8.30.2005

another spoiler

As promised, here's another sneak peak at the book I'm working on. Some backround info on J.J.'s hometown. (and mine)

Whisky Ridge received its name from local myths of a bootlegger’s operation during the days of prohibition. The validity of those stories had never been proven, but the name stuck.

The ridge has seen many changes since the 1920’s, even more over the last twenty years. At one time, the western side of Whisky Ridge was nothing but open grassy fields with scattered stands of pine trees. The first major change came in 1927 with a golf course, which at the time seemed to be isolated, far enough away from town to make a perfect weekend getaway.

A narrow road followed the crest of the ridge, starting near Sunnyside at the south and ending above the golf course at the northern end on Getchel Hill. A little further to the east, Highway 9 connected us to the nearby communities of Arlington, Lake Stevens, and Snohomish.

As Marysville expanded its limits to the north and east, large homes began to pepper the hillside, built by families who wanted more of a countryside lifestyle. They were blessed with a panoramic view that afforded city lights, seascape, and farmland.

Whisky Ridge provided a natural playground for local youth. Erik, Bryant and I used its fields for sledding when winter dumped its heaviest snowfalls, and rode our bikes on its trails and dirt paths whenever it wasn’t raining. Occasionally, when feeling rambunctious, we would feed golf balls to the cows on the farm across the street from the golf course.

The last few years has brought the most noticeable changes to the hills above Marysville. New housing developments began covering the ridge. The older homes, once intentionally lonesome, gained new neighbors. Freshly paved roads snaked their way across the hillside, winding from top to bottom.

Just below ridgeline, off one of those new roads is my place of residence.

It took me a year to establish myself as a real estate agent and quit my second job as an overnight desk clerk at a hotel on the Tulalip reservation. Five months later, my commission checks were large enough to place a down payment on a new house, at the time still under construction.

I went big. Not much thought went into the buying process, I wanted something flashy, expensive. The house is large enough to be seen from town with out blending in with the rest of the houses in the development. Situated at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, I have one of the best views available.

It’s a grand house, but sits empty.

8.29.2005

firsts

Today is a day of firsts.

My wife started school today. That in it's self is nothing entirely out of the ordinary, however it has made the last few weeks entertains. Shopping for school supplies and last minute necessities including everything is ready for Christian's daycare. (also a first)

That being said, today is Christian's first day of daycare. Thankfully, we know the daycare's reputation, since Bekah's mom used to work there.

We are also paying our deposit for our new apartment today. We're moving in on the first. Being able to rent out the in-laws basement for the last year has been a tremendous blessing, but I cannot stress how much we NEED our own place.

Bekah has been amusing to watch. Having not been a student for almost four years, she feels a little out of place and is trying to look as collegiate as possible, from the clothes to the bookbag. Her modeling, fresh from a shopping trip to Target was one of those had to be there moments.

Another first... I discovered a couple of grey hairs on Bekah's head yesterday. Just in time to make her feel old before college starts.

8.18.2005

illness

I hate being sick.

I feel like a fresh pile of bovine manure, scooped into a paper sack, set ablaze, then stomped out by an old guy wearing slippers.

8.15.2005

Hello, my name is "Genius"

I feel like such an idiot sometimes. While the main description of my job is "trainer" and my primary function is to teach other people how to do their jobs, part of my time is spent doing other things. And when there isn't a class going that requires my full attention, those other things tend to dominate my professional existence.

Some of those other things include administrative support, staff meetings, gopher, resource for agents on the phone, and being busier than I look. At times, I hide at my desk and listen to phone calls for quality assurance. Other times, I'm running from one end of the building to the other and up/down multiple flights of stairs just to make sure things get done. By the time I get home I'm either completely exhausted and collapse somewhere between the door and my couch or I'm so stressed I make my hyperactive dog look like a sloth.

The whole resource thing is an interesting concept all together though. The purpose is to provide immediate support to agents who have questions. However, immediate isn't always a viable option when there are only one or two resources for a group of about 50 agents. Some questions are easy (how do I put this guy on hold?) and some are more difficult (customer A is being billed for customer B's service and customer B doesn't exist, how do I fix it?)

For the most part I enjoy this aspect of my job, and usually it is also the most rewarding part. But, being recently transferred to a new department, I'm not as smart as I once was. There is a whole body of material that I am unfamiliar with, and more often than not I'm not 100% sure how to answer normally simple questions. So... I learn on the fly.

In my old department, I had a good understanding of almost everything. Other resources would come to me with questions that they couldn't answer. If there was a question that I couldn't answer, I usually knew where to look. While I had my weak spots and areas needing improvement, I felt secure knowing I could help with most situations.

But I can't go back there. After all this new department is a new challenge, and a new opportunity, one I should fully embrace. It's another step up the corporate ladder we all feared so much when we were younger.

There are questions that I can't answer. There are agents I have trained that know more than I do. It is all right to feel like an idiot every now and then.

Isn't it?

8.10.2005

Funny Memories 101

In the summer of '98 I took a road trip south to Portland and then east to Stevenson Washington for an annual music festival called Tomfest. Tomfest is a four day series of concerts featuring alternative Christian bands ran by a really cool guy named Mikee Bridges, former vocalist for Sometime Sunday and Tragedy Ann. When I say alternative, I don't mean the pop type like Newsboys and DC Talk; nothing against those bands, but they would not survive a weekend at Tomfest.

Tomfest is like the Christian version of Lalapalooza, multiple stages filled with cutting edge and underground artists a little too extreme to perform at other festivals like Creation. Alonge with the the stages, there were art galleries, jam sessions, tents for band merch, tattoo artists, and political activists like Rock for Life.

The music ranged from punk/ska/hardcore to metal, emo, and hip-hop. Tomfest also tore down the seperative wall of artist versus fan. Musicians shared the same camp area as festival attendees, and there was no such thing as "back stage." Thanks to that openness and community feel, you got to meet the musicians as real people.

Here are a few fond memories...

Squad Five-0. Playing frisbee with Jeff and John Fortson on Sunday night.

Joy Electric. Watching Ronnie Martin complain that the monitors were not set up perfectly. And subsequently kicking a good friend off stage while working stage security.

Havalina Rail Company. (HRC) Sitting in a booth next to Matt Wignall while he improvised country licks on lap guitar and listening to him rant about how Christian musicians should not copy musical trends but should make innovative music and be copied by the rest of the world. Also, meeting Orlando Greenhill, realizing he is much shorter in person. (hope for us short people)

Soulfood 76. Despite seeing these local guys numerous times, seeing their final show was a moving experience.

90 lb. Wuss. The guitarist cut his fingers on his guitar strings and continued playing, despite the blood gushing from his knuckles. The drummer's son (5 or 6 years old at the time) came on stage to sit on his dad's lap and help bang the drums for a couple songs. You would never expect something so cute during a punk rawk show.

However, one of the funniest things to happen involed Sonny Sandoval and Traa of P.O.D. and their lablemate (prior to signing with Atlantic) MC Dirt. Throughout the show, Dirt was having the crowd do some hand motion called "shadow of the locust" where you had two fingers pointed up like a peace sign and the other two fingers and thumb pointed out, bobbing your hand up and down in time with the rhythm.

Close your eyes for a moment and try and picture this sight. Dirt was the only rap artist performing all weekend. Dirt, Traa, Sonny, and the other guys from P.O.D., and Orlando from HRC were the only musicians there with any ethnicity other than Caucasian. The audience was predominantly a punk and hardcore group, mostly white kids who had never been to a rap concert before. So there was an entire crowd (98% white folk) with one arm in the air bobbing with the beat (or as close to the beat as white people can get) with their hands in a ridiculous position.

I was standing in the back, near the soundboard, next to Sonny and Traa. Everytime Dirt made the crowd do the "shadow of the locust" Sonny and Traa would start laughing. Also being at my first rap concert, I didn't see the humor. So I asked them, "What's so funny." Traa said, "Just wait, you'll see."

This continued through the half hour set. Traa and Sonny laughing at this crowd doing the locust. Traa telling me to wait. Finally at the end of the show, Dirt told us a story about his mom. She asked him what the "shadow of the locust" thing was about, what it meant. Dirt then told his mom that it didn't mean anything, it was something he did to mess with his audience's head. As he finished the story, Traa and Sonny burst into hysterics. Traa slapped my shoulder and said, "See, that's what was so funny."

8.09.2005

Punk & Emo part 2

The Ramones created a career with three chord songs, album after album sounding nearly identical to the previous. The White Stripes have done the same thing but with only two chords. However, to call The White Stripes a dumbed down version of the Ramones is an insult... to the Ramones.

When when you compare the two bands it is apparent that Jack White is a rip off artist, and not even a good one. Both bands have members with identical (and assumed) last names referencing the name of the band. Both have standard attire, blue jeans and black leather biker jackets for the Ramones and any combination of the colors red and white for The White Stripes. Punkish melodies and nonsensical lyrics dominate both bands discographies. The formula only works for one of these two bands, and it's not the one that made Spin's list at #57.

2000's White Blood Cells is the musical equivalent to fingernails scratching a chalk board. Meg White's drumming is nothing more than 1, 2 rhythms and is the type of stuff that they teach to beginning percussionists in junior high band classes. And as for Jack White... I cannot think of a single musician with less talent. When my 5 year old nephew Ethan came to visit over the Fourth of July weekend he played my guitar for a while, absently strumming, hitting the strings as hard as he could, not even playing real chords. (his hands aren't even big enough to form chords) That was probably the second time Ethan had ever played a guitar, and he sounded better than anything I've heard from The White Stripes. And the singing? Picture a choir of adolescent banshees doing a bad imitation of The Who's Roger Daltrey.

I'm not surprised to see them on Spin's list. They've curiously received high esteem from traditional music critics. Personally, I wish they'd go away.

I still have six more punk/emo albums to discuss, but they will have to wait.

8.04.2005

Punk & Emo part 1

Today's look at Spin's top 100 stage dives into punk rock. The last 20 years in punk and emo was a bumpy ride with swells in unwanted popularity and scorn. Oh yeah, anarchy too.

Husker Du starts of the list at #13 with New Day Rising from 1985. I'm not a fan of Husker, but their music has been hugely influential on bands that I do listen to and enjoy. Husker Du, and frontman Bob Mould, brought an indie DIY attitude to the alt music world, quickly becoming cult favorites and changing the way punk and alternative music gets promoted.

Being a part of the grunge generation in the Seattle suburbs, I had a hard time getting into riot grrrl music. However in 1997, Sleater-Kinney caught my ear. They were from Olympia, so I felt a geographical connection to them, and who cared that they were all girls, they knew what they were doing with Dig Me Out, #24 on Spin's list. They started the whole riot grrrl thing and made every other grrrl act to follow seem talentless and unimportant.

#29 goes to Fugazi's 1989 effort 13 Songs. Probably not their best album, but picking a favorite from such a great band is difficult. Eventhough their formula sounds like guaranteed failure, they had a successful career. But what they did was the opposite of what their peers were doing. They sold their albums for cheap, usually less than 10 bucks, and their lyrics were respectful and nonviolent. They refused to play shows at clubs that were not all ages, most of their concerts were only $5 when most other shows cost at least four times as much, and they discouraged mosh pits - often stopping in the middle of a song if the crowd got out of hand. Fugazi is probably one of the most important punk bands recently, and the music industry needs more bands like them.

Green Day hits #44 with 1994's irreverent, rambunctious, and occasionally naughty Dookie. The album found a young audience (I was a freshman) and introduced a new mix of pop and punk. The style has been copied by almost every new punk band since, and I've come to affectionately refer to it as "pretty boy punk."

Well, I'll continue punk within the next couple days, until then... enjoy.