Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best and Worst Moments of 2009: part two

Worst Moment #5 - Totaling my car
You can read all about it in a couple of previous entries. I wasn't injured, which was good. But watching something that has been a huge part of your life: from getting me into some serious trouble, to saving my ass countless times (even serving as a place to sleep on a handful of occasions)... I loved that car.

Best Moment #5 - Turkey Tourney 6
Always good to get everybody together for this annual event.

Worst Moment #4 - DIU Drama
Also something you can read about in previous entries. Bottom line, I learned my lesson the REALLY hard way.

Best Moment #4 - Jodie
Some of the best friendships and relationships one can have in a lifetime are the shortest. This girl really lit up my life for the brief month or so we spent together. Maybe it was the allure of being with a younger girl, or just a refreshing new person in my life, but it was pretty awesome. And when she was gone, it sucked but it didn't turn my life upside down by any stretch of the imagination.

Worst Moment #3 - My night/morning in County
At least it was Champaign County and not Cook, but it still wasn't fun. (Details can also be found in previous entries.)

Best Moment #3 - My bike
I found a bike for free on the internets. Nothing special, just a working mountain bike. My new favorite form of exercise and transportation.

Worst Moment #2 - Swine Flu
Not that I got it, it just pissed me off. Most annoying disease since bird flu. No, just kidding, I'd actually have to say car accidents in general. By my calculation I was involved in four this year, all semi-serious. Gladly, no one has perished, unlike from that bastard swine flu!

Best Moment #2 - Losing my car
While I do miss my precious VW Golf, the responsibilities (mostly financial) of car ownership SUCK. I will do my best to go without owning another auto as long as possible.

Worst Moment #1 - Losing my job at Petsmart
I know I hinted at this being "Jess breakup pt. 2" but losing my job at Petsmart was probably the shittiest thing that happened to me this year. It sparked the chain of events that led to 2009 being the worst year of my life.

Best Moment #1 - Sookie
She just showed up in the backyard one day and I was in love. Sweetest Pit Bull ever. She is always by my side. I go pee and she whines outside the door. Talk about loyalty. She makes all the crap I went through this year so much easier to swallow.

Well, there ya go. I could have elaborated on all of these a lot more, but I think most of them have been covered in previous entries.

I'm pretty confident in saying that this was the worst year ever. I'm a pretty optimistic person, and as you can see, I have found the good in the year.

I'm still battling with depression (on and off you could say) and I'm trying to do so without medication. It's been a rough four weeks without it, but I'm still here. I had a bit of a breakdown today, before writing this. The sun was setting on the last day of 2009 and I was just thinking about everything, trying to remain positive as I look ahead to 2010. For whatever reason I couldn't do it. Maybe it's this time of year. When the holidays are over I always get a little sad. Maybe it's that I've got no plans for 2010, and as much as I love Champaign, I want to move back home. I'm not entirely sure. The fact that I am more or less homeless doesn't really help either.

Throughout the past decade I've had a crack at a "fresh start" more than my fair share of times. I always blow it. I can never focus long enough to keep at something. Or I get bored. I can blame 49% of my failed relationship on this.

I guess this is where I attempt to end on a positive note. Well, it's not easy. I guess it's time to get ready and head to the place where I was ten years ago tonight, my buddy Mikes house. There won't be a whole lot of people there, but two, maybe three of my oldest friends will be there, and another one or two in spirit (they're not dead, they just are spending their NYEs elsewhere). To be honest, I think this will be good for me. While going out and getting hammered at a bar or a huge party somewhere sounds fun, I spent too much of 2009 doing this. Come to think of it, I probably spent too much of the past ten years doing this. (Now I'm making myself look like an alcoholic at 16. Honestly I didn't even start drinking until I was 19.) But anyway, a warm shower almost always cheers me up. So I'll leave you with this:

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin

Happy New Year, everybody.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

if ya wanna know me better, you should probably read this

I have convinced myself otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that I really don't hate my life. I've confessed the opposite to my own Mother countless times. But the truth is that my life is pretty kickass. The only thing I remotely dislike about my life - strike that - the only thing I dislike about life is how mundane it can be.

In other words, I despise how pathetic most peoples lives are. No offense, peoples.

For the past ten years (or so) my life has been anything but predictable. And I love it. I truly am in love with the idea of waking up every morning not knowing if I will live to see the sunset. For me, right now, in this stage of my life, this is the only way to live. You might find this entirely depressing, or even despicable. I pity those of you who agree with that statement. But don't take this the wrong way. It's not like I rise every morning with a death wish. I just live my life as simply as possible.

The day I wake up and know exactly how my day will play out will most likely be the day that I die. Spontaneity has been the constant theme of my "adult" life.

Many of you will argue that by doing this I am not being an "adult," but in my 26 years on this planet I have come to the realization that one can only be happy in the present tense: Adult, child, retard or otherwise.

Let me break this down for you...
For most of 2009 I have been living in (dwelling on) the past. I've recently realized how ridiculous this is. I will NEVER get back together with my ex. My Mother and Father will NEVER fall back in love, divorce their respective spouses and remarry (each other). And my beloved 2003 VW Golf will not mysteriously resurrect itself in my nonexistent driveway.

Likewise, I cannot wish, or even plan for my future. There are too many outside variables that will most definitely come into play. I could win the lottery tomorrow. I have a better chance of getting struck by lightning (even in December in Chicago - look it up, seriously).

I've always excelled at math, but I've been a pretty unreasonable person for most of my life. This has been both a curse and a blessing (and in a handful of cases, a blessing in disguise).

With that said, I'll leave you with this:

I don't know where my life is going, and I honestly don't care that much. I don't know where I will be living a year from now, much less a month or week from now. (As of today I do not have a "place of residency.")

I do know this: I love writing, probably more than I love living. But, in order to write I must live. (I also - recent find - love reading, mostly because it inspires my writing.)

But right now (at 3:13 AM) there are noises upstairs, and I must live in the present tense and see what is up. Plus, I have to pee. So I must bid you farewell.

This has undoubtedly been my favorite blog post to date. It ranks within the top 5 of most honest as well. I hope someone gets something out of this mindless rant. I know I will.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: Part 1

Time for the Best and Worst Moments of 2009.

I'm sick and tired of voting and writing about the best music of the year. I really didn't see enough films to throw in my two cents about the best in cinema. TV is something that happens in the background while I'm a) drinking, b) writing or c) thinking about drinking and writing (while listening to music). Considering I don't read enough, I am left with very few things to rank regarding the year that (almost) was. So, without further ado, my personal top 10 moments and/or memories that shaped my year (pending nothing crazy-awesome or horrific happens in the next 5 days, which is actually more than likely).

There's good news and there's bad news... and then more bad news. Which do you want first?

Worst Moment of 2009 #10 - IRS Audit
Yeah, it happened. Back in, er... some month of this year I received a letter in the mail that informed me that I owed the Federal Government some money. No, I did not cheat on my taxes, nor did I "forget" to pay them. I (in all honesty) forgot to report my (prepare for contradictory phrase) unemployment wages. And this was all ab out timing. In a "normal" year this wouldn't even make the list, but it was the icing on the shitcake that was 2009. Yes, I just said shitcake.

Best Moment of 2009 #10 - Jeff Tweedy in concert
My friend Chris had purchased a ticket for me. Last minute, I couldn't get the day off work. Then that crazy thing called Karma stepped in: Long story short, I had a misprinted version of my work schedule which made me an hour late, thus resulting in me getting sent home and allowing me to see Tweedy. Best, worst mistake EVER. Ranks in the Top 5 shows of all time.

Worst Moment #9 - New Years Eve embarrassment
Thinking I had a shot with a co-worker, I attended the striking blonds NYE party. Unfortunately she was not ready for a midnight kiss, resulting in TOTAL drunken embarrassment for me. Thankfully my other coworkers stood by me and dismissed aforementioned blond as a crazy bitch.

Best Moment #9 - DROID
Hate to say it... kinda, but this phone has really changed my life.

Worst Moment #8 - Leaving my campus apartment
If you ever rent an apartment in Champaign: DO NOT rent from the University Group. Those MFs really screwed me over. Nuf said.

Best Moment #8 - You're lookin' at it! (blogging)
And writing in general I suppose. While compiling this list I looked back at all of my posts from 2009 and realized that I am a big fan of myself. I like... strike that, LOVE my writing. Lol, but mostly I love being able to look back at my writing, or my life you could say. It's kinda fun, among other things. I highly recommend that everyone blog or at least keep a journal - some form of self-recollection/preservation.

Worst Moment #7 - My breakup with Jess (pt.1)
Technically this happened in 2008, but the whole thing stretched out long enough that it ruined the first few months of 2009. Details later...

Best Moment #7 - Pygmalion Music Festival
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

Worst Moment #6 - Getting hit by a car while biking home from Pygmalion
Hit and run after the first night of Pygmalion. Sucked. Hurt. Left some badass scars. The chicks dig 'em.

Best Moment #6 - Being Single
When you flirt (or sleep) with other woman you don't feel so guilty if you're single. Just kidding. Not really. Well, kind of. Being single was pretty sweet at first, but all of a sudden you miss the companionship. Then you meet someone new. Then she runs off on you. God damn Karma.

Stay tuned for the Top 5...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Who the hell is Wesley Willis?

A number of years ago (pre-youtube days) my brother was listening to this awful yet awkwardly contagious song, which to the best of my recollection he downloaded via Limewire (or maybe even Napster. lol, Napster.)

"I kicked Batman's ass. I kicked Batman's ass... Rock over London. Rock on Chicago."

WTF!?

My brother went on to play me "Rock n' Roll McDonalds" while explaining that this was some homeless guy who performs with his keyboard on the streets of Chicago. His name was Wesley Willis.

We downloaded a bunch more of this "music" which included a handful of songs about bestiality (sucking camels dicks and such) and many more that ended with a corporate slogan ("Taco John's: A whole lot of Mexican"). The Wesley Willis craze lasted a couple of weeks, tops, and all was soon forgotten.

If this were to happen today, I of course would "Wiki that shit" and discover that Wesley Willis was not a homeless man whop performed on the streets of Chicago, but rather s self-proclaimed Rock 'n Roll star and artist who toured the country playing both solo and with his punk band, the Wesley Willis Fiasco. In addition, Willis would sell his drawings after the shows, and actually made some pretty decent cash. Oh, and did I mention he was schizophrenic?

Anyhow, there is a whole lot out there to learn about this guy. I stumbled across a documentary about Wesley Willis on Pitchfork and have posted the introduction below (which is now a different video). I highly recommend watching the whole thing, if you find yourself with 77 minutes of free time.


Intro fromWesley Willis's Joyrides

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Norah Jones covers Wilco, gets remixed by the Beastie Boys

Pitchfork informed me of this fun news, so I thought I'd share. I'm not a huge Norah Jones fan, but her collaborations with Ryan Adams, Jack White and others have always impressed me, as do these two little gems...

That's What I Said remix can be heard here.

Jesus, etc cover

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Random Thoughts (from the burbs)

I'm sitting here in the rented house of my brother and sister. It is a mess. Toilets don't flush, beer bottles fill nearly every inch of elevated surface area, and it appears that the battery gnome has made his rounds (I can't find a single remote control that works).

But I'm back in Bartlett. I just spent about three hours hanging out with some of the best friends anyone could ever have, whom I do not see or even talk to nearly enough anymore. It was nice, really nice.

I told myself I would take full advantage of my time off work (a mere three days, so every moment counts). Thus far I have stuck to my word. It was not at all how I expected to spend my Black Wednesday; it was actually much better than I expected. And as I type this, only one of the four inhabitants of this dwelling (my sister) have returned from their nights of mayhem. So, who knows what will come of the rest of the evening (early morning).

Tomorrow of course, is obligatory family time, which I'm actually looking forward to. Afterward however, I might get another chance to hang out with my friends. Maybe go see a movie or just chill. Rock!

Friday, I'm in love...
With the Turkey Tourney. It should be a real blast this year, as always. I get to see so many of the people I love. Unfortunately I might have a run in with the ex (and possibly her new boy). I really don't mind, though my sister has vowed to ban her from attending. I have such a great sister, lol.

Anyhow, this post was what was promised: random thoughts. Maybe I'll have something more organized to post later. Until then...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I really hate bad advertising/Apple/AT&T

Not something I usually write about, but nonetheless, something that really honks me off, bad advertising. This can be print, internet, radio or television. Whether it is misleading, false, pompous, cliche or just plain stupid, it's all over the place and it bugs the hell out of me.

For instance, the new AT&T TV ad campaign featuring Luke Wilson. He's standing in front of an easel with a checklist on it. It's got two columns (AT&T and Verizon) and a list of features including Speed, Smartphones, Talk and Surf and Apps. Wilson talks a bit about each feature: AT&T has the nation's fastest 3g network, it has the most popular smartphones, it's the only network where you can talk and surf the web at the same time and it has over 100,000 apps. After checking all of the boxes in the AT&T column, he goes on to check one in the Verizon column and says "[the network] that starts with a V." (Ha.) At the end there is also a website posted: www.thetruthabout3g.com which redirects to www.att.com/thetruthabout3g, which is essentially a web version of the commercial sans Luke Wilson.

This commercial is an obvious rebuttal to Verizon's "got a map for that" ad, which was actually kind of clever. On the redirected web page, AT&T seems to take a jab at the Droid as well, stating all the things AT&T does/has and that Verizon does not.

Now, I have no problem with competitive advertising. If I'm going to point fingers I might as well point one at Verizon, who started it, with their Droid and "map for that" ads. However both Verizon ads were clear, accurate and truthful.

At&T might have the fastest 3g network. I don't know, I don't even know or care to look up what 3g stands for. I do know that it's almost always on my phone (a Droid from Verizon) in the top right corner, next to a signal strength icon that is almost always half full or better. (The 3g icon is replaced by a wifi icon when I enter a hotspot.) Now, living in a densely populated area, this is no surprise to me. But should I take a trip up to the suburbs, I pass through a lot of cornfields. And cornfields mean less population density, which, on AT&T means no 3g service, but on Verizon means I'm covered.

I have friends and colleagues who own iphones and have to turn the 3g off most of the time because they can't get service and the device constantly searching for service drains the battery. I also know a couple of people who have gone from the iphone to the Droid and love the coverage they now have with Verizon. (They also happen to like the Droid a whole lot better than the iphone.)

So, even if we assume that AT&T has the fastest 3g coverage, the fact is their coverage sucks in comparison to Verizon's.

AT&T's second claim, having the most popular smartphones, is such a loaded statement. First off, "the most popular" doesn't mean shit. Was the most popular kid in school the smartest? No. Was the most popular choice for President in 2002 and 2004 the right choice. No. Was the most popular Beatle the most talented? No. But, I'll give it to AT&T, they do have the most popular smartphones: the Apple iPhone 3G and the Apple iPhone 3GS. Oh, and the refurbished versions. After that AT&T has a couple of Blackberrys that are even worth looking at and then a bunch of crappy Nokia's and whatnot. Just check out their site and you'll see what I mean. I've been hating on Apple for years, and while the ipod, the iphone and the ipod touch have all impressed me, I have always thought that they overrated. So, suck it Apple.

So while the whole popularity thing got me goin', it was the next statement that really pissed me off: AT&T is the only network that lets you talk and surf the web at the same time. WHO DOES THAT!?!?! Seriously, I'm all for multitasking but it is nearly impossible for most humans to talk on the phone (and have any idea what the other person is saying) while surfing the web, let alone on a cell phone! And I suppose you would have to be on speakerphone for this feature to work anyhow. I work at a grocery store where I see people on their cell phones all day long everyday, and not once have I seen someone googling, facebooking, tweeting or wiki-ing anything while chatting with their friend or family member. It's hard enough for them to point to the donut they want while on the damn phone. Small, stupid victory AT&T. I award you -1 points.

But here is your chance to make up some points, AT&T. You have over 100,000 apps - ten times that of the Android OS. But from what I understand these apps can only be used on phones manufactured by Apple. Well, Android is running on more than ten times more phones than Apple offers. And as an Android user, I have searched the Marketplace plenty of times and seen many, MANY repeated apps. So I went online and searched for iphone apps and saw basically the same thing. Hundreds of apps for farts, jokes and bible verses. Not one single thing caught my eye and made me think wow, I wish Android offer an app like that. So, really you could have a million more apps than me, and if there are no new, unique ones, I could care less.

So, there's my rant. I really had to do this. I'm sick of bad advertising, REALLY tired of AT&T and like previously stated, I've always hated Apple. And this was fun.

Hopefully in the future I can critique some more ad campaigns. In the meantime, what are some commercials or advertisements that get you steamed?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Tourney: A Brief History, part 1

Finally, finally, we have the details in place for the 6th Annual Turkey Tourney. It feels really good.

In case you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, the Turkey Tourney is an annual event that started back in 2004. I was living with my best pal, Ryan Peters or "kid" as we endearingly referred to each other. We had a two bedroom apartment in Lisle, IL with a 19" TV and a Nintendo 64 with a handful of games, the best of them: Mario Kart 64.

We played nearly everyday; after school and work, there was nothing like coming home to "the R&R" and unwinding with a couple of dozen races on the N64. He was always DK and I was always Bowser. Our favorite track, Bowser's Castle, backwards.

Peters dominated. Of the few thousand races we probably played, he easily won 90% of them. But with every loss, the competition became more intense. I'm sure he got more of a kick out of it than I did.

Anyhow, seeing as that we were two of the oldest of our group of friends and pretty much the only to have an apartment, we were the hosts of frequent parties. At said parties, Mario Kart quickly became the standby for entertainment (in between dance parties and impromptu singalongs). One thing led to another and by November, just three short months after the establishment of the R&R, we thought up the idea of the Turkey Tourney.

Everyone would be back from school for Thanksgiving break. No one had work or any other obligations other than eating turkey, hanging out with family and watching football the next day. It made perfect sense. Let's get everyone together and place some Mario Kart!

We drew up some handmade invites, headed to Kinko's to make copies and drove mailbox to mailbox informing our friends of our get together...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hiatus ended

It has recently dawned on me that, no matter how well things are going in my life, I always seem to have something that weighs heavy on my mind, heart and soul nearly every waking moment. Often it is not just one thing, but many. But never is it nothing. Cliche as it may be, it's always something. It's like I have this internal to do list that never goes away. Just when I think I can check off that last item, something else comes up.

Just had to get that off my chest. Details to follow. Maybe. But as brief as this entry was, it feels really good to blog again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pygmalion Name Dropping

What happens when you get hit by a car and suddenly find yourself on the couch bored all day?

This...


Pygmalion Name Dropping

I was reading The Books about Margot and the Nuclear So and So's on my Yacht when the Headlights of a Maserati caught my eye. The Low beams were like a Sunset Stallion over the New Ruins of my Village. I grabbed my Maps & Atlases before battling the Wavves of the Oceans, and headed to shore where I met my friends Owen and Ohtis. Our plan was to visit the Gentleman Auction House where My Brightest Diamond was up for bidding, but the Girls Next Door- Liz Janes, Angie Heaton, Tracy & Tricia, informed us that Joe Pug had gotten lost in the Mazes of his Paper Route.

"Now Now Every Children," I exclaimed, "we have to find him."

But the streets of Mason Proper were so pooly designed, navigating them was like putting together a jiGsaw puzzle. Not to mention the On Again Off Again Light Pollution, which caused random Phantograms in the night sky. I rembember back in the Post-Historic days of The 1900's when we didn't have such problems.

We enlisted the help of The Number One Sons- Stan McConnell, Ryan Groff and Bob Nanna. They suggested we hop on the World's First Flying Machine to continue our search. On account of my fear of flying, I deciced to continue on foot.

"My Dear Alen Andrews," I asked, "would You & Yourn mind manning the air search?"

He agreed, and the rest of us headed down Mt. St. Helen's Vietnam Band road (I still don't know why they decided to give that street such a long name). We must have walked an Alpha Mile before reaching Elsinore, where we stopped for some Iron and Wine at a little cafe called The Hood Internet. Our waiter, William Fitzsimmons, suggested the Pomegranates. We ate and listened to some Japandroids on the Jookabox. It was a Ra Ra Riot! But we had work to do.

"Take Care," our waiter said, "and watch out for Gazelle, especially the big one they call Decibully."

We took his warning seriously. We also came across a Marmoset and a Common Loon. A few of us even thought we saw Mordechai in the Mirror. But still no sign of our lost friend. We even asked the Tractor Kings, who sent us to The Delta Kings, who ended up being a Company of Thieves. We were down on our luck.

Finally we struck Solid Gold! Help from all of the DJs of Golden Quality: CZO, Mertz, Kosmo and Belly. Together with the Hathaways, the DJs had invented a machine they called an Autolux, which would prove very useful in aiding our search.

"That thing looks like RJD2! How does it work?" I asked.

"Well, you just grab the Horse's Ha by The Antlers, and Good Night & Good Morning!"

Next thing you know, we were back in the Empires of Lucero with our missing paperboy, playing BLK JKS and watching The Life & Times of Starfucker.

Can you spot all of the Pygmalion acts in my ridiculous story?

Friday, August 14, 2009

TGIF

A few days short of a year ago today I made a simple, small mistake that turned out to be the worst nightmare and toughest experience I have ever endured. I drank and drove.

This is probably not news to most of you. And I know I have preached to no end about the dangers of drinking and driving. I feel like a MADD member or something. But if I can prevent one nightmare for someone else, save one life or simply make you think twice about making the mistake I made, I feel that I have made a world of difference.

I'd like to remind you what this mistake has cost me: approximately $5,000, friends, my reputation, relationships, and a year of anxiety, headaches and heartburn.

Today was my final court date. After paying the last $15 I owed for a Motor Vehicle Report (yeah, the government charges you to look into their own records) I am a free man. My supervision has ended, all fines and fees are paid, classes and courses completed, and I have a huge load off my shoulders.

I have learned my lesson. I will never make that mistake again. And today marks a fresh start. I have some relationships that still need mending, some serious health problems that have sparked from all of the anxiety I have suffered, and a lot of debt to be paid, but I can only go up from here.

The sun is shining, it's Friday, I'm in Chicago surrounded by some of my best friends, and life is good. So I'm moving forward, closing this ugly chapter of my life and putting the past to rest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why is it that I can't do the things I want to do? I know that I am capable of so much, but I can't do anything.

The trick is, to realize that you are always doing what you want to do. Nobody is making you do anything. Once you get that, you see you are free, and that life is a series of choices. Nothing happens to you; you choose.


Somebody once told me (somebody very important- if you know who you are, please comment) that we only have to do one thing, and that is, die. So very true.

Free will, or destiny?

Free will, moving towards or away from a purpose.


Not sure exactly what my purpose is, but I know I have one, unlike many of you. Anyone know his/her purpose? (Please share)

Night...

for now

Sunday, August 9, 2009

10 Reasons to come visit me!

While I love in down here in Champaign, I do miss my friends up North like crazy. And I try to make it back to Chicago when I can, like this coming weekend for instance, but I've been down here nearly a year, and have had quite the lack of visitors thus far.

Thanks a lot, jerks! Just kidding, but for reals, I know you're all busy with work, school and the like, but if you have some free time, even a day or two, I would love to see you.

Now that I'm off campus I have some more room to spread my legs, and even a spare bedroom for you. So, if my beautiful face and the promise of indoor plumbing aren't enough to convince you, I've compiled a list of reasons for you to get your ass down here. And the sooner the better - August and September are two happenin' months down here in CU...




1. Festivals continue beyond Labor Day!

First of all, we have the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival coming up the weekend before Labor Day. I have never been, but based on my experience at the Blues, Brews and BBQ earlier this summer, any outdoor festival in Urbana promises a good time.

September is packed with more food, music and fun, all over town(s). The Pygmalion Music Fest (September 16-19) brings bands from all over to perform at our plethora of awesome venues. Iron and Wine is the big headliner, but some of my picks include Ra Ra Riot, Headlights, Owen, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Joe Pug, the Horse's Ha, New Ruins and Common Loon. But check out the site for yourself and I'm sure you'll find something that interests you. Passes for the whole weekend can be purchased as well as individual show tickets. And better yet, some shows are free!

Also happening that weekend is the Urbana International Beer Tasting and Chili Cook-Off. Nothing could polish off a weekend better than beer and chili.



2. Speaking of Chili...

Once again this fall I will be cooking up large batches of my own famous chili. Using ground beef from the campus meat lab and locally grown produce from the farmer's market, I make two batches every other weekend or so (one hot and one mild) to coincide with football, of course. September 5 is the first Saturday of college football and both Illinois and Notre Dame will be nationally televised. So take the weekend off and come eat some chili and drink some beer. (I might even be DIYing that this time too...)



3. Saturdays when I'm not cooking Chili...

Chances are I will be AT the Illini home games, or at least tail-gating it up. I didn't get a chance to go to any games last year, so I'll have to make up for it this year. And the team looks better than they did last year. So, be sure to let me know in advance - I'll get some tickets (much more affordable than even a Cubs game) and we can make a day of it. Or, if the fall doesn't look good for you, we can always catch a basketball game in the winter.

4. Free Donuts!

And other baked goods. Working at the bakery not only pays my bills, it satisfies my sweet tooth, and yours.







5. Travel.

We're located within an hour drive of Atlanta, Paris and Jamaica. No joke, look at a map!










6. Bars out here for miles.

Like most college campuses, U of I has plenty-o-bars within stumbling distance of the quad. But, beyond campus there is a whole slew of high-class pubs, biker bars and local dives that are sure to match your taste, and budget. From Jupiter's 2 where you can shoot pool, play arcade games, and enjoy some of the best pizza in town (while playing the ponies in the OTB, of course), to the Iron Post where you can enjoy $1 or $2 PBR pints most nights, the nightlife options in the CU are virtually endless. Outside of nearly every city in Wisconsin, I'm pretty sure we have the most bars per capita in the midwest. Plus, for my underage friends, 19 gets you into most Champaign bars, and it's only 18 in Urbana.




7. If you don't drink, you still have to eat.

While Wisconsin may have us beat drinking-wise, Champaign-Urbana boasts the most franchise restaurants per capita in the U.S. But please, you can get a Big Mac or some Panda Express anywhere. Good news is that we also have about the same amount of independent eateries as we do fast food joints. Merry Ann's diner (a 24-hour old school Denny's-like joint) has two locations and serves breakfast all day and night. Crane Alley has some of the best sandwiches you'll ever try (not to mention over 200 bottled beers!) and Seven Saints has to-die-for gourmet sliders.

Almost every downtown (Champaign or Urbana - yeah, we have TWO downtowns) dining spot has outdoor seating, which is great in late summer-early fall.

Pizza-wise, we have great thin crust at a handful of bars, and Papa Del's makes deep dish that rivals the best of Chicago.

Vegans, vegetarians and picky eaters? No worries. Plenty of options for all y'all.

I could eat out every night of the year (if I had the money) and excite my taste buds in a new way with each meal. The CU is full of great places to get your eat on.






8. Plenty o' Fish.

School be starting soon, and that means (in my roommate Jim's words) "fresh meat!"

There are 40,000 students here, all crammed into a roughly five square mile radius. Guy or girl, straight, gay or otherwise, at the VERY LEAST, you'll have eye candy like you wouldn't believe.



9. Meet the pups!

We have three crazy dogs waiting to lick your face and hump your leg.

But seriously, they're a lot of fun and just so cute.




10. Because you miss me...

...and I miss you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Year Later

It's been a year and five days since I started this blog. I reread my first few entries today.

While this blog is not quite a mirror image of my life, it represents the past year pretty well. I need not to reminisce on the events of the past year, for that you can go back and read all of my entries. I will just say this: the past year has been quite a roller coaster for me. I would never have guessed in a million years that I would be where I am today. But that's what I love most about my life. When my life gets routine, mundane, and lacks surprises, I get bored, restless and depressed. I'd much rather ride the ups and downs than ride on the straight and narrow track.

A year ago I thought I was grown up. Turn out, I had a lot of growing up to do. At the very least, this past year has allowed me to do that. While I've lost a lot, I've also gained a lot. I'll spare you the details (and once again redirect you to previous entries) and simply state that I have reconnected with myself in an entirely new- and improved- way.

And thanks to this blog, among other projects, I have become a better writer. Just as in life, I have become a better person. The best metaphor I can come up with to describe this metamorphosis, is this: a year ago I was a Clark Kent. Today, I'm a Superman.

While I don't feel invincible, I feel stronger, more conscious, more intelligent and insightful, more respectful, less afraid, and much, MUCH happier.

I still have occasions of depression and anxiety, but I have learned to deal with them in proactive ways. I have most likely mentioned this previously, but I once had a boss who, despite having his head up his ass, was full of insightful idioms and epigrams. One that comes to mind is "there are no problems, only opportunities."

This has, in a roundabout way, become a mantra of mine.

Like many of life's lessons, this way of looking at problems is much easier said than done. It is a discipline, that even the most regimented individual can not follow 24/7. But the more you try, the easier it becomes, and the more positive and optimistic view you will have on life.

But having a positive attitude is not just about turning problems into opportunities. It's a way of life that I have stumbled across this past year. I had a bit of an epiphany the other day while helping out a friend with a problem; I RARELY complain any more.

When I thought about it for awhile, I couldn't even recall the last time I had a "decent" complaint. After a little self-investigation, I realized that I don't complain, not because I have nothing to complain about, but because there is no point. Complaining solves nothing and almost always worsens the situation.

Now, I know this all sounds like the BS we've been spoon-fed since birth: don't sweat the small stuff, glass half full, etc. And I subconsciously resisted all of that for years. But I think all of my "bad luck" and misfortunes have paved the path for me to fall into a life of positive thinking. It came down to sink or swim (as you can clearly see by reading my entries from the past year) and the only way I would make it out alive is to choose to swim.

But one year later, I'm not doing the doggy paddle. I'm doing Micheal Phelps style laps.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blogging about... blogging?

I am thinking about taking a Facebook, Twitter and Blogger hiatus. In other words, this could be my last post for awhile.

I feel like I have so much to write about, but just can't get the message across clearly. I think I have OD'd on social networking. At the same time, I feel like I have been a hermit lately. Does that make any sense?

Maybe I'm just going through a bout of perfectionism. I tend to do that. One day I can't stop ranting about my life, and the next I feel like I need to hold back and express only the words that matter and make sense.

It seems that when I blog a lot, people tend to comment on and get into my posts. I like that, but maybe I am just an attention whore. I want my posts to have some relevance and not just be rants.

Readers, if you are still out there- feedback, please!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Life imitates art far more than art imitates life

Oscar Wilde once said it. I figured it would be a good quote to kick off this entry, which may or may not result in a barrage of entries.

On a whim I went to go see "Funny People" earlier tonight. The movie itself was nothing great - a few good laughs, halfway decent storyline, but it just dragged on. One thing that kept me interested enough to stay seated was the connection I had to the characters and situations in the film. It was nothing very deep, just being able to relate to Adam Sandler's character who blew it with his one and only true love, neglected family and friends, and in turn was left alone in despair at what seemed to be the end of his life.

Okay, so I am not a lonely, dying, world famous comedian, but as far as relationship regrets go, I have mine. I may or may not have let that "one true love" go, I am pretty sure I have neglected family and friends, resulting in strained relationships, and it is for certain that I have had moments, if not hours, days and weeks, of desperation. But, I have gotten through it all, I feel it has made me a better person, and I am definitely in a better point, if not the best, in my life.

But, I will get into the details of that stuff later (in future entries). Back to the topic at hand: life imitating art.

So, while "Funny People" was not worth an hour of my hard labor, there was an inkling of a lesson to be learned from it. (TEASER ALERT: Skip to the next paragraph if you do not want to ruin the end of the movie.) After an extremely long drawn out series of events, "George" (Sandler's character) ends up without his ex (the love of his life). Not what you would expect from your typical romantic-comedy (which, despite what the trailer may want to believe - this film is). It's kind of refreshing, the not-so-happy ending. (Oh god, how badly I want to see "500 Days of Summer")

If you've ever read "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs," or have half a brain, you know that media, or "art" has so much influence on our lives, on so many levels of consciousness. Hence, life imitating art, in my humble opinion. In other words, I almost forced that connection I had with George. I took the character I felt I associated most with, and made him, me; or me, him. Either way, I checked my id and ego at the door and let "George" and Ryan become one.

This is not the first time in recent memory that I have let myself slip away into the oblivion of media: television, film, music or otherwise.

I have been making an attempt at songwriting lately. Problem is, I am not a musician. I consider myself a decent poet, but I lack the ability to put my lyrics to any sort of beat or melody. In other words I can not make art of my life (musically), so instead I take music and relate it to my life. I listen to songs and figure out how they relate to my life. It's not hard to do, considering the things I've been through in my 25 years, but it just seems so lackluster, so pointless. It can be very therapeutic, and at times even inspiring, but I fear that my art is simply an imitation of someone else's art, which might be an imitation of yet, someone else's art.

So, in a way Mr. Wilde makes a point. But I only think his words are true because life imitates art far more easier than art imitates life. To put it another way, in a society such as ours - full of capitalists, uberconsumers, wannabes, celebrities, celebrity wannabes, posers, robots, ignorance and the like - original thought is a dying art, like letter writing or chivalry.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Malaise & Magnificence

I have been avoiding a lot of things for awhile now. While I can rightfully chalk it up to a bunch of exterior problems (the dogs, Jim being away, a new love interest, etc.) the truth is that I just have not had the energy to commit to anything outside of my day-to-day lately. My lifestyle, along with my recent bout of [love] have handicapped me. Or, as my friend Chris would say: I am in a state of malaise.

To speak of the devil, while contradicting my last statement, I have been in a magnificent mood lately. This is thanks to the aforementioned bout of [love]. I say [love] because I am scared. I recently gave up on the idea of "love" entirely.

With divorce rates as high as they are here, looking into other cultures which either view marriage as a joke or have no concept of it at all, and losing what I thought was the love of my life to some invalid(s), I came to the sobering conclusion that love is much of a fairytale as Santa Claus.

I suppose such is life: a battle of ups and downs, a story of opposing forces (just like Star Wars). Though, it's not always about good and evil. Sometimes it's about me and you. And we both have good and evil inside of us; so essentially we are battling ourselves, our ids and our egos. Which is about as retarded as it gets.

Why, as humans, do we hold back from happiness? Why are we so insecure? Why are we so afraid of life? It must be that we have become so comfortable with death. We no longer fear death, so we must fear life. Epic fail.

Monday, July 13, 2009

When the Cubs win the World Series

Reminiscing while watching the Home Run Derby.

I have few complaints about my life. My past has had its flaws, just as my present does and there is no doubt my future will, but the positive moments and experiences have far outweighed the negative ones. But I would hate to die without seeing the Cubs win the World Series.

Don't let anyone say that it's just a game.
For I've seen other teams and it's never the same.
When you're born in Chicago, you're blessed and you're healed.
First time (every time!) you walk into Wrigley Field.


I don't remember my first Cubs game. I wanna say this is because I was too young. Born and raised to bleed Cubby Blue, I'm pretty sure this is the case. Unlike my dad, who got to go to countless games as a child (when tickets were affordable), I only get the chance to go to a few games a season, but I think that makes Wrigley Field an even more magical place. Just ahead of the racetrack, Wrigley is my happiest place on Earth.


Our heroes wear pinstripes; heroes in blue.
They give us the chance to feel like hero's too.
Whether we'll win, and if we should lose


I never really had a "hero" growing up, but if I had to choose one person I admired as a kid it was Ryne Sandberg. His name was close to mine, and he was the star player when I first remember being a Cubs fan. But I really looked up to the whole team. And today I do as well. The Cubs have not won the World Series in 101 years, but they still draw more fans across the country than pretty much any other team out there. There is something to be said about both the team and their following.

We are one with the Cubs, with the Cubs we're in love.
Yeah hold our head high as the underdog.
We are not fair weather but foul weather fans!
We're like brothers in arms in the streets and the stands.


Anytime I meet someone new, one of my first questions is "Cubs fan?"
If the answer is yes, there is an instant bond. Whether you grew up in Wrigleyville or South Dakota, if you're a Cubs fan, you are a Northsider.

There's magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard.
The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score.
A world full of greed I could never want more.


It's really the simplest thing two people could bond over, baseball. It's more interesting than the weather, the season is the longest of all professional sports (leaving only a few months of irrelevance), and everyone has a unique opinion about their favorite team. No wonder baseball is synonymous with apple pie regarding being "American."

And here's to the men and the legends we've known.
Teaching us faith and giving us hope.
United we stand and united we'll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all.


As Americans, Chicagoans and Northsiders, we share this superiority complex: we love winning and hate losing. As Chicagoans we are used to winning. Look at the Bulls in the 90's; we had, arguably the best basketball star to ever play the game. But as Northsiders we have been losing for over 100 years now, and we continue to pack the stands and back our team. We have had some great talent come through our town but nothing resembling the likes of MJ. We had a great #23 of our own, a #10, a #14 and my personal favorite, #21. But these numbers are just few of the greats who have played for the Cubs over the years. We never had a Jordan, but we've always had a solid team: a group of talented players who knew how to play the game as a team.


Yeah Ernie Banks said, "Oh let's play two."
Or did he mean 200 years?
In the same ballpark, our diamond, our jewel.
The home of our joy and our tears.


Speaking of good, old #14...
The thing about the Cubs is that they are more than a team. They often refer to the Cubs as an organization. Once a Cub, always a Cub. Ask any player in the MLB. Everyone wants to be a Cub. Best fans, best park, best city. Sandberg coaches in the farm system, Santo is as much of a legend as a broadcaster as he was a player, and countless vets scout, report or coach for this team. The Cubs are a family.

Keeping traditions and wishes made new.
The place where our grandfathers' fathers they grew.
A spiritual feeling if I ever knew.
And if you ain't been I am sorry for you.


Even Cards and Sox fans agree, Wrigley has a feeling about it. Everyone should see a ballgame on the Northside once in their life. It is the only place where a seven dollar Old Style is justifiable.


And when the day comes, when that last winning run,
And I'm crying and covered in beer.
I'll look to the sky and know I was right.


Being a Cubs fan is a privilege and a responsibility. You have to be born or married into it. And from that point on, you're cursed for life. But you'll never know a better time than getting wasted in the bleachers with your fellow Cubby Blue. And when that fateful October night finally rolls around...

Someday we'll go all the way.
Yeah! Someday we'll go all the way.


...It will have all been worth it.

I kicked today's ass.

Having Mondays off is probably the best thing ever. You can actually get the stuff you said you we're going to get done over the weekend, done. Plus you get to see the dead look on the faces of all the poor saps who had to go back to work today.

Anyhow, I figured I would sleep in til nine, which I did, took all three dogs for separate walks/bike rides, got back to catch the second half of Price is Right and got to hang out with one of my new favorite people before she had to go to work (sucker). For me that sounds like a pretty decent day. But that wasn't even half of it.

First, after bidding ado to my female friend, I went to get my paycheck. Getting paid on a day off is awesome. I then rode the bike to the bank for cashing and headed downtown to enjoy this beautiful weather. There I stopped at Exile on Main Street and picked up the Crusive/Ladyfinger release (left over from Record Store day) and the Wilco EP (to go along with the new album).

As I rode through downtown Champaign I came across two very interesting individuals. First there was this black dude (looked like he could possibly be homeless) standing in front of the vacuum store yelling about "salvation," "revelation," and "the truth."
I see homeless guys yelling all the time (mostly in Chicago) but this guy was louder than any street crier I have heard before. It was pretty crazy.
Then there was the world's creepiest old man, dressed in all white- shoes, socks, pants, shirt, jacket and hat, along with a white as snow beard to match. The creepiest part was that he was standing directly in front of the door to the adult arcade, as if to block anyone from entering or exiting. Creepy. I wanted to take his picture but then again...

So after leaving downtown and heading home I found a bike seat just lying on the sidewalk. It was one of those soft, comfy ones (as opposed to my hard as a rock one). So I grabbed it and once I got home removed my crappy seat and replaced it with the new one. You can thank me now or you can thank me later, ass.

Also, I stopped at the Dollar General where the woman in front of me had a cart full of cheap crap, totaling $138. At the dollar store. I think she had bought one of everything. I laughed and I think she heard me but whatever, she's crazy.

Anyhow, it's only five o'clock, so I hope this day continues to be awesome. Actually, it is right now, because I'm about to play my new vinyl and eat the Toblerone I purchased at the DG. Haven't had one of these in years. Yum.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's go to the movies!

I haven't been to a movie theater since I moved down here, and even before that it had probably been a month or two- so in total, nearly a year since I had seen a film on the big screen, until last night.

Even since seeing the first trailer for "Bruno" a couple of months back, I have been telling my roommate that we would see it at midnight. And I'm not a midnight movie person. I'm not a big fan of the "epic series" films such as "Lord of the Rings" or "Batman," but have been dragged kicking and screaming to these debuts on numerous occasions. I fell asleep during the 3D Harry Potter and at least two of the "LotR" films. I despised "The Dark Knight" though the overall experience of the night (hosting an hour and a half long rock-paper-scissors tournament in the theater prior to the previews after drinks with a group of a couple dozen friends) was fun and well worth the nine dollars paid for admittance. But the idea of having to be the first to see a film just seems absurd to me.

So this is where you call me a hypocrite. While my roommate was out of town, I did find a coworker who shared my interest in "Bruno." We looked online and saw that both theaters in the area were having midnight showings.

Unlike in the suburbs, where one must buy tickets days in advance, get to the theater at least two hours before the show and stand in lines filled with ridiculous fanatics dressed in costume, I figured we could get away with showing up at 11:15, buy tickets and get decent seats with time to spare.

Well, we walked into the Savoy 16 theater and stood at the box office counter for five minutes as a crowd of 20 or so people gathered behind us. The employees were cleaning the concession stand, which didn't even appear to be open and completely ignored us. Finally I walked up to the nearest worker, figuring the show was sold out.

"We have no midnight show. Sorry."

Damn you lying internets!

So, as we walked out, severely disappointed, I had to be the bearer of bad news to the remainder of moviegoers hoping to see "Bruno." They also had been misinformed by the web.

We called Carmike Theater in Champaign as we crossed our fingers and drove North. They indeed did have a midnight showing, and tickets were still available! We paid $5.75 for a seat(!) and had time to stop at concessions for a beverage, walked into the theater at 12:00 on the dot, and had our pick of adjacent seats.

Champaign continues to amaze me. Life down here is so much easier in so many aspects.

Anyhow, the movie was ridiculous, in a good way. Not quite "Borat" but never a dull moment in 83 minutes of film. Sasha Baron Cohen is a genius and I hope he continues to shock the world with this kind of stuff. It's not the same old, same old, which half of what makes it work.

Amongst the crowd, composed almost entirely of 17-25 year olds there was not one obnoxious person. Sure, the younger ones talked the the previews (consisting of flop comedies and a Megan Fox horror flick), but once the words "Feature Presentation" came on the screen you could hear crickets...

For about five seconds, until "Hi, I'm Bruno..." and the audience simultaneously burst into laughter.

The whole experience was great. And despite the lackluster coming attractions, I realized that there are plenty of movies worth paying at least $5.75 for in the near future.

Call me what you will, but a)Zoey Deschannel is HOT (and an awesome actress/singer/songwriter) and b)"500 Day of Summer" looks to break the barrier of what the past ten years have defined as "romantic comedy." Of course, there have been a few diamonds in the rough: "Garden State," "Love Actually" and "Eternal Sunshine," but the genre itself has become a joke in recent years.

I'm just pumped about seeing movies again. I have been renting/downloading/catching old classics on cable lately but there really is nothing like the movie going experience. Thank god there are finally films worthy of a "date night" rather than something that begins with "Not Another" or ends with "3," "4" or "5."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Working on a Dream

Since Day One, I have been working on a dream. Perhaps I found it at one point, or maybe more than one, but I lost it. Or maybe it's all part of the "grand scheme."

I really don't know. I don't think anyone does. No one has any clue what life is all about and if they say they do they are kidding themselves. Life is not about figuring things out- it's about enjoying it; and once you are able to do that, things will figure themselves out. (Wow, the "old me" has finally reemerged.)

I loved questioning everything, but life is too short for that. You have to take risks, live everyday like it's your last, dance like no one is watching and dream... as if there is no tomorrow while hoping for eternity. Like James Dean and Elanor Roosevelt said.

Days, weeks and years pass. Hopes and dreams are great, but we can not hold onto the past nor live in the future. The present is all we have. So, seize the day. Carpe Diem! The only moment that matters is this one.

Kids, the best piece of advice I ever received was this: BE HERE NOW. So, make the most of every waking moment. Never be afraid. Look fear in the eye and say, "FUCK YOU!"

Don't forget your past, but don't dwell on it. Forgive and forget, and move on. Don't think too much about the future, because nothing is promised. Accept the here and now, and more importantly, embrace it. Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and the company. Love your fellow man. Don't hate. Open your mind and your heart to what is standing in front of you right now, and love it.

No matter where you are in life, down and out or rich and famous, you must know that others have been in worse conditions than you are now. So, focus on the good in life. Not material things, social status or the like, but your happiness. You have it, deep down, we all do as humans. We all have an inner happiness. Meditate. Or f you can not, listen to a favorite song (sad or happy), or a favorite radio station, or call a friend. (My phone is always on.)

We need to come together as a race, the human race. We are all in this together: rich, poor; famous, forgotten; male, female; black, white and otherwise...

I know this is not a typical blog entry of mine, but I will leave you with the lyrics to a very special song to me, and hopefully it makes sense...

Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize - we're floating in space -
Do You Realize - that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize - that everyone you know someday will die

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize - Oh - Oh - Oh
Do You Realize - that everyone you know
Someday will die -

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes - let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Do You Realize - that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize

Monday, June 29, 2009

Life & Times: Part IV

I finally forced myself to watch "Marley and Me" tonight. UGH.

I read the book, which made me laugh, cry and the like. But the movie just brought me to tears. And it wasn't even that great of a film. I can't stand Jennifer Aniston and Owen is my least favorite of the Wilson brothers, but it was still one of those flicks...

I remember a few years back when my Mom gave me the book to read. They say you can;t judge a book by its cover but as soon as she handed it to me, I knew why.

There was a yellow lab on the cover for God's sake! I'm a sucker for puppies, first off. Secondly, grew up with Melly- a yellow lab. Not to mention I had just lost a dog, which made me hesitate before opening the first page.

But it was more than just that. The author, John Grogan, was just starting a family when he bought his pup. He eventually became the father of two boys and a girl. I am the first of three, with one younger brother and a younger sister. Hmmmm....

I think my Mom could relate to this. And I think she knew I would as well. Which leads me to a part of my life I tend to block out: my childhood.


The earliest memory I can recall is crying in preschool. I didn't want my Mom to leave me. It wasn't the first day or anything, but I clearly remember Mom telling the preschool teacher that my Dad was off work that day and that I wanted to stay home with him. Strangely I don't remember how true this was.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to recall childhood memories of my father. It is always a struggle. I end up with tee ball, business trips and a handful of Christmas mornings. I suppose these are the things most people hold onto, but I feel like I missed so much, or I am missing so much.

when my parents split, my brother was first to go running back to my Dad, while my sister and I wanted nothing to do with him. Not that we hated him, we just were content with Mom. But as time passed and water passed under the bridge, it was my brother who eventually shunned my father, while Courtney and I became closer with Dad.

I eventually moved back in with my Dad, after he had found a new job, new woman and cleaned up his act. The man who once was asking me to borrow five bucks for smokes or booze was now, once again, putting a roof over my head and food on the table.

However, this chapter of Life & Times is not about what has become of me, it is about what was me...


I "was" or was what should have become the "all American boy next door." Upper-middle class, living in the suburbs, academically "gifted" and carefree.

How did that become this?

I know for sure that I wouldn't have it any other way. I may have, at one point wanted to be that carefree little dude who probably would have turned into a cookie cutter fratboy banker, lawyer or doctor, but what a boring, sad life that would have been. I would probably end up divorced, depressed and dull.

I am not a huge believer in fate, never have been. I think this belief can be traced back to 1992, when I was in the third grade. I scored very poorly on the standardized tests and my Mom was shocked and had me "retested."

This "retesting" placed me in the main office of Centennial Elementary, at a large round table opposite this older woman. She asked me all of these personal questions followed by a slew of tests. I felt like I was being interrogated and psychoanalyzed all at once. In the end I think I impressed the lady, but I still felt like I was under an unnecessary microscope.

The "tests" landed me in a gifted program at an elementary school away from my friends, siblings and comfort zone. But I was young and naive. It's only now in retrospect that I can make sense of it all: my own Mother was stealing control of my life.

I always knew growing up that I was overprotected. I didn't realize however, how much it would fuck me up down the road...

When I finally took control of my own life, years later, my Mother refused to let me learn from my own lessons and took control once again. And now, I am far too dependent on her, and she wonders why.

Now it all makes sense. I know why I eventually went back to my Dad. The unstable, bitter, functioning alcoholic he may be (sorry pops, still love ya), he can give me my space and freedom to learn from my mistakes while still being there for me in dire times.

I love both my parents unconditionally. They really made a great couple, if only they had allowed themselves to learn a thing or two from each other.... but then I probably would have never learned to think for myself, ended up in one of those dreaded professions, and would be headed in the downward spiral of my hereditary past.

I need a Zantac!

Today I had the worst heartburn I have had in months. Half a bottle of Walgreens brand Tums later, I'm feeling alright, but man that was awful for awhile. Yuck.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking... Why all of a sudden out of nowhere did this raging volcano in my chest pop back up? Perhaps a weekend filled with BBQ and excessive drinking was the cause of my indigestion? But honestly, though I hate to admit it, it's probably stress again.

While it feels good to have a decent job again, and everything seems to be going well in my life, I'm totally stressed out. But my emotions are quite the animal. I feel great- I'm having fun, enjoying life and not worried about anything in particular, yet something is eating away at me. Panic attacks have returned, my appetite is so up and down, I am waking in the middle of the night from bad dreams and night tremors and I just don't get it.

I am writing more, and better than ever. I am exercising (perhaps not as much as I would like, but more than before). I am keeping myself occupied with all sorts of things. I just can not make sense of it.

I'm going to blame the heat. Today was a bit of relief, and tomorrow should be even better. So, here's to hoping for the best and a stress free tomorrow!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reasons to support your local record store & more...

Today I got the best phone call EVER!

It was Jeff from Exile on Main (local record store). He asked if I could keep a secret. Since I can, he told me that Wilco The Album had arrived early and I could come pick up my copy. So as I type I am listening to it on my record player. Sounds even better on vinyl!
So, kids, lesson here: support local businesses, because they will take care of you.

In other news, I have broken ground on my first novel, and have plans in the works for a memoir of sorts I will be co-authoring with Jim. We're thinking "Tuesdays With Jimbo" for a title, but I think that one's been done before...

Work just keeps getting better. I got an opportunity to work in another department today, which was cool, and my hours keep getting upped, which is also cool.

I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read my entries lately, and special thanks to those who left comments and positive feedback. The Life & Times series has been a lot of fun to write, and I promise much more of it in the near future.

Cheers!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

65

65 Questions You've Probably Never Been Asked...you know the rules. tag people in this note (including the person who tagged you!) to learn more about people. Also, try to tag people who you've tagged in other notes, sometimes you learn things in new notes that you didn't know before about them.......

1. First thing you wash in the shower?
naughty parts

2. What color is your favorite hoodie?
navy blue (and gold - for Notre Dame)

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?
yes

4. Do you plan outfits?
not really

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?
intoxicatingly happy

6. Whats the closest thing to you that's red?
some chicks bra

7. Last dream you remember having?
the one where I was in space

8. Did you meet anybody new today?
all sorts of bakery customers

9. What are you craving right now?
a smoke

10. Do you floss?
i should

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?
celery

12. Are you emotional?
No! God, thanks for asking! Geez!

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?
that's a lame question

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
lick it good, then bite. rawr

15. Do you like your hair?
who doesn't?

16. Do you like yourself?
again, who doesn't?

17. Have you lost a best friend recently?
just an ex

18. What are you listening to right now?
Go Cubs Go, actually

19. Are your parents strict?
mom- yes. dad- no.

20. Would you go sky diving?
if it was not so damn expensive

21. Do you like cottage cheese?
eh

22. Have you ever met a celebrity?
a few

23. Do you rent movies often?
i rent blow up dolls often...

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
me personality

25. How many countries have you visited?
four.. ish

26. Have you made a prank phone call?
many

27. Ever been on a train?
people havent?

28. Brown or white eggs?
there are brown eggs?

29. Do you have a cell-phone?
are you retarded?

30. Do you use chap stick?
addicted

31. Do you own a gun?
does a super soaker count?

32. Can you use chopsticks?
as weapons, yes

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?
two crazy dogs

34. Are you too forgiving?
no

35. Ever been in love?
once

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow?
me

37. Ever have cream puffs?
ever ask a stupid question?

38. Last time you cried?
dont remember

39. What was the last question you asked?
ever ask a stupid question?

40. Favorite time of the year?
autumn

41. Do you have any tattoos?
do birthmarks that look like Idaho count?

42. Are you sarcastic?
me? no way!

43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?
unfortunately

44. Have you ever walked into a wall?
everyday

45. Favorite color?
water

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
many a times

47. Is your hair curly?
i wish!

48. What was the last CD you bought?
hahahaha, I download illegally

49. Do looks matter?
for girls, yes

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?
sure...

51. Is your phone bill sky high?
yeah

52. Do you like your life right now?
yeah

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
almost always

54. Can you handle the truth?
I NEED the truth

55. Do you have good vision?
no

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
not really

57. How often do you talk on the phone
often

58. The last person you held hands with?
the dude in church

59. What are you wearing?
what am i NOT wearing? wait...

60.What is your favorite animal?
humans

61. Where was your profile picture taken?
a very dry, boring place

62. Can you hoola hoop?
on the Wii

63. Do you have a job?
two

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?
chicken

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?
yes

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Life & Times: Part III

The summer of all summers.

I am a fall person, for multiple reasons. First of all, I love the smells, sights and tastes of autumn. It's the time of the year that things wind down and we head indoors to spend time with family and friends. Not that we don't do this the rest of the year, but summer is too chaotic for me sometimes. I like chaos, in small doses. Summer is three months of constant chaos. Then comes fall. School starts, we put our clothes back on, get back to the daily grind, and things get quieter.

However, there was one summer that changed me. I was taking classes and working full-time, so my personal chaos was kept at bay. That is, until I took my first vacation, as an adult...

I remember leaving College of Dupage after my last final, to the best of my recollection mid-June. I pulled out my cell and called Peters or Mike or Dan...

"Vacation baby!" (probably Peters, lol)

Shortly after Peters and I signed our lease at Lakeside, we planned a trip to the Dells with Mike, Dan, Krista and Sam. I had taken a few days off work. We booked a hotel room for two nights. Class let out in the evening. Bags previously packed, I drove straight to Bartlett to pick up Dan, Mike and Sam. Peters and Krista had drove up earlier to secure the room.

I forget how we got the booze, but we had plenty of Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard and MGD for the weekend. All six of us crammed into one hotel room, bathtub full of ice and delicious alcohol.

We spent the weekend drinking, smoking, playing rock-paper-scissors and crashing go-karts. We shared a fabulous meal in the hotel restaurant and made a couple late night trips to Taco Bell.

I remember calling camp grounds at 1AM in Peters room, trying to get Jess to come with us, and vaguely recall kissing Macey goodbye. She had a cold when we left, but it barely phased me.

After an intoxicating couple of nights we made the trek back down south.

Living with my Aunt and Uncle at the time, I came back to an empty house in Carol Stream. Like the momma's boy I am, first thing I did was call home.

"How was your trip?"
My mom asked in a somber tone.

"Good. Fun. What's up?"
I knew something was up.

"I have to tell you something," she said.

I knew at that moment. My eyes swelled up, and I braced for the worst as I asked, "is it about my dog?"

It was. Macey had died.

They took her to the emergency vet, and she battled.

I balled for a good half hour before going for a drive and ending up at my parents house. My brother and sister answered the door, as teary-eyed as me. We didn't say much. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

I called a couple friends who were more than comforting. We all (my brother, Dan, Mike and all of our friends) met up at Peters' place that night, for a rock-paper-scissors tourney and random shenanigans. It was again, more than comforting.

Jess was there too. But it was not the first time we met. Prior to that was the D. Schwartz cotillion- a party hosted by my brother and I for Danny's 18th birthday, held at our parents house while they were out of the country for a few weeks. Great success! And before that, Jess had showed up at a BBQ at Mike's place after an Arlington outing. She looked so very familiar. For a minute I thought she was the girl i had a crush on my senior year of high school, Michelle Marzullo.

It was at the cotillion however, that I got to know Jess, as well as some poker tourneys at the Bauer's place, followed by the roadtrips with Amy, Sam, Krista and Hely... all of whom I became infatuated with immediately. But it was Jess that really stood out in the crowd.

That summer was also the start of Sunday Night Softball, which I will endlessly take credit for starting. I don't recall every last detail, but I mentioned it to Brad and texted Noah, and before we knew it, two dozen people were at Liesberg Park, gloves and bats in hand.

At some point, perhaps during a softball game, Jess and I struck up conversation and soon we were texting back and forth, with her eventually ending up at my Aunt and Uncles place (while they were out of town) to watch a movie.

It was obvious, we hit it off right away. Next thing I knew, rumors were flying and Haley mentioned something along the lines of, "so, you and Jess" at the next softball game.

After a couple crazy parties at my new digs (again, with the Aunt and Uncle out of town), I finally (with the help of my buds) mustered up the courage to ask Jess out.

Peters and I moved into Lakeside (with the help of Chung, Brad, little Peters, and a bunch of other friends) in August 2004. My first date with Jess was August 28th. I took her to Luigi's House in Naperville, followed by a stroll down the riverwalk, where I should have kissed her.

We threw our first major party Labor Day weekend. Jess was there. She went home with some friends, but didn't get very far before they convinced her to turn back around and kiss me. It was the best moment of my life.

Summer turned to fall, as it always does. But that summer was not the end of warm sunlight. It was the start of something much more...

Life & Times: The Epilogue, Part I

While every passing day is easier than the last, I don't think I'll ever entirely get over Jessica. Maybe it's just me being possessive, but reading tweets about her going to Northbrook (to see Mr. Fratboy) remains just as much of a kick in the groin as it did three months ago.

Falling in (and out of) love.

While a handful of my friends are engaged or married, I don't really think I know too many people who are, or have been in love. Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that no one talks about it, or simply have not recognized it.

But friends, I have been in love. Once. I don't know if it was with the "right" person, but I am sure that I was in love.

Maybe someday I will fall in love with someone else, and the love I knew with aforementioned previous lover will seem petty. I am no longer in love with said individual however, because she is no longer a part of my life; at least not on a regular basis. It's hard to be in love with someone you don't see or at least talk to regularly, especially when that someone has moved on, or at least pretended to do so.

I do still love her, but not the way I love my friends or family. When you can no longer feel the reciprocation of your love, you begin to love much more... er, passively. It is equivalent to the love one might have for a deceased relative.

What you really miss is what you once took for granted. There comes a point in nearly every meaningful romantic relationship when the spark fizzles out. Cliche, yes. But, it's human nature to become "comfortable" with someone over time.

It is a precious gift, almost a virtue to hold the ability to reignite the spark. Over the course of nearly five years, in your our early twenties, we reignited this spark many times: some obvious and intentional, some more abstract and intangible.

She was almost always more emotionally more mature than me. This does not change the way I feel for her. And there were times where I was ready to move to the next level and she was not.

As I type, I am listening to Wilco...

Distance has a way of making love understandable

I have yet to figure out why this is true, but I can tell you that it is. It's kind of a paradox. Distance makes the heart grow fonder...?

It may have just been a coincidence that our relationship fell apart when we were finally together geographically. But trouble always seemed to find us when we were within a half hour drive of each other.

I always told her she deserved better, and one day she would come to realize what a jerk I was. Maybe it was my inferiority complex or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that one day came. And while it did feel good to say I told you so (I'm sick, I know), the heartache burns on.

She gave me so many chances. The one opportunity I had to give her a second chance, I took. And I got burned.

The downward spiral of my thoughts has finally subsided. I no longer wonder "where did I go wrong?"
I suppose I have reached the stage of acceptance. I am not even holding out hope for another future with her. We had what we had and the likeliness of us getting back together is unknown. But I am okay with that.

Meanwhile, I'm not looking for a replacement. I don't need nor do I want another Jess right now. Sure I miss the companionship and the love, but I don't need a crutch right now, like she was for me for so long.

I have my friends and my family, which is nice, but more importantly I have myself back. For so long, I was not me, I was just the other half of her. I am still in the process of dusting all of the relationship dirt off, but every day I see more of myself, my real self. And while at times it is shocking and confusing, deep down it feel good and right.

I still miss something. That may never go away. But letting go and moving on is part of life. So, I'll keep on truckin'. One day at a time... the only way to really live life right now.

Life & Times: Part II

In late February of 2004, we met for the first time. She had under 10,000 miles on her and was a demo car, maintained by the dealer. I fell in love. She moved in with me that March. By April she had her first accident.

I finally got my insurance check today - more than a month after my accident. It was exciting. Getting a check for two grand is always nice. But it brought up the fact that I miss my car. Not for it's ability to get me from point A to point B (public transportation and my bike are serving that need), but for the memories attached to it.

Then again, buying that car was probably the biggest mistake of my life and I DO NOT miss the payments and other costs associated with vehicle ownership. You see, I bought the car when I was young, already had debt from my previous vehicle, and while I had a good paying job, $350 a month kinda strains you financially. I just wanted something nice and new to call my own. In retrospect, it was a total status symbol thing. I was so naive.

So, over five years, thousands in repair costs, a new transmission, and 120,000 miles later... the wreck came as a blessing. But, here are a few things that car and I went through together...

Approximately 7 speeding tickets, countless other violations, and of course, my DUI.
Three impounds.
Five tows.
So many road trips: the Dells, Tomah, WI (post-prom 2005), Milwaukee at least three times, Indiana Beach, Iowa, Indianapolis, and I had to have logged a good 5-10K on trips to and from Champaign.
She probably STILL smells like Pizza from all of the deliveries we made together.
A drive down 355 on the coldest day of the year to replace her back windshield.
She doubled as my bed on more than one occasion.
She was the stereo at many softball games, and even the lights for a night game or two.
I don't cry often, but she is one of the few who have witnessed my tears.
Likewise, she was always willing to let me scream at the top of my lungs at times of anger and frustration.
She also let me play the music as loud as I wanted (thanks to her eight speaker Bose system).
I ate the majority of my meals in the driver seat for a period of about three years.
Her trunk was also a dining table when it came to tailgaiting at Miller Park, Alpine Valley and elsewhere.
She transported a handful of pets, from the late Macey and that crazy cat Bowser, to chinchillas, Portia the snake, and of course Syrus and Dexter.
With all of her cargo space, I packed my entire life in her and moved down to Champaign.
She was the carriage for m'lady and I, as well as a place to "have fun."
I used her as an excuse time and time again to call into work... if only my bosses new how reliable she was (I would have been fired at least three times).
She once "hit a coyote." (right..)
I didn't bathe her as often as I should have, but she was treated to timely oil changes and tire rotations.
While stale frys and empty coke bottles often littered her interior, she was never puked, pissed or crapped in or on.
I remember when we hit 100,000 miles... like it was yesterday.

And then on that fateful day of May 14th, I watched her get towed away, for the last time.

Perhaps what I'll miss most about my 2003 Volkswagen Golf is the freedom she gave me. Whether it was driving around Naperville, simply to smoke and listen to music, or get away from everything and everyone, for a 2 or 3 hour drive, she was always there.

I know it seems kinda corny to get all sentimental about a car, but May 14 is not just the day I totalled my car; it marked the end of an era. It was a sign from the universe; a sign of closure, marking both a beginning and and end to a chapter in my life- which, is why I decided to reflect on my car for this second installment of "Life & Times."

First of all, when I am old and gray, and don't remember anything, hopefully I will be able to come back to this blog entry and recall all of the memories of my youth, good and bad, based simply on a statement about roadtrips to the Dells, tailgaiting at Miller Park, and calling in to work.

My friends, this is just the jumping board for what is to come in this series. Bringing up all of those memories, and talk of "moving from one chapter to the next" has only brought up more to write about.

So for that, and so much more, I thank you Golf. I wish we could have had more time together, but while I loved you for the freedom you gave me, you don't even know how much more freedom you have given me in your passing. Rest in peace. (Actually, probably pieces.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back on track. alas!

Finally, finally, finally, things are going well once again. I got a real job, I get to stay in the place I love, and good things have suddenly came my way!

It's been a pretty crazy few weeks- well, actually few years, especially the past one. But everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason. My DUI, losing my job and girlfriend, the car accident: it all had to happen. And now that all of the obstacles are out of the way, my wings can spread once again.

A lot of you probably doubt me, rightfully so. I got a text message this morning (it actually came around 5AM, but I got when I woke up at nine) which was basically a plea for me to "straighten out my life" and "stop drinking." Well, I still drink, but it no longer consumes my life, keeps me from working, being myself or maintaining relationships. My DUI, specifically my "rehab" classes and Victim Impact Panel really changed my thinking, and in turn my drinking habits and overall outlook on life (to a degree).

So friends, there is no reason to panic, or even cause for concern. Ryan got himself into this mess and he is more than capable of getting himself out. Not to say that no one helped me out along the way. There have been many of you who have helped in so many different ways, some of you probably don't even realize it. But thank you all.

And all the rest of you can fuck off. If y'all think I got problems, confront me.+

Friday, May 29, 2009

Life & Times: Part I

This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful life. How did I get here?

I've decided to write another kinda serious series of blog posts, traveling back in time, going over the thoughts, actions (both internal and external), and emotions that got me here.

"Here" is everything and nothing all at once. It is everything in the sense that it is all I have. Nothing in the sense that I feel like I am starting over from scratch, back at square one, with nothing much of my past to show for anything.

I'm 25 years old, basically unemployed and uneducated (that is to say I lack much formal education), in a place that I would have never pictured myself in, living with someone I would have never pictured myself living with, all the while gazing from afar at what was my life.

I feel like Facebook is the crystal glass of my past. I use it to keep up with old friends, sure, but it acts more as an alternate form of reality to me. I see all of my friends from back "home" and what they are up to: through photos, event invitations, wall banter between them all, and I feel a large sense of disconnection. I subconsciously put myself into those pictures and events that make up the life I should, would or could be living. I wait helplessly for the day my ex girlfriend's relationship status changes from "single" to something else. I try to picture myself in the background of group photos. I see other friends leaving "home," but for a destination; somewhere they are headed for a purpose, whether it be further education, employment, or love. These are the worst parts about being away from "home."

So, I pose the question to myslef time and time again: what am I doing here?

I had a bit of a revelation regarding the answer, just earlier this week. As I left the Cook County courthouse a free man, with all of my DUI woes behind me, it started to come together. My first reaction was sheer elation. I was really worried I was not going to leave the courthouse that day. Though I had complied with all of the stipulations of the court, after everything I had been through, a part of me was just not sure what would happen.

After nearly crying on my drive home, and actually shedding a few tears as I hugged my Mom goodbye, I turned the radio of my sweet new 1991 Pontiac up loud, and sang along with my old Chicago stations. I felt great, free, and almost reborn.

The further south down I-57 I got, the more and more the excitement faded and I came down from my emotional high. It's not that I got sad all of a sudden, but I began to think about the question once again: where was I headed and why?

I came to the partial conclusion that I was avoiding "home" because of all the emotional baggage attached to it. For nine months I had been escaping (or hiding from) my problems. Initially it was just the DUI, and maybe some minor family issues. But then it turned into more serious family issues, responsibilities I had back "home" and of course, eventually Jess.

So, less than a week later I am asking myself the question again. The answer has not changed much, and it's still not much of an answer. Have I convinced myself that Champaign is just more fitting to my lifestyle? I don't think so. Am I simply not strong enough to deal with the emotional pain of being near my ex? Is there more to it than that? What events, people, emotions and actions have lead to my move and caused me to stay here?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Kennel Chronicles

Coming this Summer...

video

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Shitstorm rages on

My car was totalled. I thought that was the last of it. I was wrong.

I got a letter n the mail from the IRS yesterday. I'm being audited.

So, let's add up all of the bullshit I have been through in the last nine months or so: DUI arrest, never-ending breakup and heartache, eviction, job loss, arrest on a warrant leading to a night in Champaign county, serious car accident, and now, IRS audit.

I have court next week, and I'm sure the great state of Illinois and the County of Cook will somehow find a way to lock me up again. But I'm not going to let that, or any of this other bullshit bring me down. I'm still here, standing tall, with my friends and family behind me. What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger. That's the attitude I have to have. Sink or swim, fight or flight. I'm not going to be a victim any more.

My car may be gone, I may have lost the best job I ever had and the greatest girl I have ever met, but I will not let the past get in the way of my future. I have paid for my crimes, learned many lessons, and lost many friends in the process, but I've also made many. I've also become a better person because of what has happened to me. And I would did it all over again, simply for the experience.

Hello World! It's me, Ryan, and I'm back.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Always Something, Sometimes Nothing

a short poem

It will always be somewhere
Floating around in space
Waiting for it's time
While praying for it's death

It has no choice in many matters
Where it goes
How it gets there
Or if it ever will

It was once a butterfly
Now back in a cocoon
Dreaming of spreading it's wings once again
Trying to remember the last time it did

Harmonica makes me weep

To all my faithful blog readers (and friends)...

I have to come clean about something.

I have been trying to be strong. I have been trying to move on. I have been trying to forget. But I can't.

I miss her so much. I never realized how much of my life was her: depended on her, endeared her, made her a part of me and me a part of her.

I still don't know for certain if I miss her or just the feeling of being with someone. But that seems to have less and less bearing as the days pass. It's being with someone who happens to be her that I miss.

I've lost my orbit.