College Visits and Existential Crisis

Had the last couple of days off. My oldest is home for spring break and I wanted to be home so I could hang out with her. It’s not like I had two days of fun and exciting activities planned or anything, but I was at least here and not at work. Thursday she went with me and got groceries after I’d spent the morning cleaning the house(I know, exciting.) Before we went back home we stopped at the Light Rail Cafe in Winona Lake for a shot of afternoon caffeine and a fresh-baked good(I had a cheddar ‘n chive scone, and she had a cookie.) It may not have been the mall or some cozy old bookstore, but it wasn’t bad.

Yesterday was a trip to Manchester University for a preview day. We’ve been on the hunt for a college that’ll be a good fit for her since last May. She’s visited Indiana University, Purdue University, Depauw University, Ball State University, and now Manchester. Up to yesterday she had whittled the list down to Depauw and Manchester. She was accepted by all the above, but Indiana, Purdue, and Ball State were just too big. You’re a number with dollar signs all over you at those schools. Great schools, but they don’t need to wow you with scholarship money to get people to apply, so they’re not. Since my wife and I aren’t independently wealthy and have two more kids that will be going to college in the next 5 years, money does matter. My daughter(as will all our kids) will be paying for a good portion of their education through scholarships, grants, and financial aid. We will help, but I’m not going into hock paying for university. We’ll still have a dog at home that needs money for treats and squeaky foxes. He can’t go without.

Anyways, after our trip yesterday I do believe Depauw will be her pick. She loved Depauw when she visited. She was there just last weekend for an interview to get into their Media Fellows program. She said that the campus just felt like home to her. It’s small, but not too small. The’re geared towards academics and not athletics. Plus they offer Russian, which she’s been taking the last two years. I think it’s a right fit for her. They’re also offering her a very large sum in the form of scholarship money to come to their school. It’s a very expensive place to go to school, but being a private college they have lots of money to offer to students if they really want them to attend school there. They must really want our daughter, that’s all I’ll say.

So she may not have been wowed by Manchester, but her eyes were definitely opened to how much she really liked Depauw.

After the preview day we made our way east and hit Half Price Books in Fort Wayne. Wasn’t planning on buying anything but I couldn’t pass up Yaz’ Upstairs at Eric’s for $3 and a brand new copy of Built to Spill’s Ancient Melodies of the Future for $15. Bought my daughter a couple books and then we were on our way home.

I’m still trying to comprehend where the last 17 years have gone. I don’t feel like a 44 year old guy who has a 17 year old daughter getting ready to go to college. I feel more like a 30 year old guy who maybe figured out what life is all about and still has plenty of time to bestow that wisdom on his young children. I guess I can just be thankful that I didn’t screw up too badly in the growing process. My kids respect me and love me despite the faults they never quite saw behind the facade of me pretending I knew what the hell I was doing. I don’t feel I’m pretending anymore. I haven’t been pretending for quite a few years now. I think I’ve got a handle on things. That’s usually when things go to complete shit though, right? Just when you think you found the quickest, smoothest ride to work they close the road for construction? Or just when you’ve found a work-thru the formula fails and you’re back to the drawing board? You’ve written the best song of your life only to find out you pulled the melody directly from a Loggins and Messina b-side?

That’s just defeatist talk, though. That’s the self doubt demon rising from the pit of your stomach. Pushing that thing to the side was part of growing up and moving on from the stupid days. It will occasionally pop up just to let me know he’s there waiting for me to drop the ball right before I hit the end zone, but I don’t let him rule me anymore. I’m too busy trying to keep my world moving along, keeping those I love safe, happy, and thriving. Keeping my own self constantly moving forward, engaging with the world and with art and with the written word. I want to fill my head with as much of the good stuff as I can. I feel I wasted a few years spinning my wheels in the proverbial mud, pining for things that didn’t matter. I don’t ever want to go back there. Despite wondering where the years have gone, I have no interest in getting them back. I’m not concerned about the last 17 years. I’m looking forward to the next 17 years.

When my oldest daughter and I can sit and talk about politics, the #metoo movement, literature, film, indie rock, and the absurdity of The Emoji Movie, all as we sit and wait for our tour of Manchester University to begin, I feel that I might actually know what I’m doing as a responsible parent.

Memory Upgrade

So sometimes your memory betrays you. Okay, most of the time your memory betrays you. Like for example, how you may remember an argument with an old friend that caused a riff between the two of you. When you finally have that heart to heart and discuss things you realize you remembered things all wrong. That friend didn’t actually say what you thought they said. Or you watched a movie as a kid and you remembered it a certain way for 25 years. When you go back and watch that same movie as an adult you realized the ending in your head was all wrong. Even how you remember a person. My grandma died over 6 years ago. I think I remember how her voice sounded, and her laugh. But I don’t have anything to go on anymore. No old home movies or answering machine messages saved. I’m going on those pieces still lodged in my brain. A couple phone conversations just a few weeks before she died, and a visit to her house just a month before she was gone.

It’s all I got, so I have to run with it. Try to keep it fresh and glowing, like stoking embers in a fire. Once it’s out it’s out. No more kindling to throw on the fire.

There’s no lesson here I’m trying to teach. There’s no moral to any of this. I’m just thinking a lot about memories and the importance of making them. My oldest was home this past week for spring break. I took the last part of the week off so I could spend time with her. My wife had to work all week and the younger ones were still in school(they aren’t off until the first week of April.) When the oldest comes home on extended weekends she’s often either sleeping, hanging out with her old school friends, or with her mom on some shopping excursion. I’m here at home making sure she’s getting her favorite meals while she’s here. I’m keeping the gears running at the homestead. I’m not ever going on adventures with her. So this time I wanted to be able to do something with her, so she knows I care and that I actually do like to spend time with her.

Wednesday was taking her to the dentist and the eye doctor, then being at home waiting for the heating and cooling guys to put in our new water heater. Thursday wasn’t much, but then Friday my daughter and I spent the day in Fort Wayne shopping for books and music, eating quite well, and just enjoying time together. We hit three spots for books and came out of it with a stack for each of us. I wanted to hit up Neat Neat Neat Records as well as I haven’t been there in over two years. Hasn’t changed much, and I’d hoped for that. For lunch we ate at Bravas Burgers. Probably the best burger and fries I’ve had in a very long time. We will go back for sure. After a coffee refueling we hit the road and made it home by 5pm. Saturday was just hanging out at home mostly, which is what we all needed I think.

Today, my wife and mom are currently driving the oldest back to school while I’m home with the younger ones. Making dinner and keeping the gears turning at the homestead.

I look back at my life, even just the last 6 years, and there are these moments that stick out in my head. They’re good moments: family vacations down south, trips to record shops, Christmas eves with board games and snack-y foods, a Colorado wedding, school carnivals, and band concerts around the holidays. They’re not grand gestures like trips to Disney World or anything like that. They’re just these little moments that define such significant times in my mind. More than a grand gesture can do, the trips to the bookstore, or a cabin in the woods, or the cinema on a Sunday afternoon are what stick in our memories. More memories we make the easier it is to remember them all.

Anyways, that’s what going on in my head. We made some memories this week, and I’m happy about that.

Snorting Pumpkin Spice(and other not-so good ideas for Fall)

It’s finally here. That time of year when hoodies and jeans are a staple of the Midwest fashion diet. Sure, there’s some that try to hurry that fashion trend into regular rotation at the beginning of September, but they’re the ones sweating walking from their car to the grocery because they saw dew on the grass at 8am. Listen, just because it’s September and you’ve seen a few leaves on the ground doesn’t mean you can break out the fleece and your comfy jeans just yet. Don’t be the sweaty fool at the check-out line freaking out the cashier as she assumes you’re slowly dying underneath that Nike hoodie and baggie Silvertab jeans. Bring it back a bit. Keep the shorts and flip flops handy Captain Autumn, summer’s not done with you just yet.

As I was saying, we’ve surpassed the summer grind and October is upon us. We’ve made it to October 7th. Today’s high temp is going to be 74 degrees. Tomorrow the high will only be 62 degrees(yes, get out the hoodie now.) This really is my favorite time of year. You can keep your balmy, sun-drenched days of yore. And as far as winter goes it can go to Hell. I’m done with frigid temps, too. Nah, fall is when I feel most alive; when everything around me is dying.

pumpkin-smashing-heroMy love for Autumn and October started as a kid growing up in Northeast Indiana. The house I grew up in was situated in a forest of pine trees. It was a newly minted housing addition called, wait for it, the Pines. The pines were a single row of homes along to intersecting county roads that lined the edge of this pine forest. When fall rolled around pine needles would fall, turning from vibrant green to fading brown. This wasn’t like having a couple maple trees in the yard and raking those up. No, pine needles embedded into the grass. You couldn’t easily rake or blow them into a pile. It took work. Backbreaking, time-consuming work. Fortunately for my mom and dad they had two aloof sons they could barter with in order to get the raking work done. A couple Mad Magazines, some packs of baseball cards, and maybe throw in a couple Star Wars action figures and the work would be done. My brother and I would make a game out of the work. We’d rake lanes in the back yard for miniature golf. We’d create trenches where I could land the Millennium Falcon, Snow Speeder, and X-Wing Fighter. We’d make a trail for the dog to walk along(which he never did.) Raking isn’t the reason I love fall, but it was an activity that my older brother and I did together. One of the few things we both disliked doing but made something fun out of.

Another reason for my adoration of the falling of the leaves, as it were, was the woods I lived in. Back then it was a dark and ominous place to be in around dusk. This was prior to any development of the land behind my parent’s house, so it was just a vast forest that felt like it went on forever. Being a pre-teen growing up on horror films the forest was the ultimate spot for bloody mayhem. Heading back into the woods on a Friday night or Saturday evening the imagination of an overly bored 9 year old would kick into overdrive. Movies like Friday The 13th, Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolfman, The Fog, and Sleepaway Camp tossed and toiled in my brain and I’d eventually end up freaking myself out enough that I’d end up running like my ass was on fire back to our house as if Jason, Wolfie, or a psychotic she-man was chasing me through the brush of the pine forest. It was horrifying and exhilarating. I’d call this self-horrified cardio. The woods behind my house was a vast wonderland of shadows, broken trees, thick brush, and ample pockets of unknown that pushed my “what if?” button almost constantly.

Caramel apples. Need I say more??

Of course, this was all just mere foreplay that led up to the big kahuna. The amber-colored main event known as Halloween. The day when every kid in thecooper neighborhood got to pick out a flimsy cardboard box at Kmart, 3D, or Harveys department store that was filled with a plastic surgical smock in the colors of C3PO, Strawberry Shortcake, or He-Man; as well as a painful, molded face that might resemble that character. You’d put the smock on and your mom would tie the back for you like it was hospital gown, you’d put on said painful mask, grab a brown grocery bag, and head out for the goods. Where I grew up I was pretty lucky because there were plenty of houses along our road to hit up, as well as the adjoining Lake Forest addition that was just down the road. Traffic was minimal and the upper middle class Reagan-ites were happy to dole out sweet, mass-produced confections. I was a shy kid, so I always liked trick-or-treating with a friend. But if no friend was available my mom would walk up to the house with me(I eventually grew out of that and mom didn’t have to walk up with me anymore. I think I was 30.) There was still an air of creepiness, even in the housing addition. It was in a forest, so not much light back there with the exception of the front porch lights and a few random street lights. I can remember one year not wanting to go up to a house because they had a sign on their front porch that read “No Peddlers”. My mom tried to convince me that I wasn’t peddling, that I was trick-or-treating. I wouldn’t have any of it. Even the owner of the house was on his front porch with a bowl of candy telling me it was okay. No way. Couldn’t do it. Me and my vampire mask kept walking. I think my mom ended up grabbing some candy for me out of embarrassment; both for me and the poor guy that couldn’t give away candy to a midget-sized bloodsucker.

Now, being a responsible adult, husband, and father of 3 the fall still holds that magic for me. I probably only have a couple more years left of the trick-or-treating before the kids are too old and too cool to go to homes of strangers and ask them to smell their feet in exchange for bite size Hershey bars. That thought makes me a little sad. As a parent, one of the advantages is you get a front row seat to revisiting some of your own great childhood memories(and maybe a few childhood traumas, too…but that’s for another day.) The thrill of a birthday party and opening gifts, Christmas morning, spending the night with grandma and grandpa, your first scary movie, and the thrill of Halloween night through the eyes of your children are all pretty great things. When those go, you’re kind of losing those memories all over again.

It is what it is. Enjoy the autumn stroll, no matter how many times you’ve walked the same path. Eat the lousy candy your kids give you because they don’t like it(and neither do you.) You may be tired, but stay up and watch that stupid movie with ’em anyways. Sooner or later they’ll hole up in their bedroom and you won’t see ’em again until you’re moving them into a dorm room. Make some trails in the pine needles, just for the hell of it.

And when all else fails, snort some pumpkin spice. Or don’t.

mmm....caramel apples.
mmm….caramel apples.


Crappy Candy : A Guide To What Not To Give Out On Halloween

It’s been a week since Halloween blew into our lives in the form of a wet, dreary evening. Still, the weather wasn’t going to dissuade the boys and girls from trekking through past-their-prime neighborhoods and sopping front yards in order to get those goods. Yep, the treats in that old Halloween standard rallying cry “Trick or Treat!”

For my kids, the first thing they do once they return from the “confection harvest” as I like to call it(or what I decided to call it right now) is to dump their candy treasures on the living room floor and start separating the goods from the not-so goods. There’s bartering between these miniature ghouls for each other’s treats. A Milky Way for a Three Musketeers…or a pumpkin-colored Twix for a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Owen: Hey dad. Do you like Butterfingers?

Me: Yeah.

Owen: Here you go.(throws Butterfinger at my head)

Me: Owww!! Dammit!

But once they’ve gone through their bags of candy and have separated the “good” candy from the “mom and dad” candy, there remains that lonely, depressing pile my son affectionately refers as “crappy candy”. It’s a pile of sadness. A pile of confection history. It’s a reminder of bygone eras where boys still dressed as Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman. Where girls happily went out as a Princess, Barbie, or Strawberry Shortcake. When guys like Tor Johnson, Richard Nixon, and William Shatner were still fun, novelty masks you could buy at the five ‘n dime. So basically, this is candy well past it’s prime. So here’s an ode to those candies lost in time, and long past retirement age.

Mike and Ike

FullSizeRender (5)I don’t who Mike and Ike are, and I really don’t care to know. Their candy looks like prescription meds in gummy form. Kids aren’t interested in this crap. Please, if this is the kind of candy you’re going to give out at Halloween, just shut off the porch light, close your curtains, and hide in the basement until the purge is over. Or maybe give it to your elderly neighbor.

Tootsie Roll

FullSizeRender (7)Okay, maybe you don’t know this, but the March of Dimes gives these out when I give them a handful of pennies as I’m in my car at a stoplight. I think I have four or five Tootsie Rolls in my glove box right now. I use them to plug leaks, or fill cracks in my drive way. I think Eisenhower dropped these from B-52 bombers on the North Koreans. Please, just stop with the Tootsie Rolls. If you give these out again next year your house will be marked for egging. Consider this fair warning.

Pixy Stix

FullSizeRender (8)Hey. Thanks for the kiddie cocaine, man. While you’re at it, got any candy cigarettes or licorice pistols? C’mon, knock this crap off. Colored sugar sticks don’t count as candy. You may have gotten away with this in the 70s, but not anymore. Something chocolate or go to Hell.

Sun Chips

FullSizeRender (3)I like Sun Chips. Whole grain snacks. I prefer these to potato chips, actually. But guess what, THEY’RE NOT F*****G CANDY!!! While you’re at it, you can feed that g*****n popcorn ball to the crows. Nobody wants a stale ball of popcorn. And that apple? F**k no.

Sunflower Seeds

FullSizeRender (4)Okay, so the Sun Chips wasn’t enough so we add insult to injury with this? Sunflower seeds? I don’t recall us going trick-or-treating at Grace Village Retirement Community so I’m not really sure how this bag of f*****g sunflower seeds ended up in a bag of trick-or-treat candy. Who does this? A sadist, that’s who. Thanks though, our g*****n parrot will love ’em. That is, if we had a g*****n parrot.


FullSizeRender (11)Hmm, I didn’t know anyone ate these besides after eating pizza. I think my grandma used to keep peppermints in a glass dish on her coffee table when I was a kid. Nobody ate them, though. They were just there for show. In fact, they were there more for color scheme than anything else. Keep your hard candy to yourself. Nobody wants it.

Laffy Taffy

FullSizeRender (9)Taffy is great. Saltwater Taffy from Coney Island? Perfect. But we’re not on the east coast. We’re in the Midwest, so we have to take what we can get. Laffy Taffy isn’t so bad, unless it’s banana-flavored. Who eats banana-flavored anything? Nobody, that’s who. Strawberry, grape, cherry, watermelon…these are acceptable flavors. Banana? Go to Hell. Just,…just go to Hell. You know, Nestle came out with banana-flavored Quik when I was a kid. Within a week people burnt the Nestle plant down and Glenn Close boiled the Nestle bunny alive on Michael Douglas’ stove top. Stop with the banana-flavored anything.


FullSizeRender (10)I think anyone over the age of 5-years old will pass on Smarties. These are cheap, effective tools to get your 4-year old to pick up their toys or to keep them quiet while going through Walmart, but that’s it. They’re nothing more than chewable Tylenol without the healing effects, or rejected Flintstone vitamins. You could crush them and snort them I suppose, but why would you do that? You’ve already got the Pixy Stix for that. If you’re thinking of handing out Smarties next year, don’t. Just don’t. Your car will be egged, soaped, and your dog will be dyed some weird color for your insolence.



So remember folks, don’t give out the crappy candy. Give out the keepers. You may see that carton of Necco Wafers or the Slow Pokes or the (shudders)Junior Mints and think “Hey, these are cool retro candies the kids would like”. Well the kids won’t like them. Neither will their parents. Fight the urge to be an a**hole on Halloween. You will be remembered. You will be ridiculed. You will be punished.

Found on the side of the road the morning after Halloween, wet and covered in road filth. Take heed.
Found on the side of the road the morning after Halloween, wet and covered in road filth. Take heed.


Saturday Feelies

Not much to report.

Hot today.

Very hot, really.

Three and a half mile walk/jog, with some yard work and gardening thrown in for fun.

Having a Black and Blue by Dogfish Head Brewery this evening. A pint and a half of blackberry/blueberry Belgian-style ale. Tasty. And strong.

Kids back in school this week.

Lots of that transition stuff that bogs down the soul.

Things will improve. I just know it.

Time to get back to some music. Com Truise, No Joy, now some Carlton Melton.

All of you are much appreciated. My blogging friends and cohorts. My brethren.

Peace out.



Spring Breaks

So this is the first spring break I’ve taken the entire week off. Where did we go, you ask? Well let’s see, we went to the grocery store, the public library, the record shop, and the…oh, you mean like “Where in Florida did you and your family go?” Well, we didn’t go to the Sunshine State. We stayed right here in the “we can legally discriminate against gays” state. I’m not much for hot temps and skin cancer, given my Eastern European complexion, so we stayed at home. We did head north to the illustrious Hall of Heroes Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. Second spring break in a row we checked that place out. Cool stuff. They even had Captain Americas’ shield. The one used in both movies, with the autographs of everyone in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier and those that are on Marvel: Agents of Shield. Pretty cool. This time my wife went with us and my son didn’t throw up. Both really good things. We stopped at Polito’s Italian Eatery and I had the best Philly Cheese Steak sub I’ve ever had. Good times.

Elsewhere I did a ton of yard work. The yard is ready for summer and mowing thanks to my super human strength and overwhelming stubbornness. I also picked up some vinyl(of course I did.) I’ve also been working on some music. Finishing up some tracks that have needed some finishing touches for some time. My best pal built me my own computer tower that will be used exclusively for music making and mastering. I plan on downloading some software and locking myself in front of the computer until I have a novice understanding of music mastering. You heard it here first, folks.

What else have I been doing this week? Well the wife found out she’ll be traveling quite a bit this spring and summer for work, so that set the wheels in motion as to what and how I’ll do the one parent thing for those times she’ll be gone. It’ll be hard, but we’ll make it work. This will be good for her in the experience and training department. Once we get to summer it’ll be easy peasy. Promise.

Okay, that’s all I got.

Well, maybe I’ve got a little more…

My good friend Joe Storey over at the 1537 website had the honor of hanging out with New York space/psych/groove rockers White Hills yesterday at Islington Mill. They put on a killer show from what I heard and Mr. 1537 even got to hang out and chat with the band a bit. I’d say this elevates Mr. Storey to that of an immortal. He will now be saving nations with his super powers and will most certainly build a fortress on some distant planet where he’ll lift weights, drink protein shakes made from the ground up bones of the Ancients, and will spin vinyl made of adamantium-laced gold.


Storm’s A-Brewin’

It looks like we’re in for some heavy snow tonight. According to the local(and most accurate) weather report from Indiana Weather Online we’re looking to be in the 2 to 4 inches category, with us being closer to the 4 inches spot. Granted that’s not a whole lot, especially when you compare it to last year at this time with multiple blizzards coming down on us like we were on Hoth. But when we haven’t had any significant snowfall up to this point in the season, 2 to 4 inches isn’t too bad.

Besides the snow, it’s also supposed to get pretty windy and bitter cold. Wednesday the high is going to be 10 degrees, with a low of -11. That’s the kind of cold that separates the men from the polar bears. I just watched Fargo last week. I think I may have caused all of this. Sorry northern Indiana.

Since I didn’t get crap for vacation time over the holidays I opted to call in today at work and let the folks at the shop handle things today. I slept in, made coffee, watched lots of Young Justice with my son, and did some work in the music studio. I’m working on some digital distribution for my music project Cambodia Highball. I’d like to see our album on Spotify, Rdio, and iTunes. For a small fee CD Baby will take care of that for me. Would I like to see our album on 180 gram double vinyl with gatefold sleeve? Of course I would, but I don’t have that kind of scratch laying around just so I could have my album on vinyl. Like it or not, the digital realm is an independent artist’s best chance at allowing worldwide access to their art. Maybe someday I might be able to see my music on record, but until then I’m happy with Bandcamp, streaming services, and iTunes.

I’ve also been working on new music of my own. I think I might be onto getting a new album of music under my own name well on its way. I’ve had four or five songs in different working stages for about 8 or 9 months now sitting on the recorder. I finished two, but I think I might go back and remix them to fit in the current vision I have for them. Things look promising, artistically speaking. I’m off for a whole week mid-January while the wife is gone on business. So while the kiddos are at school I plan on recording as much as I can that week. Hoping to get at least two or three songs framed while I’m off. I was hoping to have an analog synthesizer for those recording sessions, but I don’t think that will happen. It’s all right, as what I’m seeing for these songs is more acoustic-based. Piano, acoustic guitars, and some ethereal noises courtesy of my pedal board.

Well, I don’t know what your weather is doing, but whatever it is stay warm and safe folks.