowd. This mood music can be heard throughout their catalogue, but was cemented by 2007's In Rainbows.

Limbs' shortcomings don't change the fact that Radiohead are the truest of artists, uncompromising nonconformists who make music for themselves before anyone else. But what bothers me is the notion that the band could one day mock the very pedestal that critics and fans have put them on by intentionally putting out a shit record, and no one would have the balls to say it sucked.

Much worse, it would be called "art."

On the album's last track, "Separator," Yorke cries, "I'm a fish now out of water... Wake me up." I'd like to think it's an acknowledgment of the musical limbo Radiohead's in, but I'm not holding my breath for another Bends. Because the truth is that Radiohead was once a rock band with electronic tendencies, but now they're an electronic outfit with rock stylings. And I keep wondering how drummer Phil Selway feels about splitting time with his computerized counterpart.

My hope is that one day they'll return to form, but not by mimicking The Bends—just without the restraint of Limbs, and without being challenging for the sake of being challenging.


Right on: In response to Rolling Stone's "Radiohead Reconnect" article in its May 3rd, 2012 issue, reader Jason Squier of St. Ansgar, Iowa had this to say:
"When I learned that Radiohead 'learned to rock again,' I got my hopes up that they finally gave up on the experimental samples and beeps. I guess they still feel it's uncool to create songs with a guitar and amp. I hope next time they reinvent themselves, they make music the fans want to hear. I wish it were 1997 again."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrity Sighting #9

Rachel Dratch isn't the only celebrity who rides the subway.

After the 4 train pulled into Grand Central on the Friday morning commute, I almost didn't see him. But I couldn't miss that brilliant white ponytail just a few feet to my right.

In a second I was pretty sure it was Joel Godard, the former announcer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien. And in the next, I could hear it was him.

"Getting off... Getting off" boomed the unmistakable radio voice as he pushed his way through the middle of the train before the doors closed on him.

Gotta admit: Would have loved to see the rage in the old man had he not made it out in time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Conspiracy theorists blame shadow government for return of ABC's 'V'

By Ken Devine

Blasted by critics and despised by television viewers everywhere, only one possible explanation exists for the return of ABC's lame alien-invasion series, V: its importance in disclosure, a clandestinely coordinated effort planned for decades by top-secret government officials to eventually reveal the truth about extraterrestrials to humanity.

That's according to Edward Tussel, spokesperson of the Disclosure Project.

"The concept of disclosure is nothing new," he said. "But the government's desperation has gotten to the point of ensuring that a cheesy B-grade serial with cheap special effects and throwaway characters stays on the air, even though it has no business doing so."

The second-season premiere of V was met by a tough crowd on Tuesday night. Despite heavy promotions by ABC, the episode averaged only a 2.20 rating—60% lower than the series debut last year.

Tussel emphasized the peculiarity of V's renewal in contrast with ABC's cancellation of another flawed 2009 serial, FlashForward, which performed only slightly worse in the ratings but was actually halfway decent.

"At least we could rely on FlashForward for repeated laughs from Joe Fiennes' overacting and his character’s inevitable relapse into alcoholism that ruined his marriage," he said. "Better yet was his hilarious revelation about why his flash-forward was blurry.

"You listening? Check this out, I've got it down..."



Once his laughter subsided, Tussel sat back down and sighed.

"But, FlashForward's not coming back."

Robert Covell from the Mutual UFO Network said that the agenda behind NBC's The Event is even more transparent than V, considering that the pilot centers around a black president wanting to announce the truth about aliens to the American people.

"Like humanity, these TV shows are by no means alone," he said, citing just a few recent movies like Skyline, and Megamind, and District 9, and The Fourth Kind. And Race to Witch Mountain, and Cloverfield, and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

But that's far from all. At least five upcoming films that center around the human-alien conflict are also in production: Battle: Los Angeles, Super 8, Cowboys & Aliens, Men in Black III, and Under the Skin.

"Aliens are in vogue these days," he said. "Whoever's funding these projects really wants to prepare us for some huge, intergalactic space battle that may usher in the apocalypse."

"But what if the aliens that eventually come are actually peaceful?" he pondered.

Covell also noted that TNT is getting into the mix with Falling Skies, an upcoming miniseries about—you guessed it—an alien invasion. Steven Spielberg is executive producer.

Covell questions the motives of the legendary director simply because of his otherworldly track record, which suspiciously includes E.T., Men in Black, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, War of the Worlds, Super 8, and Cowboys & Aliens.

Covell even went as far as to say that Spielberg himself is probably an alien.

"Or at least a hybrid of some sort," he clarified. "Man, that would make a great movie."

ABC, NBC, TNT, and especially Spielberg all declined to comment on this story.