Sunday, September 30, 2007

Some things are bigger than us

Sometimes the world seems really big... Does realizing that it isn't very big at all just make us feel that much smaller? It sure makes it easier to understand that we're all just small pieces in a much larger puzzle. Is any piece of a puzzle ever more important than another? Maybe it's good to feel small sometimes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Strummin' my six string...er...four string

It's been years since I've played any music. Playing it on my iPod, Boris, doesn't count.

Back in the day - way, way, way, back in the day that is - I could sit down and bang some things out on a piano. I also used to play bass - the big ol' upright and electric. Didn't much like the electric bass, but that was more to do with not being able to find one that fit my hands than anything else.

So, I've been wanting to pick up an instrument for a while. I like the idea of sitting around with a couple friends and playing some music. Just the thought of strumming and picking with buddies sounds neat to me. The ability to do that - sadly - doesn't magically appear overnight. Apparently, there are some important steps like learning how to play an instrument and practicing and such. I really don't like complications like that, but some things can't be avoided.

For a long time, I've had my list narrowed down to either guitar or violin. I know, that's to ends of the spectrum, but that's just how I am sometimes. Guitar is the more versatile of the two - obviously. You're much more likely to know someone with a guitar laying about than a violin. And people are just more apt to let you play their guitar than to play their violin.

A few years ago, I added the mandolin to the list. I really like the way they sound. They're really cool looking too - perhaps one of the most beautiful looking instruments ever. They're not the simplest string instrument on the planet however and that prettiness is sort of a barrier to busting it out in a crowd of people - many of whom are likely to be drunk.

Not too long ago, the list was lengthened by the addition of the ukulele. What could be simpler to play and easier to carry around. It's only got four strings, so there's not too much to learn to work with. The ukulele also doesn't span a bunch of octaves, so things are further simplified.

They can create a neat sound and - let's face it - they're just a happy little instrument. Who doesn't smile when they hear a ukulele? The ukulele has got to be the nearly perfect summer instrument - the very embodiment of sunshine, sand and the ocean.

Today, I jumped in. I bought myself a cute little ukulele. It has no name yet, but that will surely come. It's a Lanakai LU-21C - classic length and sort of middle of the road, beginner quality. It looks just like the picture up top.

It's going to have to suffer through a lot of terrible sounding practice sessions, but I think it can handle it. I've learned a couple of nice, little chords already - C major and G7 major. Lo and behold, you can play 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' with nothing more than the C major chord. So, I guess you could say that I've already learned a song. If you add the G7 in, you can play 'Skip To My Lou'. Who knew? I haven't mastered the sliding back and forth between the chords yet...but it's my first day.

Anyway, it would be nice to at least get a few chords down and learn some basic strummin' along technique. Then it's down to the Sugar Shack with a longboard strapped to the Woody and my ukulele sitting in the back seat. Strum that little baby around the bonfire and watch the Bettys flock around.

Till then...A hui hou! Don't be a Kolohe.

*****


Important update:

Thanks to SME for pointing me over to YouTube to check out some uke clips. I will never get that time back, but it was worth the expenditure. Just so you can get an idea of how I can't play - and may never be able to play - here's a nice little clip:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From the mouths of poets and drunks...

Sometimes wisdom comes in small tidbits. Here's a little taste of the wisdom pie from the mind of novelist, poet and great American drunk, Charles Bukowski.

Known for his raw style and oftentimes profane behavior, Bukowski's words are fitting for the time we're living. Not one for bullshit, Bukowski had a way of boiling his words down to their simplest and most direct form. Brutal honestly in a bitter pill.

There are more than a few politicians, pundits and hacks that could use a few ample doses of raw Bukowski.

This one seems hopeful:

“If you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose” - Charles Bukowski

Maybe we could all use a dose, or at least a reminder:
“You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.” - Charles Bukowski

Or, maybe we just need a little bit of bar wisdom:
“Sometimes you just have to pee in the sink.” - Charles Bukowski

Anyway, wisdom can come from anywhere, but it has to be found. If it's just handed to you, it's probably not wisdom at all - but something else entirely.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What do you say to the younger you?

Ever stop to wonder what you would say to the younger you if you could go back in time? I know I have. Pretty much every time I've wondered about it, I've thought in terms of the me now teaching the me then a few things - you know, sharing my wisdom with the younger me.

A couple days ago, I had reason to wonder it all again. I got in touch with an old friend - Heather - that I haven't really talked to or heard from in years. Don't know why I got hold of her now, but I did. She's running a maternity shop in Alice Springs in Australia. That just seems perfect for her - it's not the least surprising that this would be what she's been doing.

Over a decade ago - god, has it really been that long - Heather got hired on at the frame shop I worked at. She was a welcome addition - especially as the girl she replaced was beyond terrible at the job and only lasted about a week or so. But I digress.

Heather was engaged to Nick. He was the mysterious Aussie she always talked about. And I truly do mean always. The weeks went by and finally the wedding was around the corner. The man of her dreams was coming over to the states and they were getting married. Of course, that's never been a thing that has ever curtailed my flirting nature and I have to admit that I did do more than a little of that back in those days.

Maybe it was her nerves that made her do it - or maybe it was my strange, animal charm - but she couldn't stop herself. She cornered me at the store one day.

"You know Nick will be here in a couple of days..." she said.

"Yeah," I replied, a little unsure where this was going.

"Well, can I ask you a really big favor?"

"Sure."

She paused, obviously nervous, her youth leaving her unprepared to deal with this kind of moment.

"Ummm. It's a huge favor..." she said. "You can say 'no' if you want. I would understand, but it would mean a lot to me."

"I'll do whatever you want Heather," I said. "You know how I feel about you."

She paused again - longer this time - and looked at me as if gauging my sincerity. She always had trouble believing that my sincere moments were real. It was obviously hard for her to ask what she wanted so badly to ask. I tried to smile.

"Ummm... Nick doesn't really have anybody here that he knows very well," she said quickly. "Do you think you could be his best man?"

Of course, I said yes. It was a big honor that she thought enough of our friendship to ask - where did you think this was going? This is a nice story and here you are thinking terrible thoughts. Shame on you.

Anyway, got to drink with Nick before the wedding, so all was good. He was a really nice guy and I was happy for them. We all were - despite the months of hard times we had given Heather for her dreamy preoccupation with her wedding plans.

Then they went over to Australia. I heard from Heather a couple of times. It was nice to get the occasional postcard from the bottom of the world. Her mother and sister stopped in from time to time and kept us up to date too.

The years take their toll though. And eventually we lost touch. Every so often, a moment would make me think of Heather and wonder how she was - but, I'm a pretty lazy person and I seldom got past Googling and letting it drop.

After all this time, would she even want to hear from me? Would she think it weird that I looked her up? I decided to just do it and left a message on the store's guestbook. I was happy - totally silly happy - to get an excited email the next day.

Her story has gone a different way than I imagined it had - who's hasn't come to think of it. A life lived is nothing if not unpredictable. But it sounds like she's figuring out her path. That's not for me to say, or judge, or anything like that, but I can still be interested and even a bit proud.

Anyway, to be honest, this whole thing sort of tilted my world a bit for a few days. I guess memories will do that. It was strange to find myself travelling back so many years ago, looking at myself, and her, the people that came and went in the frame shop, and that whole world with much older eyes.

I always thought that if I could go back and meet the younger me that I would give him plenty of great advice. As it turns out, that me was the one who imparted some wisdom. There are so many things that are easy to lose - dreams, friendships, our direction - and they are all worth holding on to.

That younger me reminded me of some of those things and I feel like I let him down along the road. But the good news is...it's still not to late to recapture some of those dreams and to track down old friends and reconnect. Life doesn't have to be a fairy tale, but you don't have to give up hoping for one.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Check it out...

Phoenix has a great Youtube find up on his blog. U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday done with George W. clips. It's brilliant.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An open note to terrorists and other not nice people

Dear Terrorist and Other Not Nice People Guys -

I'm sorry if you're pissed off about stuff or you just want to hurry things along and get to those virgins waiting in the sweet-ass garden for you, but some of us are kind of into hanging around on this world. So, could you kindly not blow stuff up anymore? Frankly, it's not very cool and it really cuts into the Britney/Kevin, Brad/Angelina, Tom/Katie news coverage.

I would also sort of like it if you could maybe refrain from using any nuclear or radioactive stuff. You see, I just got an amendment to my insurance that says:

'There is no coverage for loss to any vehicle that results from:
a) nuclear reaction
b) radiation or radioactive contamination from any source
c) the accidental or intentional detonation of, or release of radiation from, any nuclear or radioactive device.*

I'm also apparently not covered for mold or mildew injuries either. And - if that's the case - I suppose nuclear mold or mildew would be doubly out of the question.

As you can see, I'm a bit concerned about the new car. I don't mean to be a dick, but I worked hard for the money to buy it. Also, I think if you look closely, there might be something in the Koran about not being total asswipes and blowing shit up - especially not with nuclear mold.

Anyway, thanks and have a great day.

Sincerely,

Some Random American Dude Guy

*There's no mention of 'nucular' stuff though...so, I might still be covered for that. I sure hope I am.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some of the things I did on my summer vacation...

It was a good summer, cut short by the week of deluge and crap weather...but good nonetheless. For the first time in several years I actually got out and enjoyed a summer before it was over. Yeah me!

Moved in June. It was just across town, but a hassle anyway. Not that it didn't go smoothly - it did - but any move is a drag and this one was certainly that. The best part of it was getting a dish hooked up. I like it so much better than cable - better channels, cheaper and great service. I have to admit that I spent a lot of time just going through all the cool channels and getting caught up on shows that I couldn't

The new place is a couple of blocks from a big park. Not the best park ever, but the river runs through it and it's where they do the Fourth of July fireworks. So the fireworks were going off a couple blocks away. It was pretty cool. I love the boom of fireworks show.

Done a bit of disc golfing this year. It's a good time, but I well and truly suck at it. My friends don't seem to mind too much and they put up with me doubling up their scores. No pictures of any outings - I'm not sure why, but carrying camera around a course is a hassle and that might have something to do with it.

Watched Live Earth this summer. Is it just me, or was that the biggest event that should have made an impact, but didn't really seem to? Huge event. Huge issue. But barely made a dent in anyone's conscious. How much better would the world have been if Al Gore had become president instead of George W? Well, I'm guessing we wouldn't have had 150,000 troops mired down in Iraq and the trillion dollars spent so far on the 'war' wouldn't have been tossed out the window, the response to Katrina wouldn't have taken nearly a week, and the rest of the world wouldn't be wondering what kind of douche bags would elect someone like George W. Bush - twice. Just a thought or two...

video

Germanfest was another summer winner. Okay, more of a fun diversion than anything else. My favorite gyro cart was there again so I got to feast on them. How they always manage to have cute foreign girls working there every year is one of life's mysteries, but I'll never complain.

There was a rainy day, but it didn't dampen the party mood amongst the oldsters this thing draws out every year. They just polkaed with umbrellas.

I've been down to the farmers market almost every Saturday this summer too. It's only a few blocks away and is a great reason to get up on Saturday morning. I go down, grab a coffee and buy some local produce. It's nice - a bit of European flair for my terribly American life.

Went to a Packers preseason game a little while back. That was - of course - a good time. There's not much that compares to a football game at Lambeau Field. It's just a great vibe. Saw my old neighbors out front. Odd? Why yes it was. But this is Wisconsin and it's almost commonplace to run into people halfway across the state. What can I say? It really is a Wisconsin thing.

Bought a new mountain bike shortly after the move and I love it. It's a Trek and it is really a beautiful piece of rolling fun. Did a lot of riding around town this summer. It was nice to get some much needed exercise. It was especially nice to save a ton on gas too. There was also the added benefit of cutting down my personal contribution to the pollution level. I did indeed feel a bit smug riding my bike to the grocery store and to work.

But, the weather is turning. And with it, I had to buy a new car. Well...new to me.

Got a terribly practical used Pontiac GrandAm in a sober shade of metallic tan. I know - crazy. That's just how I roll. At least that's how I'm rolling now. It's a nice car with low miles and is in great shape, so I can't complain. I'll love it more when I walk out to it in the dead of winter with snow all around, turn the key and hear it start. My love will know no bounds then.

So, there it is. The Reader's Digest version of my summer. Feel free to flesh it out with some nights at the pub, some days laying out in the sun, and with a visit from my friend Eileen. Toss in some bold experiments with cooking and the discovery of two new favorite drinks too.

Till later...tchuss!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just blowing the dust...

off my computer and testing out the new internet connection. Wow...did I miss having the tubes hooked up. Lived through it though...so I suppose there's hope for net addicts after all.

More later...cheers.