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Preview: Gazing Into the Abyss

Gazing Into the Abyss



“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau



Updated: 2018-03-06T18:25:46.363-05:00

 



New Home

2010-03-10T20:16:14.108-05:00

If any of my old readers are still hoping for updates, I have a new blog. Come check it out at: www.geekcentricity.com.(image)



Rolling Out the Changes

2008-06-23T21:15:56.887-04:00

"Changes in latitudes,changes in attitudes
nothing remains quite the same."
- Jimmy Buffett, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

I mentioned in my last post that I would be making some changes. What you see here are the beginnings of those changes. There are some you may like and some you may not. There are some that I will probably not even end up liking. As someone, somewhere once said, "That's life in the big city."

I am working on a couple of writing projects right now, but one of them has taken on a life of its own and grown far beyond what I originally intended it to be. I do hope to post it here soon (that is, if it doesn't grow to book length before I have finished with it, or rather before it is finished with me).

I originally planned to link to an old post I wrote about the Superman archetype, since this project that had begun to really come to life originally grew from that post, but as I read the original writing, I was struck by the thought that my thoughts were strongly rooted in the particular time in which it was written, even if it was only about a year ago, that the bulk of it is now totally out of context. It was like reading a signal from some lost and dying world that is transmitted to us, here in the present, across the void of space, yet when we receive it, too much time has passed to reach those people. The cataclysmic event has already taken place.

That seed of an idea, which took root from a post by my favorite lost blogger Seiche (where have you gone old friend?), in turn sprouted a huge research and writing project on superhero archetypes, which in turn led to the growth of my current exploration.

As I read the post, and was struck by that sense of anachronism, it occurred to me that this feeling was somehow strangely appropriate. What I already knew was reinforced. We look to heroes, saviors, appropriate to our times. We want to be saved from the abyss by someone who can meet us where we are and take us where we need to be.

"Yesterdays are over my shoulder,
So I can't look back for too long.
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me..."
- Jimmy Buffet, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes(image)



I'm Alive

2008-06-13T09:51:26.459-04:00

"Thinking about the time I've wasted
And the pleasure we once tasted
Looking up and down this road
I've been here before..."
- Jackson Browne, I'm Alive

Contrary to how I've made it appear by not writing anything here for about the last 6 months, I am alive and well. Actually, I'm doing much better now than I was while I was writing here regularly. The truth is, life caught up with me and I had to answer its call and live as fully as possible. I needed to cut down the number of hours I was spending in front of a computer monitor and do some other things. Now, I am looking forward to starting over. I will be changing my format a bit, possibly on a new blog (that I will link here if I choose to go that route).

“It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

At any rate, I plan to start writing again. I'm not yet sure what form it will take, but I recently read something that affected me greatly. I was reading the introduction to something (I know longer remember what) and the author warned the readers (myself included) that this work was going to be different from everything that went before. The difference, according to that author, was that everything she had previously written, she had written for the benefit of other people. Sure, she was expressing deeply heartfelt and emotional things, baring her soul, and receiving the healing that brings, but her actual writing was never for her. The finished product was always written for the reader response. She would check her feedback, comments on her website and blog, she would fret about the number of people who were reading, agonize over those who criticized her work, and celebrate over those who loved it. At some point, she realized that what she truly needed to do was to write for herself. She wrote that if you write to please yourself, the reading audience would take care of itself.

At that point, I realized why I had become uninspired and stopped writing.

Now, I am ready to begin anew. So, if my blog is less friendly, more impersonal for readers, that is the reason. You see, I am no longer doing this because the approval of a community of readers makes me feel better about myself. I am writing because I have a story that wants to be told.

I am doing this for me.

"Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?" - Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs
(image)



"Time got excited..."

2008-01-04T12:34:14.683-05:00

"...That's when we all got started."- Once Upon a TimeSince I'm currently writing a series about the albums that have most affected me throughout my life, my first post of the new year will be ironically looking back a few years. Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have a great 2008! Now for the feature presentation...Like most teens of the 1980's, I grew up on "Brat Pack" movies. One of my favorites was The Breakfast Club. Like many American teens of the time, the theme song from this movie was my first introduction to the Scottish band Simple Minds. I desperately wanted to hear more from them, so when their album Once Upon a Time was released, I snapped it up and started listening eagerly.I was not disappointed. This album just doesn't seem to have a weak spot. I've read a review that called Once Upon a Time "the album that U2 wished they made." I quickly wore out my first copy of this album (on audio cassette) and had to purchase another. For about a year, I listened to this album almost every night before I went to sleep. Now, with the digitization of music, I have it on my ipod. While my wife thought it was good, but like listening to an 80's movie soundtrack, and many of the group's longtime fans considered this album a sell-out and an artistic compromise, I think the songs are excellent and have stood up well to the test of time. These eight songs combine to form an incredible album (yes, there are only 8 of them... it was definitely quality, not quantity). In fact, Simple Minds declined to include Don't You (Forget About Me) from The Breakfast Club because they felt it would detract from the production as a whole and because it was not written by the members of the band."You lift me up when I know you're around."- Once Upon a TimeFrom the opening of the album, the almost conversationally written Once Upon a Time, I was hooked. Sure, it was all pop hooks and big production, but it was also pure poetry."Anywhere you go, you know I'll still be waiting."- All the Things She SaidThe album's second track, All the Things She Said, seems to echo the words of a wise departed mother, speaking hope to a frightened child. It continues the conversational style of the first track's dialogue, and alternating lines form more complete thoughts.When I look into your eyes, I see a new day risingOh all the things she said, she saidThrough the eyes of love, and never know what hate is- All the Things She SaidThe third song on the album is the socially aware Ghost Dancing."You talk about the LebanonYou tell me 'bout the Dawn in EdenYou talk about South AfricaI tell you about the Irish children."- Ghost DancingStrong social consciousness is a hallmark of 80's music. Things like Live Aid and Farm Aid showed us the crises of peoples far and near. We also saw the power of music to bring people together for a common cause. Bands like Simple Minds and U2 became more than musicians. They became spokespersons and activists. They sought to enlighten as many people as they could reach about the world's less fortunate and encourage us to be resonsible humans by recognizing that we are a part of the same people as these suffering multitudes. We became aware of massacres and mass starvation, government repression and suppression of human rights, and political indifference. Even an album that sounded so happy and filled with pop hooks could contain references to trouble spots around the globe."What you gonna do when things go wrong?What you gonna do when it all cracks up?What you gonna do when the Love burns down?What you gonna do when the flames go up?Who is gonna come and turn the tide?What's it gonna take to make a dream survive?Who's got the touch to calm the storm inside?Who's gonna save you?"- Alive and KickingThe next track returns from the gloom of social crises and presents a more personal crisis. Alive and Kicking contrasts the joful highs of new love with the loss of those feelings of rapturous infatuation through a long relationship, but encourages the[...]



"Tonight's the night we'll make history..."

2007-12-27T20:37:33.865-05:00

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (opening lines)In the days of vinyl LP's, before the advent of the compact disc reduced album art to an eye-straining experience, listening to an album was a visual experience. In the early 1980's, I went on a trip to a local "hardware and variety store" and was browsing the album racks (yes, they sold LP's there) when an album cover caught my eye. As an eleven year old, I was already a fan of two of the songs on this album that had received significant radio play, as well as some of the band's previous work, so I plunked down the eight dollars and change and left with something new to spin on my turntable as I read the lyrics and pored over the stunning artowrk on the front and back covers. Little did I know that when I removed the disc from the sleeve, I would be greeted with an embossed disc bearing a holographic image that was a detail from the cover art. It was a stunning, multisensory experience.As I listened to the album, with the sides labeled as "Act 1 and Act 2", I learned that the songs formed a loosely-connected theme. The story followed the fictionalized rise and fall of a real theater in Chicago, called... Paradise Theater.When I set the needle down onto the album, I was treated to the promise of hope in the album's opening lyrics and Dennis DeYoung's solitary voice on A.D. 1928."Tonight's the night we'll make historyAs sure as dogs can flyAnd I'll take any risk to tie backThe hands of timeAnd stay with you here tonightSo take your seats and don't be lateWe need your spirits highTo turn on these theatre lightsAnd brighten the darkest skiesHere at the Paradise"- A.D. 1928Then, I was stunned by the abrupt segue into Rockin' the Paradise."So whatcha doin' tonight? Have you heard that the world's gone crazy? Young Americans listen when I say there's people puttin' us downI know they're sayin' that we've gone lazyTo tell you the truth we've all seen better days."- Rockin' the ParadiseThis is one of the greatest rock songs of its time. In the early 1980's, it did seem like the world had gone crazy. We were just a short time removed from the oil shortages of the 1970's and the Iran hostage crisis. It looked like we were headed for something better."Well, I'm a jet fuel genius - I can solve the world's problemsWithout even tryingI have dozens of friends and the fun never endsThat is, as long as I'm buyingIs it any wonder I'm not the president?"- Too Much Time On My HandsThe next song, Tommy Shaw's Too Much Time On My Hands, seemed to say that any of us could do anything we wanted to... if only we really wanted to. This has always been one of my favorite songs on this great album. It is a catchy song, with that awesome whisper and alarm clock ending."You get up every morning and you go to work each dayBeen doing the same damn job for ten long years this MayYou've been working and saving for your Jamaican dreamParadise is waiting across the seaBut when your plane lands Montego turns to MonsoonYou've got the Island Blues'Cause, nothing ever goes as plannedIt's a hell of a notionEven Pharaohs turn to sandLike a drop in the oceanYou're so together and you act so civilizedBut every time that things go wrong you're still surprisedYou've done your duty, you've paid a fortune in duesStill got those Mother Nature's Blues."- Nothing Ever Goes As PlannedDennis DeYoung asks us[...]



"The boys of the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay and the bells were ringing out for Christmas day."

2007-12-27T17:59:58.456-05:00

(title quote: The Pogues, Fairytale of New York)

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." - Norman Vincent Peale

I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I will continue with my album posts soon, but today I wanted to come here and wish all of my blog friends a joyous holiday. Thank you for your support this year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!" - Charles Dickens(image)



"Once there was a way to get back home...'

2007-12-27T17:59:20.933-05:00

The first album on my list was recorded about a year before I was born and was released in the United States in October of 1969. I came into the world in April, 1970. My brother was already a huge fan of The Beatles by the time of my birth and imparted his love of their music to me when I was still a young child. During my childhood, my brother often taunted me that The Beatles broke up because I was born. This teasing sometimes left me in tears because I loved their music and couldn't stand the thought that their dissolution was my fault.I don't remember the first time I heard this album, but I do remember that my first purchase of recorded "popular" music was at the age of six. I soon owned a growing collection of mostly British invasion rock, including The Who, Rod Stewart, Elton John and, of course, The Beatles.While Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is considered to be their most significant album, it was Abbey Road that really caught my attention and has kept it to this day. Even the album cover mystifies us with its supposed "Paul is dead" symbolism has always intrigued me. I can spend hours looking at the images on this cover and always find something new to look at. The songs on this album have meshed with memories of my life and gained even more significance as I have grown and gotten older."Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowlyHe got joo-joo eyeball he one holy rollerHe got hair down to his kneeGot to be a joker he just do what he please."- Come TogetherFrom the cryptic opening lines of Come Together, I was hooked. I didn't understand it, but I knew it had to be something important."Something in the way she movesAttracts me like no other lover."- SomethingFrom the minimal blues of Come Together, the listener is dropped into the sonic fog of George Harrison's Something. It is a simple, straightforward love song and a huge departure from the album's first song."Back in school again Maxwell plays the fool againTeacher gets annoyedWishing to avoid an unpleasant sceneShe tells Max to stay when the class has gone awaySo he waits behindWriting 50 times "I must not be so" oh oh ohBut when she turns her back on the boyHe creeps up from behind."- Maxwell's Silver HammerOne of the favorite songs of my childhood was the frivolous nursery rhyme that is Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Like many of the fables of our childhood, there is a sinister story lurking behind the childish nonsense rhymes and catchy melody. I imagine many young people were intrigued by the story of vengeance that is carried out on the authority figures in this story, from the girl who turned us down for a date to the teacher who kept us behind for detention and the judge who condemned us for our youthful misdeeds, everyone felt the "justice" of Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Steve Martin's rendition for the big screen was painfully funny."When you told me you didn't need me anymoreWell you know I nearly broke down and cried!"- Oh! DarlingFew emotional pleas have ever rung so poignantly on my youthful ears as Paul McCartney's Oh! Darling. His hoarse and plaintive cry to believe him was so authentic and honest that we couldn't help but believe. Never mind all that he had to go through to achieve that effect. It was pure musical magic."I'd like to be under the seaIn an octopus's garden in the shade."- Octopus's GardenWhen I was taking guitar lessons during third grade, I was still listening to Octopus's Garden. Going back to a sing-song nursery rhyme style after the emotionally charged pleas of Paul's breaking heart, Ringo Starr drew us right back in with his vivd imagery of this magical hideaway under the sea.As a child, I Want You (She's So Heavy) came across to me as an eerie and vaguely threatening song. As an adult, it seems like the perfect stalker anthem. This song made me uneasy for some reason that I never could quite grasp and it still sets my nerves on edge, though I know think it[...]



"The souls of men and women, impassioned all. Their voices climb and fall; battle trumpets call."

2007-12-27T17:58:37.677-05:00

(Title quote: 10,000 Maniacs, Verdi Cries)

It has been quite an eventful week. There are big changes in store at my (main) workplace today. The changes are for the better, but are still scary, as most change seems to be. We are uneasy with the unfamiliar. I will relate more of these changes after they have occurred, since a story is easier to tell by far once the events have unfolded.

I am sure my last post was polarizing, if it was noticed at all. What I am working on currently is much more personal and much less controversial.

"I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours. But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places. Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality." - H.A. Overstreet

In writing something more personal, I realize that I risk writing something less accessible. I am okay with that. When something needs to be written, it will make that demand in the brain until it is on the page. This has been making its demand to be written for over a week now, so I must begin it.

"Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, and for what, whence, and whereto." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What will follow, in the next few days, is a series of posts (I'm not yet sure how many it will take... my original thought was to do it in a single post, but as I explored what I want to write, it grew into a series of posts, at least two, maybe more) in which I will share the albums which have affected me the most in my life.

I want to share the CD's in my collection that have captivated me and worked their magic on my soul. I will be sharing them in chronological order of when I discovered them. I have trimmed my list down to 10 albums. The earliest album on the list, I was introduced to at age six, and the latest, I discovered only about a month ago.

So, I will be working on these posts, sharing how this music affected, and still affects me, sharing a piece of my musical soul, if you will, and posting them over the next few days. I hope to finish the first of them sometime within the next 24 hours. I hope you enjoy my musical self-indulgence.

"Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought." - E.Y. Harburg(image)



"Scared Are You?"

2007-12-04T16:10:59.096-05:00

(title quote: Better Than Ezra)"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear."- H.P. LovecraftOn Thanksgiving morning, my wife and I drove about 35 minutes to a movie theater in a nearby town, a town where we used to live (it didn't have a theater then), to see Stephen King's The Mist. It was the only local theater that had a showing early in the morning and we were due for dinner at my parents house early that afternoon.“Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.”- Michael PritchardI know it doesn't sound like a movie for Thanksgiving, but it may have been more appropriate than one would initially think.“The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness.”- Dorothy ThompsonThe movie is, at its roots, about fear and isolation and their effects on people. If you were suddenly threatened with being cut off from television, radio, the internet, newspapers, telephones and all of your connections with the world around you, threatened with being thrust into a world of fear, isolation, and sensory deprivation, I'm sure that you would be thankful for all of the modern "luxuries" that you have. After leaving the theater, I was thankful for the suunshine on my face, knowing where my next meal was coming from, and for my very life."Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake."- Edgar Wallace, The Clue of the Twisted CandleYou must understand, I first read King's seminal novella in the mid-80's, just a few years after its original publication. I was a teenager. It immediately became my favorite work by King, and I am a huge fan of MOST of his writing (don't worry, if I found him hurt on the side of the road, I wouldn't take him hostage and make him write for my pleasure). I waited more than twenty years for this film. One of the best Christmas presents my wife has given me over the years is the 3D audio play of this book on cassette."What are fears but voices airy?Whispering harm where harm is not.And deluding the unwaryTill the fatal bolt is shot!"- William WordsworthWell before seeing this film, I had been thinking a lot about fear and its effects on people. Most of us, you see, live in almost constant fear of something. I think my greatest fear is fear of failure and inadequacy. Second is the fear of being alone, of dying lonely."Every living creature on earth dies alone." - Roberta Sparrow, Donnie Darko (though we never hear her say it)Don't get me wrong, I can be a solitary person at times, and love time alone, but I need to know that there is someone there that I can turn to in times of trial.“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”- Frank Herbert, DuneI also have a fear of bridges. I know where that one comes from, though I have no idea where my fears of loneliness and inadequacy originate. Now, I seem to have developed a fear of the power of people in large groups. Ironically, the reason they scare me is because people in large groups always seem to feed off each other's fears. They let these fears come to rule the group. The most charismatic member of the group communicates his or her fears to the rest of the group, tying them into the fears of the group's members. Most fears are fairly closely related to each other.“Often fear of one evil leads us into a worse.”- Nicholas Boileau-DespresauxThe story of The Mist, while horrific and fantastic, is relevant to today's society."The Mist, though it was written 28 years ago, also may benefit from accidental parallels to contemporary life. Its tale of strangers trapped in a crisis situation that brings out their best and worst traits could be read as an allegory for everything from the morning of 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina or the California w[...]



"I am extraordinarily good at sleeping the day away..."

2007-12-04T13:03:06.475-05:00

"I thought with my experienceI'd put it on my resume."- Josh Joplin, The World On a ShoestringI've had the best of intentions. This is definitely not the first morning I've been free from the commitments of work. I just seem to either not wake up in a timely fashion or, when I do, get sidetracked into something else, like playing a video game or some other mindless diversion. I just can't seem to make it here with the time and inspiration to write."This'll be the last song that I writeAbout the things in my life I don't likeThis'll be the last plan I designInvolving me being on timeI sure have missed my chancesBalloons have droppedThe last big dance isUnderwayI'm Mr. New Year's Day." - Josh Joplin, Mr. New Year's DayExcuses notwithstanding, here I am.This week, I am working fewer hours than I have since I started working at the game store back at the end of September. The problem with it is that I'm still working nights. I've worked almost every night since then, even if I just go in for a four hour shift. I've had a grand total of six days completely free from work commitments since I took the job. Three of those were spent on vacation in the mountains (much needed and much enjoyed). I'm not complaining. My point is that I'm a night person. I love the hours after 10:00 p.m. and until dawn. When I leave on a long trip, involving long distance driving, I always think that the best time to leave is about 2:00 a.m. I know that I inherited this from my father, along with a lot of other things (much to my wife's chagrin). He always left for long trips at some ungodly hour of the morning, rousing the rest of the family from sleep with the car already packed. He worked many 4 to midnight and midnight to 8 graveyard shifts as a police officer and thrived at night. We spent many days tiptoeing around the house trying not to wake him."I'm the screen, I work at nightI see today with a newsprint frayMy night is colored headache greyDon't wake me with so much. The ocean machine is set to 9I'll squeeze into heaven and valentineMy bed is pulling me,GravityDaysleeper"- R.E.M., DaysleeperSo, yesterday was going to be my day to come here and write. Except that I didn't go to sleep until much later than I normally should have. So, I slept until afternoon... until there was no time to write, just time to go to work.I've been recovering from a cold. The Thanksgiving weekend holiday retail season, including "Black Friday" wore me down much more than I'd like to admit. As a result, I got sick.Ever since I was born with my broken collarbone and no tear ducts, along with an assortment of other minor problems, I've had a weak constitution. Sure, I play the tough guy, but when something, some bug or virus, goes around, I'm the first to catch it and I hold on to it longer than everybody else. What is a minor inconvenience for most people, often has me miserable for weeks. I have a semi-annual sinus infection. Every other year, I come down with a horrible sinus infection that stays with me for two or three months. I tried antibiotics the second time I got it and they did nothing. This has been going on since about 1997. It usually comes on in late October and hangs around until January. In 1999-2000, it decided to hang around until about April. That was the year I tried antibiotics. If you do the math, you'll discover that it's an odd numbered year. That means I'm due for one. I was scared this was it. Now, I don't think it is. I think leaving my teaching career has been good for my health. The two colds I've caught since August have been shortlived. I shook this last one, which hit me pretty hard, in about a week. I think it's a good sign.As far as my writing, I've been getting the urge to try fiction again. It's been so long since Itried that and my last few results weren't all that great, so it is intimid[...]



Posting "in absentia."

2007-12-02T00:13:50.134-05:00

I will be taking some time from my jobs next week because it just worked out that I have the opportunity to and, not wanting to burn myself out before the busy holiday retail season is over, I am taking that opportunity... slowing down just a little. I'm recovering from a bit of a cold, and shhould be posting again this week as time permits. I have stories to tell and things to share.

However, in place of a real post, I offer some amazing reading. My wife posted on her blog about the power of communities to change lives. I highly recommend this for your reading enjoyment.(image)



"I just got back. Been a long, long time..."

2007-11-12T21:30:32.775-05:00

(title quote: Cheap Trick, Just Got Back)"When I'm GoneAnd the lights are outDon't be sad for long(When I'm Gone)And the lights are outI'll be shining on."- The Click Five, When I'm GoneThis is the second day I've had off from work since I started working the two jobs back in September. I wasn't even supposed to be off today, but something went down at the game store over the weekend and I haven't entirely been informed what it is yet. I'll find out from my friend Chad, since he knows everything that goes on in the area, even if it isn't at his store. At any rate, I'm glad to have a day to relax, get my car detailed, and finally write something of substance here again."Everything’s okay Put those other thoughts away Let me hear you say, at least for today Everything’s okay."- The Clumsy Lovers, Everything's OkayI won't dwell on my absence here, nor will I make excuses or apologies. Just suffice to say that I am back, for today, and hope to be writing here more regularly in the near future. Thank you for forgiving my absence and welcoming me back.Things have been going well. Even though I'm working many hours each week, I'm not exhausted and worn out like I was when I was teaching. Life isn't perfect, it never will be, but it is better.The new car is great. Actually, they both are. My wife is enjoying her car as well.We finally did it. For the first time in about ten years, my wife and I took an overnight trip that wasn't centered around work or family commitments. We have travelled fairly frequently, but it was never for us. We went to her family reunions, or to visit relatives, or to conferences for my job, but never anywhere just for fun, where we set the agenda. Actually, the only trips we have taken together between our honeymoon and this one that were just for us and just for fun were only a couple of one night trips, so this extended weekend is the first one in almost 15 years.I did some research on destinations we could get to relatively easily from here, limiting the list to less than 8 hours driving time. I came up with 13 destinations or so, and we each wrote them in order from least appealing to most appealing. When we got to the end of the list, our most appealing destination, it turned out that we had both written the same place, so we made plans to spend a long weekend there, leaving Thursday right after I finished work, and returning on Sunday evening."Keep close to Nature's heart...and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John MuirWe decided to go to the mountains of North Carolina, near Boone. We actually stayed in Banner Elk, which was great, because it was fairly centrally located to everything we wanted to see and do while we were there.We also decided to rent a cabin, so we wouldn't have to deal with any other people unless we really wanted to. So, we had a beautiful two-story, two bedroom log cabin all to ourselves."When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view." - Ella Wheeler WilcoxIt was an awesome and much needed vacation. We had a lot of fun. We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, visited Linville Caverns and Linville Falls, went hiking on Grandfather Mountain, ate at some really great little restaurants, drove some narrow winding mountain roads through beautiful scenery, shopped at the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, took a bunch of great photos, and just enjoyed our time there.We took a huge number of pictures while we were there, so I want to share some of them here:This is the cabin we rented for the weekend. It was close to Banner Elk, yet secluded off in the woods. The HHR was great on this trip, even in the mountains. It s[...]



Quick Update

2007-11-07T09:08:13.948-05:00

Hate to update this way, but I just haven't had time. Ugh! Leaving for a weekend in the mountains tomorrow. Things have been good. Don't know if anybody even reads here anymore, but I will try to start writing more again soon. Thanks for your support!(image)



"So full of misadventure and feeling insecure, it’s so easy push the pen, fake the tense, and give us nothing more..."

2007-10-17T11:28:08.879-04:00

(title quote: Cartel, The Fortunate)To misquote something that Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, never really said, "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." I can hardly believe that so much time has gone by without a post here. I figured that today was as good a day as any to wrestle with that slippery eel time and throw some words into the ether for your enjoyment, appeasement, or at least for mine."Patience, child it will find youYour deepest dreams will guide you."- Cartel, This Is Who We AreI've been in a holding pattern; an airplane circling endlessly in a sea of cloud, waiting for clearance to land. I've been working shift after shift, not really getting tired or worn out. I know those feelings well. I became well acquainted with them over the past few years. I've been working as many hours as I could get, because the loan company wanted pay stubs and documentation of my hours, since I started both of my jobs so recently. I've also noticed a difference between the long hours I've been putting in over the last few weeks and the long hours I was putting in over the past few years previously.I actually get a tangible reward for this.I work longer. They pay me more. I've never known this phenomenon before. Fourteen years of salaried servitude, working as much as I could because I wanted to have the best band I could and mostly to give as much of myself to my students as I could, yet never seeing the direct, tangible evidence that this extra work was rewarded. I received more indirect rewards, like the lasting appreciation of hundreds of students and higher scores at contests and festivals, but this was always tempered by the huge amount of criticism I received. Being a band director is much like being the coach or manager of a sports team. When it's all said and done, everybody has an opinion of how they would have done things differently. There are thousands of armchair band directors out there. Even success is rewarded with, "They would have been even better if only he would've...""If I were to write the song that could somehow change the world...Would it be a calm surrenderOr a fight to the death?Would it give something to live forWould we give our final breath?Would it be a roaring operaOr sweet as a child's kiss?Would it sound like all the othersOr would it sound something like this?"- Cartel, If I Were To Write This Song Both of my managers are extremely appreciative that I do my job(s) exceedingly well. I've mentioned previously that both stores look at sales of "drivers" to gauge employee performance. Last week, I doubled the entire CD store's driver sales for the week in a single two hour shift. At the end of last week, I encouraged the manager to implement a scoring system for employees, based on driver sales, and placed where we can all see them, to increase our driver sales. So far, it seems to be working. We have been recognized as a store several times in the past few weeks and the manager has received a nice framed certificate for our performance. I have continued to have incredible driver numbers at the game store as well, being the highest ranked employee in driver sales at our store for three weeks running.I've always had a competitive spirit. Being a band director gave me an outlet for that. Sales also gives me an outlet. I have never been one to lose well. It's always been one of my greatest weaknesses, so I do everything I can to not lose. I don't have to win, I just don't want to be last.When I was a child, I was overweight and unathletic. I was always picked last for kickball, which I loved to play. There was never any rational reason for this, as I could really hammer the ball, since I have strong legs (but very weak knees, go fi[...]



"We're livin' in the future and none of this has happened yet..."

2007-10-06T17:06:27.016-04:00

(title quote: Bruce Springsteen, Livin' In the Future)"Things have been a little tightBut I know they're gonna turn my way."- Bruce Springsteen, Girls In Their Summer ClothesWith our transportation woes, carving out time to write, or even pursue any of my hobbies and interests, has been difficult this week. Most of my time working for the game store is now spent at the store across the street from the mall where I work in the CD store, which is about a 45 minute drive from my house. My wife works only about 10 minutes away from the house, but not on the way to any of the places I work. Arranging transportation has been quite a challenge this week, and we have at least another week of it before the loan money arrives, possibly two weeks.I left a down payment with the local Chevrolet dealer this week so that they could send a driver to North Carolina to get the car I want. While looking at used HHR's, I discovered that I could get a new 2007 HHR cheaper than I could get a used 2006 model. It is definitely in our price range, so I opted to go that route, and ordered a silver one that should be arriving at our local dealer sometime next week. I'm not too big on optional equipment, as the salesman quickly discovered, no need for leather seats or a larger engine, or any of those things, just a solid car that is the right color and looks good. He wanted to give me a good deal on a bright orange used model with heated leather seats, a bigger engine and a sunroof, but I just can't see myself driving around in a bright orange car. Besides, in the summer around here, the leather would be scorchingly hot. So, my brand new car of choice is on its way. My loan has been approved, though my district manager at the game store has to send in a written proof of employment stating my wage and expected number of hours, to prove I am working there and getting paid enough to pay for this loan.My wife, as I said, isn't very particular about what car she drives. We're going to pick out something that meets her requirements and our budget when I go to check out the HHR next week sometime. There is a nice Grand Am on the lot that would be perfect for her, if it is still there when we need it.A great deal has happened this week while I haven't had the opportunity to write...I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed Ken Burns' magnificent documentary, The War. This was a phenomenal look at a fascinating and pivotal time in our history. If you haven't seen it and you have an interest in history, I highly recommend it.Last night, on the way home from a quick late dinner my wife and I had at Krystal after I got off work, I got pulled over for going too slow. My dad's car doesn't accelerate correctly when it doesn't have about 5 or 10 minutes to warm up before putting it in gear. I was anxious to get home, so I just started driving. The highway patrolman pulled me over about a half-mile down the road. He gave me a warning and let me go on my way. Why does this stuff always happen to me? I guess things could definitely be worse...On Tuesday, I was working at the game store near my house. I clocked out at just after 3:00 p.m. for my lunch break and made the right turn around the counter ("cash wrap") to leave the store, when I saw a little girl of about 6 or 7 run diagonally across the sidewalk in front of the store. She was leaving the children's store next to the game store, where she had been shopping with her mother. Her mother was trailing behind her, carrying bags filled with merchandise, when the girl bolted. I saw her take a step off the sidewalk and suddenly disappear. A car now occupied the space where she had stepped into the traffic lane. It seemed to happen suddenly and in s[...]



"Bad news on the doorstep..."

2007-10-01T15:21:06.896-04:00

(title quote: Don McLean, American Pie)"She's dead, Jim." - Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Star Trek (original series, episode: Wolf In the Fold)Hello again, my determined and faithful readers! When last we met, I was telling you about my automotive woes. It is worse than I originally thought."Don't cut my throat, I may want to do that later myself." - Casey StengelOn Friday, I dropped my car off at the shop because it was losing power. The original thought was that an in-line fuse had blown, either from giving a jump start to my dad's car the day I left the lights on, or from the accident my wife was involved in on 9/11, when she was hit from behind. I learned late Friday afternoon that the alternator was filled with oil that had leaked from the mid-engine seal that I was told was leaking earlier in the summer, when we brought it to the shop for basically the same problem. They could replace the alternator, but didn't expect it to last long, since the new one would soon begin taking oil from the leaking seal. As a result, they wouldn't warranty a new alternator, which would cost more than $500 to replace. They predicted the new one to last 2-3 months before it too stopped working due to the oil leak. The oil leak would cost a minimum of $1000 to repair. The shop advised me earlier in the summer to sell it as soon as possible before something like this happened. I didn't have money to replace it at that time, and could not think of any options to get the money at that time, so we did the best we could and have now reached this point. The car is a total loss. It is only worth a little more than the money it would take to repair it. Therefore, I have come up with two possible options to replace the car. We can take out a home equity loan or cash in my retirement.The first option leaves us with some additional financial commitments, while the second option takes away our cushion."You have to go broke three times to learn how to make a living." - Casey StengelSince my wife began working, we have been using my father's car as our second car, as we needed it and he doesn't really need to be driving very often with his medical problems. His car is also extremely unreliable and riddled with mechanical problems. In researching solutions to our transportation crisis, we have come up with, I feel, the best possible solution. We applied for the home equity loan this morning. If we are not approved (which would only happen if the company decides I haven't been at my current jobs long enough - everything else checked out well within their parameters for approval), then we will have to use a portion of my retirement savings. We will be buying two cars from the same car dealership, paying cash (or cashier's check at least), and hope that gives us the leverage to get the best possible deal. The only payments will be on the home equity loan, as the cars will be paid in full at purchase. No car payments and two cars in the driveway. My parents will get their car back, but I've already talked to my father about driving. We will know whether or not we are approved for the loan by the end of the week.Even in this calamity, the Law of Attraction seems to be at work. In late April, we went car shopping, because we knew that, with my wife working, we would need a second car. I fell in love with the Chevrolet HHR that day. We came very close to driving home in one, but I backed out at the last second. When my wife and I discussed it later, I told her that if I decided to leave my job, a car payment would leave me trapped and unable to leave the job. Since then, I have been using visualization and trying to tap into the Law of Attraction to get to t[...]



"If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane."

2007-09-28T13:06:56.252-04:00

(title quote: Jimmy Buffett, Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes)"We're getting older and older, and olderAnd always a little further out of the way..."- Counting Crows, August and Everything AfterOn Wednesday morning, I was a bit nervous with the task ahead of me. I was faced with being the manager on duty and opening a store that I had never even seen before, working with an associate I had never met, and reporting to a manager I had heard horror stories about.In short, everything went fine.I made it to the alarm system before the delay expired, accomplished all of my opening tasks without any problems, and discovered that I had already met the store's assistant manager at a July 4th party at Chad's house a few years ago. We remembered each other from the party, so it gave enough familiarity to make things a bit more comfortable. The manager doesn't seem to be as formidable as everyone told me she was, of course she could just be waiting until she knows me better. She also seems to have a sense of humor, which I didn't expect."I make the changes, the changes that I needBut I no longer know how to prayAnd I'm living in a dog town and it's a dalmation paradeI change my spots over and overBut they never seem to fade awayNow I am the last remaining IndianLooking for the place where the buffalo roamIn August and everything after, man them buffalo ain't never coming home..."- Counting Crows, August and Everything AfterThis store also does far less business than the game store that I have been working at, so there is a bit less urgency in the tasks, but a bit more boredom at times. The customers seem friendly, for the most part. Yesterday, a customer came in from the other store and we started talking about Chad and how we had known him for a long time (though, having known him for about 23 years, I won that contest). Later, when I was at the CD store for my closing shift, the same customer came into the store... except he wasn't a customer. He is an employee of the company who was hired to complete the inventory for that store. Along with him, I am building a rapport with several other regular customers of both stores, so things seem to be going fairly well on the work front. If only I could win a small lottery jackpot or make some other windfall so that we could catch up and pay all of our outstanding bills, maybe enough to pay off our mortgage and get two working cars... at least I dream big. I guess I would have to buy lottery tickets and be extremely lucky, or know someone old and rich who likes me a lot for that to happen. Oh well.Speaking of two working cars... our car (not my dad's car, which has problems of its own) is having electrical problems again. We had it repaired in August for the samed problem and now it is happening again. I took it back to the shop this morning and brought my receipt from August. It could be a fuse, a connection, or the alternator. At any rate, it is going to cost us more money that we don't have. Since I have to leave for work in a few hours, I hope the shop calls about the car soon. Even working both jobs, its been impossible to catch up, with extra expenses and problems that keep cropping up here and there."Sometimes a high wall is just a wallSometimes it's only there to make sure you feel smallOr maybe there to save youFrom the depths of a much deeper fall."- The Wallflowers, How Far You've ComeLast week, while working at the CD store, the co-worker I was working with was sick. He was congested, with a sore throat and flu-like symptoms. Guess what happened to me? I've been taking Airborne and loading up with vitamins for about a week and I feel like [...]



“True gamers don’t get sleep. That’s how we do it.”

2007-09-25T09:04:28.247-04:00

(title quote: Jesse Jones)"Many planned to keep the party going all day — forgetting about school, work, doctor’s appointments or anything that could possibly drag them away from their handheld controllers." - Lisa Roberson, Chronicle-TelegramI just got home from work. I can report an extremely successful launch event for the Halo 3 release, at least for my store. There was pizza, black and green balloons, and Halo 3 Game Fuel, a Mountain Dew product branded exclusively for the game. Big Papa Rob kept the crowd under control. After all, nobody was really up for a fight with a guy that big, at least 6'3" and over 300 pounds, at midnight. Everybody just wanted to pick up their copy of the game so they could hurry home and play."Dawn: When men of reason go to bed." - Ambrose BierceThe winner of Saturday's Halo 2 tournament was escorted to the front of the line to receive his free copy of the new game. When I arrived, about a 30 minutes before the official release, the line was 2/3 of the way to Wal-Mart, located at the far end of the shopping center. By midnight, the line was all the way to Wal-Mart. I'm not sure how many copies we sold tonight, but we had over 350 pre-orders last time I checked.At midnight, Rob started letting people back into the store. He kept both of our registers at about 2 people in line at all times. Two of our best cashiers worked the registers (I'm not nearly fast enough yet), while Chad and I backed them up, handing them each customer's product, bagging it, and pre-stuffing bags with brochures and discount cards for the local appliance rental store that loaned us big-screen televisions for the tournament and tonight's release. Things flowed smoothly and it was a lot of fun. We had all of our customers taken care of by 1 a.m."It's no surprise that video games have replaced movies as the No. 1 entertainment choice for the younger generation. Halo 3 is like the best science-fiction action film, except you're the star, you get to play with your friends and this time you can also be the director - creating your own battle zones and sharing them with others over Xbox Live." - Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco ChronicleI have a few other things I neglected to mention in my last post.First, another of my former students came into the game store Saturday night. He was a student involved more directly in something that helped me decide to leave my teaching career. On the final day of exams, he skipped his first class by hiding out in my color guard instructor's office. This caused him to fail the exam and the class. In my meeting with my principal two days later, it came to my attention that this student told his teacher, his father, and the administration that I told him to stay in the band room and skip his exam. This was definitely not true. The administration chose to believe his story over mine and one assistant principal, who I never got along with in my 8 years at the school told me I was lying during that meeting. My principal told me that I caused him to fail for the year and not get promoted. In my opinion, he caused himself to fail, especially since his story about me keeping him in the band room was a lie he told to avoid getting in trouble with his father, a wealthy local businessman, for skipping class."Conquering any difficulty always gives one a secret joy, for it means pushing back a boundary-line and adding to one's liberty." - Henri Frédéric AmielI actually responded fairly well to seeing him in the store. There were no punches thrown, no harsh words, and I had a decent conversation with him, ignoring what he had done, pretending [...]



"I get up every morning and go to work each day..."

2007-09-23T10:34:36.639-04:00

(title quote: Bruce Springsteen, The Promised Land)"It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality." - Harold S. GeneenIt has been a busy week. I know, they're all busy weeks, but this week I haven't been working double shifts almost every day like I did last week. I only worked at the CD store on Monday and Tuesday, then the rest of the week, just at the game store. Yet, the week has seemed even more full than last week.I have worked mostly closing shifts this week, so mornings have been my "free time." On Monday morning, I helped my friend Matt move. It was sad, yet it has reconnected me somewhat with that group of friends of which he was a part. On Tuesday morning, I posted about helping him move and did some other things on the computer. On Wednesday, I had to go to work earlier than normal for a closing shift, so I didn't get much time to do anything before work. Thursday is my day for my appointment in Wilmington, so I left home at around 8 a.m. and pretty much went straight to work as soon as I got home.On Friday, I had my first solo run at opening the game store. My friend Chad, the manager, was nervous and protective about his baby. He had never let anyone go solo so early in their training. I did fine. He called several times and even called his long-standing assistant manager for reassurance that I would be fine by myself. The store was busy the entire time I was alone, but I handled it fairly well, and got the opening duties completed, along with the inventory duties that go along with opening the store each day. Overall, I think it was excellent training to open by myself and have to answer all of the customer questions with nobody else to rely on for help. It helps me to learn. Often, when we have someone else to rely on, we use them as a crutch and ask them things we already know just because we don't think we know them. Being forced to do it reassures us that we can indeed do it.After work on Friday, I went to the parking lot to discover that in the morning's rain showers, I had left the lights on in my dad's car. I can open a store by myself, but can't remember to turn off the headlights on the car. So, I called my wife to bring the jumper cables, which are in our car, since we had battery problems early in the summer. My preoccupation with all things work related made me leave the lights on (when I left the car in the morning, I was repeating the alarm code over and over in my head) and thus, I arrived home an hour later than I anticipated."Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there." - Will RogersDuring the first week of employment at the game store, sales percentages of target items do not count. Our target items are pre-order reservations for soon-to-be-released games and subscriptions to our store magazine/discount program. Even though it didn't count, I still made a passing grade by surpassing the 6% necessary. Here's how it works. In order to pass for the week, 6% of all qualified transactions must include at least one of those two items. If I remember correctly, my final percentage for the week was 11%. This past week, I set out to do better than that. Since I am training to be a manager, I reasoned that my percentages should be among the highest in the store, and that the percentages of others should also be higher when they're working with me. I didn't check my final numbers for the week last night, but they will be posted on the board in the back room. The last I checked, I was ov[...]



"The wind went and pulled me into the hurricane..."

2007-09-22T13:20:39.110-04:00

(title quote: Something Corporate, Hurricane)"It was one of those hot, silent nights, when people sit at windows listening for the thunder which they know will shortly break; when they recall dismal tales of hurricanes and earthquakes; and of lonely travellers on open plains, and lonely ships at sea, struck by lightning." - Charles DickensIn September of 1989, I was a 19 year old college student, a sophomore music major. My parents were over 200 miles away, back at home. It was hurricane season. In the 9 years that my family had lived in the Myrtle Beach area, we had never known a major hurricane. Sure, a few of them had passed through the area and my dad and I had prepared things the best we could, taping windows, clearing the yard of potential flying debris, tying down the storage buildings, and similar things. We even had a tree from the yard next door fall into our yard once, tearing up the concrete pat that had been poured around it. My dad and I cut it up after it fell and cleaned up all the debris. Once, we realized in the middle of a minor, category 1 hurricane that we had forgotten to tie down the storage buildings. We had two metal sheds with a carport built between them to shelter our golf cart. We ran out into the storm, with my mother shining a flashlight from the back door, and tied the buildings down, staking in the thick rope with tent pegs that we hammered into the ground and tying it to the sturdiest of our trees as well. All the while, we were pelted with things... acorns, pine cones... pine cones with sharp spines on them. They hurt and left painful welts on our backs and shoulders. My father made it a point of pride that he never left our mobile home during a storm. Only the foolish would run from puny hurricanes!Still, we had never known the fury of a real storm. In September of 1989, that changed. On September 11th of that year, a tropical wave moved off Cape Verde, Africa. By September 13th, this tropical disturbance became Hurricane Hugo. While still well out to sea, Hugo became a category 5 storm, but mercifully weakened to category 3 before slamming into Puerto Rico, causing huge amount of damage in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean."We've got a low pressure system and a northeast breezeWe've got a falling barometer and rising seasWe've got the cumulonimbus and a possible galeWe've got a force nine blowing on the Beaufort scale."- Billy Joel, Storm FrontAfter moving back over the open Atlantic and into the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, Hugo regained some of its strength and once again became a category 4 hurricane. As Hugo approached the South Carolina coast, I called my parents and began begging them to leave. I was sure that a storm this strong would destroy their mobile home, only about a mile inland, and if my father's stubbornness made him stay home, I feared for his safety.I must have effectively communicated my fears, because my mother started calling hotels along the route they would have to take inland. My dad was working as head of maintenance at an ocean front high-rise condominium, so he had to be one of the last to leave the building after everything was secured. In the final few hectic moments of preparations, while he and his crew were locking the elevators down at the level of the third floor, to keep them secure and above the potential flood level, he dropped his Mag-Lite down the elevator shaft. The flashlight was still on, but time was running out and he decided to leave the light at the bottom of the shaft and pick up my mother to head for whatever hotel sh[...]



"Another autumn, a travelers guide..."

2007-09-18T11:28:10.846-04:00

(title quote: Wilco, Summer Teeth)"Nobody on the roadNobody on the beachI feel it in the airThe summer’s out of reachEmpty lake, empty streetsThe sun goes down alone..."- The Ataris, Boys of Summer ("Who the F*** Is Don Henley?")I guess I haven't noticed it as much the past few years. After all, I've been far too consumed with the work of being a band director for far too many Septembers and Octobers to notice much. This is the time of year when band directors are busiest. The countless hours of band practice that begin in late July lead to football games in August, which occupy every Friday night from then into November. In September, the practices increase in hours and intensity, in preparation for marching competitions, which last from late September until the first Saturday in November."Woke up this morning to nothing I recognizedEverything changed and I never saw it coming."- Jupiter Sunrise, September GirlIt always just seemed like it was sunny and unbearably hot when you started practicing and suddenly, without warning, somewhere along the way, it got cool, and then downright cold. You went from wearing short sleeves in the bleachers, while the kids sweat in their "summer uniform" shorts and t-shirts, to wearing sweaters and a jacket, while the band huddled for warmth in wool uniforms that went suddenly from providing way too much warmth to providing not nearly enough warmth. The "band moms" went from pouring much needed ice cold water on Friday nights, to pouring much needed steaming hot chocolate from the big orange coolers."Just outside my window I hear the late September dogsAnd I understand their warning I understand their songSince you left I feel the change in the airAnd night after night I'm searching for mercy everywhere."- Melissa Etheridge, The Late September DogsI remember a Funky Winkerbean cartoon that my wife clipped for me years ago where a character starts talking about how great fall is, including mentioning that the leaves are so pretty when they change colors. To this comment, another character, band director Harry Dinkle, replies, "The leaves change color in the fall?" Anybody who has even spent a few years in marching band, especially as a band director, knows that it consumes this particular season almost completely. The years seems to jump abruptly from summer to winter. I'm sure that's why I didn't notice."There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!" - Percy Bysshe ShelleyWhat I'm noticing this year, and remember from my memories of the distant past, is the feeling of nostalgia, and even melancholy that accompanies this time of year. I think I noticed it for the first time on Sunday as I walked from the car to the mall where the CD store is located. It was a gloriously cool, sunny day. On the way to work, I saw hundreds of cyclists competing in a bike race on the road that I take (which is ready to become an interstate, I-74 I think, when the project gets to this point). There is something about the air that just makes the day look different."My Sorrow, when she's here with me,Thinks these dark days of autumn rainAre beautiful as days can be;She loves the bare, the withered tree;She walks the sodden pasture lane."- Robert Frost, My November GuestI remember this feeling from college. I think that is when I noticed it the most. Beginning my junior year, when I met the girl I eventually married, I established a large group of close friends. We spent al[...]



"I feel like a stranger from another world, but at least I'm living again."

2007-09-15T11:06:33.630-04:00

"I don't need a doctor to figure it outI know what's passing me bywhen I look in the mirrorsometimes I seetraces of some other guy."- Blue Rodeo, 'Til I Am Myself AgainAfter three days in a row of working double shifts, then a day of driving to Wilmington and back before I worked my closing shift, yesterday's single shift was a breeze. The good news is that there don't seem to be to many more, if any, double shifts in my immediate future.I was correct about the CD store. I am still on the schedule for Sunday and Monday, my days off at the game store, but I don't seem to be on the schedule for the rest of the week. The manager told me all his other shifts were now covered. While it is not the best financially, it is the best in terms of getting life back to normal, whatever normal is.I closed at the CD store last night with the manager, who was initially quiet towards me, but after he showed me that I wasn't on the schedule beyond Monday and I didn't react badly, he was extremely friendly towards me, perhaps even more friendly than normal. I think he was relieved that I didn't respond negatively to the reduction in hours, but I knew that working that many hours at both jobs was going to get old and tiresome quickly. I am wondering if he will even have me on the schedule beyond next week, but whatever happens is what happens. I just hope that the game store job continues to improve. I work a closing shift today with my old friend Chad, the first time we will have worked together, or even spent this much time together in about 18 years. Hopefully it goes well. I am hoping he can cleanse his mind of his impressions of who he thinks I am (which, while we were out of touch was based mostly on updates from my parents, which do not always resemble reality) and learn who I really am. I sometimes feel like some of my old friends have me on a pedestal (since my parents tend to portray me that way, through the rosy haze of bragging, even about things they don't like about me, which may not even be accurate)."It is not only old and early impressions that deceive us; the charms of novelty have the same power." - Blaise PascalWhen some of my closest friends from high school come to town to visit family and other friends, they often don't contact me. My guess is that they don't think I'm any fun. Now, I know this seems strange, but for years, especially while I was living out of the area, their only contact with me was often through my parents. When they came to town, they would call or visit my parents, who would tell them "all about my life." The first few years after I moved back to town, they would visit my parents and then visit me. Now they have mostly stopped visiting me. It's true that I don't normally frequent bars and don't drink very much in the way of alcoholic beverages, but I wouldn't mind going out on special occasions when a friend is in town, or even have a drink or two with them. I especially wouldn't mind the invitation. If they want to get totally disgustingly drunk, they're welcome to continue drinking after I excuse myself. It would just be nice to see and talk to them when they come to town. My parents see me as a "goody two shoes stick in the mud" because I don't drink very often, don't smoke at all, attend church fairly regularly, and try to live my life as respectably as possible. I feel certain that their portrayal of these attributes contributes to keeping my friends away when they visit, especially since they are still in cl[...]



"You're in a world that's hard to just fit in..."

2007-09-14T11:24:12.877-04:00

"But you don't have to be like them."- Amber Pacific, Dear _____, This Has Always Been About Standing Up For What You Believe InI have been "on the job" at my new job for four days. It is a different world indeed than the CD store. The rhythms and tasks are completely different, yet similar in ways that make it difficult to keep the processes separate. I'm sure my co-workers, especially the ones that have been assigned to train me, are sick of hearing me say how we did the same, or similar, tasks at that store when they show me the way they do it at this store. I know that it has to be annoying, but it helps me get it straight in my mind to compare the two ways of doing things like closing paperwork, counting drawers, selling the membership card, etc.Yesterday, though there were long stretches of boring down time, I started to adjust to the rhythms of the job. I worked a shorter shift due to my weekly appointments in Wilmington (didn't have time there for photos or sightseeing this week, since this store is a bit more of a drive to get to work than the CD store, which is about 30 minutes closer to Wilmington), but it was still 6 hours. I found out shortly after I arrived that I would be assigned all closing duties while the employee who is training me was assigned to watch and play the role of "dumb associate" as much as possible, unless I really got stuck.This employee is a key holder at the store and has been there since it opened. She is not in management, but is extremely reliable and knowledgeable. She would like to manage her own store someday, but is still a college student and her sales percentages (of title reserves - pre-selling a game that will be released soon; and membership subscriptions - monthly game magazine plus discount card) have kept her out of the management ranks. She has been a great trainer and I sensed some resentment that her hours have been reduced both because of her new semester of college starting and because of my arrival. As soon as the chief assistant manager walked away, shortly after my shift started, I told her that I was sorry for taking her hours and that I thought she was an awesome worker. I meant it. She has been very helpful. She was caught off guard by that, but I think it helped her to see me in a different light. I really didn't intend to take anybody else's hours or position away from them, and she needed to hear that from me."Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful." - Mark Victor HansenBy the end of the day, she was celebrating my small victories with "high fives" and calculating my percentages of reservations and subscriptions every time I made one. Today, my fourth day, was the first time I had gotten either. They don't count towards employee ratings for the first week, but they do look good to the district manager if an employee with little retail experience, such as me, can make a passing grade during the first week. I got my first reservation with an assist from the chief assistant manager. She wanted to show me how to complete the transaction in the computer, so she helped me sell one. Then I sold a subscription a short time later. Then, throughout the day, I sold 4 more reservations (they really area good d[...]



"Some things I may have taken for granted again and again..."

2007-09-11T23:47:35.191-04:00

(title quote: The Academy Is..., The Phrase That Pays)"There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place." - Washington IrvingYesterday was the first day at my new job. I haven't started the writing yet, because I wanted to get the transition into this new retail job settled a bit before I added another challenge, but I'm starting to settle in, so maybe by the end of the week, I will be ready for that.First, I must say that the corporate climate at my new job is drastically different than that at my music store job. I have learned that my dear friend from high school really hasn't changed much over the past 20 years. There is much more of a pecking order at this new job than at the old one. Since I am a management trainee, I immediately jumped a few stations in that seemingly rigid "caste system." At the music store, the manager does just as many menial tasks as the newest part-time associate. At the game store, management is rarely expected to do such things as vacuum, dust, or straighten merchandise on shelves. I am being trained by an assistant manager and a 3rd key candidate. The ASM shows me how to do a lot of management tasks, and the 3rd key candidate helps me learn how to handle dealing with employees like her, who will be under my leadership. It's not nearly as exciting as the music store, but can be fun at times and the pay is better. The maturity level, even among the adult employees, is significantly lower than at the music store. I am going to withhold judgement for a while until I learn the job better, but so far a comparison between the two jobs is not like apples and oranges. It's more like apples and pork chops. I'm keeping an open mind. I will be writing more about it as I gain more experience."If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing." - St. AugustineOther than having sore legs, I don't feel any more tired or stressed after working double shifts for the past two days than I did previously. Once again, we'll see how I'm doing at the end of the week. So far, I have come to the conclusion that my old job condition me to long hours and high stress to the point that I'm actually getting better at problem solving and making sales as I'm more tired. I'm a night person anyway, and I think I've been getting more sleep since I started the double shifts because I am consciously taking care to avoid burning myself out. I just want to make sure I have a good handle on the new job and feel that I am going to stay with it before I burn any bridges with the music store job, since I currently like that job better. It just doesn't provide enough income to pay the bills right now, even if the writing job starts paying what I expect it to at first.I really haven't had the time to promote this blog as well or as much as I was before, so the number of visitors I've been getting each day has greatly declined since I had my crisis a few weeks ago. My visits have dropped to about a third of what I was getting per day before. I'm going to be renewing my effort to write every day, comment, and reply to comments, but I'm not sure what else to do in the time I have available to g[...]



"Go work in retail and spare the suspense."

2007-09-10T00:43:23.914-04:00

(title quote: The Academy Is..., Black Mamba)Wake up think fast, three weeks have passed. We are changing. No sleep, no gas, no excuses will pass these lips because were shapin' up to be all you wish you could have been to write the hits and to turn their heads and to open eyes (open your eyes) to a brand new season, a brand new season.- The Academy Is..., SeasonI guess it's pretty easy to tell what I was listening to on my ipod on the way home from work today. The Academy Is... is a Chicago band who recently gained a lot of attention with their second major label release, Santi. I prefer their older stuff without question and don't even own Santi, so I was listening to what I consider their best CD, Almost Here. It's a great CD and I highly recommend that you at least give their itunes clips from this CD a listen.Back from commercial..."Yesterday is calling you, Won't let you get away..."- William Tell, Yesterday Is CallingYesterday, I had a rather interesting and, for me, quite troubling experience. I think that at some point, we have all known someone, or several people, who cause strong negative feelings within us whenever we see them or hear their voice. If you've ever had caller ID, you have probably experienced those visceral reactions whenever you've seen their name appear on that tiny little screen. With my former job, I have had many such people in my life.I've stated before, and I'll reiterate, that people in the Myrtle Beach area seem to have an entitlement mentality. They think that others exist to clean up after them, solve their problems, and do their bidding. Once again, this attitude was rampant among my band parents. Over the past eight years, there have been several names whose sudden appearance on my caller ID or cell phone display while the phone was ringing caused a strong negative reaction within me. This reaction was sometimes purely mental, but sometimes had physical manifestations. I would often make excuses to not answer the phone because it was easier to find out what they wanted and investigate what it would take to resolve the situation than it was to speak to them without warning. They were judgemental, demanding people who seemed to think that their problems and wants were the only ones I had to deal with. They knew no boundaries and would call at any time, often multiple times each day for many days in a row, with things that had to be taken care of immediately. Often these were mundane, low-priority tasks, upon which they placed an inflated sense of importance and urgency. I don't know what causes this mentality exactly, but it was one of the things I hated most about the people I dealt with in that job.My manager at the CD store mentioned today that out of all the retail stores he's ever worked in or managed, this store has the worst record of customers being inconsiderate. They think nothing of picking up stacks of CD's or DVD's or games and taking them to a listening/viewing station, then depositing all of them in a huge pile somewhere out of the way, making no attempt to return them to any semblance of order. When these people leave the store, there is merchandise scattered everywhere. They seem like extremely nice people. They just think that the people who work in service related industries exist solely to take care of them. I know it is part of my job to clean up the store and take care of customers, but these people w[...]