Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just a Little More Industrious.

My stepdad once told me that to become more industrious and handy, one must just throw himself or herself into a project. It's often a learned process and not some ingrained, instinctual trait.

Admittedly, I am by no means a handy person. I've always wanted to be. I like the feeling of accomplishment, especially one that involves tools and greasy hands. A couple of weeks ago, I set out to hang up several frames and posters in my room. Seems like a simple task, right? Wrong. See, I constantly second guess myself, which I'm trying to get better about. So, I ended up with one, two, and three misguided holes in the wall and crooked frames. Maybe it's all because I like using my cordless drill (a highly recommended and practical purchase), but it's really just because I'm not that adept at certain calculations. The whole project took me the better part of a day (hey, it was a lot of shit), and I did eventually get everything hanged correctly. But it made me take a step back and realize that I need to throw myself into a project, for the sake of confidence, if nothing else.

This is somewhat paralleling Justin's post from a few months back about installing a clutch in his truck (and we're all still very proud of you, Justin). However, Justin is inherently handier than I am because he grew up in the wilderness of northern California where he had to cut down trees, ford rivers, and hunt to survive. You know, just like in Oregon Trail. Anyway, I've never really been tested, and I grew up on the westside of Cincinnati with a silver spoon in my mouth (not really). So as one of my summer goals, I've set out to get this bastard of a moped running.

Some of you may remember me purchasing this thing back in '07, and I admit that it was probably not the wisest purchase I've ever made. First off, I bought it broken and not running, which is a big no no for someone who really had no knowledge of transportation and the steps needed to get it moving. Mopeds are relatively simple machines, so I should have initially just dove in myself (I had much more time in '07 and much less to do with my life) and started tinkering away with it. Of course, I relied on others to help me get the thing sputtering, which it did for a short time last year, however sad and pathetic it was. Well, it's back in an idle state again. So now, I'm determined to upgrade this thing to operational. Thus far, I'm actually somewhat pleased with my progress.

Basically the thing's got some wicked rust in the tank, and I'm taking the necessary steps to rid it of all the evil that lives inside. I've taken the carburetor off and apart and cleaned the fuck out of it. I've stripped the gas line and drained the ancient premix out of the tank. The next step is to de-rust. Obviously, that's the biggest step because the rust is what's clogging up the carb and causing it to run like garbage or just not run at all. Regardless, and I know this seems sad, I'm impressed and happy with myself for getting this far. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'm going to get the thing running by mid-June, and then I can go on to upgrade it cosmetically to the point where it looks like a semi-decent two-wheeled mode of transportation.

Hobbies are the best, and I do feel like I have my fair share already. But I wouldn't mind becoming some sort of an adolescent grease monkey because, as was stated before, who doesn't love the feeling of accomplishment that a couple of greasy, dirty hands brings? Since moving to Chicago, I've already gained a little bit of this feeling from what I've learned about bicycles themselves. I'm by no means as knowledgeable as Zach Thomas, nor do I think I ever will be. Cycling is more than a hobby to Zach, which I greatly respect. On the other hand, it is nice for me to know how to change a flat if need be.

Basically, I just want to feel like I don't need to refer to an "expert" with certain shit (cars, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles). It'd be nice to have a facility that doesn't involve sports or Seinfeld trivia. It's obviously a practical skill to be able to maintain your particular modes of transportation, but for me, it'd feel a little more worthwhile. This is mainly because I would have taught myself through the painful (and I'm sure it'll be painful) process of trial and error. Here goes nothing.

It's been tough to listen to music recently because I've pretty much devoted my free time to working on this fucking moped and catching up on old Lost episodes in extreme anticipation of the sixth season (get into it, Justin). However, I have managed to fall in love with St. Vincent (yes, in that way) and gain a new found respect for ambient black metal.

St. Vincent - Actor
Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
Julie Doiron - I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day
Transistor Transistor - Ruined Lives
Deer Tick - War Elephant

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Believe it or not, I've got a few things on tap for the Summer aside from drinking Mexican beers and showing off my pasty white legs in cut-off jean shorts.

At the end of the month (May 30th), I'm heading to the city of Milwaukee to catch a Reds vs. Brewers game. To many of you, this probably seems like a meaningless, ho-hum trip. However, I get excited with each subsequent ballpark I visit. During a ridiculously tumultuous trip to San Francisco in 2006, I went to AT&T Ballpark and caught a Giants vs. Braves (I think) game. Even though it was a game between two teams I could care less about and Bonds wasn't even playing (this was the year he was chasing the homerun record), it was an awesome ballpark and a damn good time. The garlic fries didn't hurt either. It actually almost made up for the overall terrible trip.

So, Milwaukee it is. I've only heard good things about the ballpark. Plus, I'm just interested to check out the city. Mid-major cities intrigue me for many reasons I can't explain, but I'm sure most of it has to do with the fact that I was born and raised in a mid-major city. Every city has its charm and interesting characteristics (yes, even you Detroit) if you're willing to search it out. Chicago's easy because there's a ton of shows, events, and shit to do here all the time. Not to say that's a bad thing. I initially had a negative view of Cleveland until I visited it on a regular basis back in '05. Great city if you're patient and optimistic enough to enjoy it.

On June 11th, I'm taking my first well deserved and lengthy vacation from the Reader. I'd feel like I was cheating myself if I didn't take some sort of trip, so I'm flying to visit Russell the Love Muscle in Washington, D.C. I've been through D.C. on tour but never actually stopped to give a shit about it. As if scheduled by God himself, I land at 1:05 PM and the Reds are playing the Nationals at 4:35 PM. How fucking great is that? Another ballpark down, even it is the Nationals. Hey, at least I can throw my voice out yelling at Dunn and all of the other discarded Reds rotting away on the Nationals bench. Man, I can't wait to yell at Dunn. I miss that so much.

I plan on being a wreck most of the trip and embarrassing Russ in the city that he lives. Actually, Russ was here not too long ago for work and we went to a bar I tend to frequent. Unsurprisingly (but not in a bad way), Russ took upon himself to get smashed on a Tuesday night, and I spent the rest of the night pleading with him to not to become the belligerently drunk Russ we all know and love. Believe it or not, I enjoy this process. It's a worthwhile nostalgic experience. Aside from all of the ballyhoo (nice word!) that is sure to ensue once I arrive, I'm also excited to shoot the shit with Obama and see how he's been doing since leaving Chicago.

The last weekend of June marks the arrival of my mom and stepdad. I mean, it's only taken them over a year to come on up. That's cool, though. I like my mom because I know she'll be excited even if we just piddle around the lobby of the Sears Tower and eat Pizza Hut buffet the entire trip. She's great like that. Unfortunately, I wanted to take my stpedad, who's a huge baseball fan, to Wrigley to watch the shitbag Cubs play a game, but they'll be out of town trying to act like they're not a fraud of a baseball club. So, I need some ideas of what to do with them. I've got a few already (architectural tour, Signature Room in the Hancock Tower, Shedd Aquarium), but one or two more wouldn't hurt. Plus, I don't know where to take them to eat because there just isn't a LaRosa's in Chicago. Regardless, I'm confident this'll be a good time because my mom and stepdad don't go on enough vacations, so I know they'll have a solid time one way or another. Plus, they'll be toast by like 9:30 PM, so I won't be kept away from my scandalous and outrageous weekend escapades (pfffftt).

The weekend of July 10th-12th will mark the annual camping trip with those I hold most dear, or just those that have yet to be utterly sick of me. Massive amounts of shitty food and awful beer will be consumed, and I will more than likely end up with some sort of wrenching stomach ache. I love the posse camping trips where everyone converges on a designated spot for a weekend of "Hey, we may not live near each other anymore, but we can and will still pull out the same humiliating jokes we've been badgering each other with for years." This is a great weekend and has become a much deserved tradition. Now, if we can just find a solid spot to do it this year. Last year, Indiana once again proved how much it sucks.

Pitchfork begins on July 17th and has a decent amount to live up to from last year. I was a decent wreck most of the time (thank you job perks) and actually couldn't hang on Sunday to see Spiritualized. If you are at all aware of my love for Jason Pierce and Spiritualized, then you can probably understand how much of a disaster I was. Regardless, festivals usually disappoint. I've come to accept this. However, last year was my first Pitchfork experience, and it was a delight for the most part because the afterparties and aftershows push it into a whole different realm of festival. I anticipate even more antics this year.

I have no doubt other occurrences will be peppered in, but truth be told, I can't plan past mid-July, so I'll just have to leave it at that. Chicago Summers dominate. That's what tends to happen when you have a three month window in which to cram all warm weather activities.

I didn't do this last post, but here is what I've been listening to lately:

Thee Oh Sees - Help
Trap Them - Seizures in Barren Praise
Papercuts - You Can Have What You Want
Black Flag - My War
Passion Pit - Manners

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Decks, Jean Shorts, Tans, and the Devil.

The Chicago Winter drags. No doubt about it. I refused to complain, though, because everyone I know up here kept telling me, "You're going to hate the winter. It's the worst. Constant layers of clothes and blah, blah, blah." So, solely out of spite, I didn't complain about the cold. I just sucked it up and dealt with it.

About a month ago, however, I started getting antsy. It wasn't freezing, but the weather kept teasing me with a warm 65 degree day followed by a 40 degree day. It's like the 100 calorie packs of chips and cookies that some devilish marketing genius conjured up. Sure, the seventeen Baked Cheetos I just ate tasted good, and I enjoyed them, but just give me the whole fucking bag to gorge myself on. I was ready to gorge myself on warm weather because I was getting sick of this single serving shit.

Well, the warm weather is finally creeping up, and I'm beginning to get spoiled with its consistency, so I figured I'd construct a long overdue list of great warm weather occurrences, food, pleasures, etc (I probably did one of these last year too, but I just don't give a fuck, and my tastes may have changed):

-Decks, patios, porches, gazebos, or anything else I can stand on outside with my friends as I drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes.

-Mexican beer with lime and Bells Oberon.

-Bike riding all the time everyday.

-Sweat stains created from my messenger bag while riding my bike.

-Sweat and sweat stains all together.

-Rolled up jeans and flip-flops.

-Cut-off jean shorts and t-shirts.

-Motorcycle (and hopefully moped) riding.

-The baseball season and going to baseball games. If all goes well, I should be able to add Miller Park in Milwaukee and Nationals Park in Washington to my growing list of attended ballparks.

-Seven dollar nachos at ballgames.

-My annual late and failed attempt at any sort of tan.

-Occasionally not taking a shower after I go running in 90 degree heat and feeling the sweat dry.

-Music festival season and the perks from my job that go along with it.

-Tank-tops and sunglasses.

-Milkshakes, ice cream, and Italian ice.

-Walking to El Cid for veggie burritos.

-The sound of fireworks in the distance.

-Having that extra bounce in my step when I go running.

-Milwaukee Avenue getting sexy.

-Reading a book indoors with all the windows open.

-Consuming more fruit, particularly oranges and strawberries.

-Annual camping trip with the posse.

-Eating outside practically everywhere in Chicago.

-Logan Boulevard and the farmer's market.

-Listening to all forms of thrash while riding my bike.

-Sweatbands and no socks.

-Dirty, sweaty basement shows.

-Closing my bedroom door so that it's an icebox from the trapped air conditioning coolness.

-The smell (not the oily, shit feel) of sun tan lotion.

-Sunroofs and all windows down.

-Flag Day.

Finally, although summer is the best, it brings what has become an annual NFL offseason circus. Needless to say, I have to address my and Justin's most hated subject while the pot is still simmering. You guessed it, Brett Favre - the evils of all evils - is inundating ESPN right now. There are rumors of his possible return to the Vikings, the same team you may remember the Packers went to great lengths to keep him away from last year. Anyway, the team doesn't matter, or the fact that he's 39 with an arm that's falling off and really can only make bad decisions and throw interceptions when it does work just the slightest bit. It's Favre as a person. What are you doing to everyone Brett? Justin and I are pretty much fucking psychic geniuses because we cursed you years ago, before anyone else saw the absolute toil you were going to wrap the sports world and collective public in as you threatened retirement, retired, wanted to come back, came back, switched teams, failed, retired, and just didn't go the fuck away.

One thing I can root for is the sullying of any sort of good ole' Mississippi country persona that Favre has painstakingly built over his 18 years in the league. Brett, your ego has been shitting on your public persona for a couple of years, and now it just clogged the damn toilet. Congratulations fuckface, you've screwed your legacy (just like Manny Ramirez . . . but that's a whole other topic).

Reports from Favre's agent have very recently surfaced to quell any sort of Vikings talk, but I'll believe that when I don't see Brett Favre on a sideline in the fall. For now, I'm not buying it. Favre continues to be the amazingly beautiful girl at the party that no one's talking to. Confounded, you go talk to her, hit it off, and consequently wake up with genital warts. Sometimes it's best to just stay away.

Just stay away.