This took me back.

This took me aback.

Last post I wrote about how I've (somehow) started enjoying the process of mowing my lawn. Yes, yes - domestication and all that. I don't care. I like me. Moving on. In that piece I mentioned how I no longer listen to music when I do any kind of chores by myself. When it's my better half tackling something with me, we're all about some odd-ball jams. When I'm operating as el lobo solo, though, I'm almost always listening to podcasts or comedy albums. I like the idea of POTENTIALLY bettering myself, either through some sort of instructed or guided dawning moment of insight. Otherwise, to quote Anthony Jeselnik "Life is full of horrible things that will eventually get you and everything you care about. Laughter is a universal way to lift your head up and say 'Not today, you bastards.'"


I made my way through most of my comedy albums over the summer. By the end I had made my way to something I had been putting off. Someone who is known in smaller circles, one of those comedians who gets a lot of praise but never popped like others of his era. Bill Hicks.
My roommate in college did me a life changing favor in introducing me to Bill Hicks. I had never heard such acerbic  intelligent breakdowns on the subtle miseries of life. We bonded over the absurd bits on hooligans in light of American gangs, the heady stuff about LSD on the nightly news and nodded along about the never-ending threat of the world ending. It was a complete game changer for how we interpolated the world around us. We consumed all of Hicks we could and moved on with our lives. Like most things you're enamored with, though, you obsess over it for a while and then just carry it with you. 
I hadn't listened to much of anything by Hicks in the last eight years. So on one of my recent days spent doing yard work I listened to a couple of his seminal works. I weeded, picked up compost, mowed and trimmed, my head cocked the whole time as I digested what I was hearing with a fresh set of ears.

It was...not...as awesome as I had remembered.

Maybe I've softened in the last decade or so. Maybe I'm (somehow, despite what I say) less cynical. Maybe I just bottle it up more. Whatever changed in me, I was struck by how it didn't hold up and how little I enjoyed it. To clarify, I certainly enjoyed choice bits, but more for the wit and less for the bite now. 'Changing the world' seems flatly impossible now. To listen to some grand proclamations to which I used to nod feverishly, I winced and shook my head. It was grating. It was dismissive and vitriolic. A surprising amount of it was straight up homophobic, which was really surprising. 
Listening to Bill Hicks after being introduced to it almost a decade ago, I was struck mostly at how I had changed, as well as how his material ages in light of his reputation. Was a genius? No. But he was insightful and incredibly ahead of the curve. He cut a (very premature) path in the world for others to slip into. But the murmurs you hear about his reputation being better than his material are not entirely unfounded. Kind of a bummer, of course, but also enlightening as to how I've grown and changed in this short span of time.

I'm not saying you should never listen to his material. I'm saying I heard it for the first time in the right place and mindset. You should absolutely hear some of it. There are some real gems in it. Just dig in for yourself and remember it's just a ride


Lawnmower Man

So Fall is here. 

Mixed emotions! 

I say mixed because I absolutely adore Fall. There are way too many reasons to list - the crisp, clear air. The cool, sunny days. Leaves crunching under foot. Making chili and cooking hot meals to warm up. Sleeping with the windows open. Look, I could go on and on. 

There's also a downside, though - it's the end of any measurable light in Minnesota. From now until April it's pretty much dark all the time. I can make peace with that, but there is definitely a physical toll on the body. The cold, unrelenting winter. It's the price we pay for having three amazing (truncated) seasons. 

There's a new reason in the mix this year.

When I was 14 you could not have paid me enough money to mow the lawn. Actually I did not get paid for my own lawn. My dad knew better. Neighbors, though. They paid. Not as much as I wanted, but some. And I loathed it. Owning my own home, now I look for excuses to get outside and tinker with my lawn. What has become of me? Who is typing this? Who is this young man wandering around, picking weed, laughing to himself while listening to oddball podcasts?
There's a certain zen aspect to it, though.

A friend of mine said if she has to mow her lawn, she's having a couple of beers to ease the process along. I heartily agree. Yard work becomes a calming, manageable thing when you nurse a beer or two on a warm Summer afternoon. Now it's a cool Fall afternoon and it's not the same thing. Mowing the lawn has a hypnotic effect, though. You get outside of your head as you follow these little grooves in the lawn. There's the white noise of the mower. After the two-thirds point I can start to feel when the blade hits the grass, with a zing in my hands. It's soothing and eases anxiety the way doodling while on a phone call or putting together a puzzle while having a conversation takes you mind off matters - you distract your conscious mind just enough to let thoughts rise to the surface, free from constraint. What comes to mind is free and accepted. It's not unlike having a brilliant idea while taking a shower or vacuuming - you're free from thinking about thinking.
The joy of mowing a lawn. Man, that's some malarkey. When did I become this suburban stereotype? Did I watch that much King of the Hill? Am I going to be obsessed with my lawn? Give me two years and I'll be out there with a ruler and some kitchen shears, micromanaging like a true neurotic.
It also doesn't hurt that it's a thing that I can put a pin in and call 'done'. I can point to my yard and say "It's not perfect, but I don't have to deal with it for another week." Such a tangible, concrete task in my ADD, screen-filled life is a relief, to be perfectly frank. It's exercise with a definite benefit. 
It's not the end of the world that Fall is coming. I have next Spring to gear up for the whole process. I'll have a driveway to shovel (woof). Also, I'm getting way ahead of myself - after all, the leaves haven't all hit the ground, yet. I need to rake pretty soon.

Now there's some home-owning torture, right?


Old Vinyl

I just sent my mom a bummer of an email.

When I was in high school I entertained these notions of what life would be like when I got older. I'd be this hep cat, cooler than my high school self-conscious brain would allow. I'd read all these books about big ideas, man, and then write some. You know? Simple, undefined ideas of an unrealized self that never has been realized.

Some things did come to pass, although in a different manner than I would have expected. I did live in the Big City for a spell. A couple, actually. I played in bands. I rapped. I wrote a lot of bad free-verse. I started this blog. Acted in an indie flick. I fell in love. We moved into a happy home and learned to cook fantastic food together. Bought a house together, learned the joys of simple things together. Life is great.


There's always a but. This time it was me responding to an email I received regarding what was to be done with my old record collection. A pause. A moment of recollection and head tilts. Right. Those things. I barely have time to listen to music at all, any more. If I didn't block out white noise at the office with podcasts and dubstep, I'd never listen to much beyond the car. Actually, that's not entirely true. The better half and I tend to push each other on to new tunes. 

The thing is...this idealized self that would eventually have a real bitchin' Hi-Fi with a rad old record collection no longer exists. Instead I find myself excited about listening to new episodes of podcasts as I mow the lawn. I want to listen to comedy albums while I cook. I zone out to techno while I run. Who am I? When did my dad's copies of Who's Next no longer become relevant? When did I give up on his copy of Beggar's Banquet? 

I'm more than a bit disappointed in myself. It's not the end of the world though. There's always some new, unanticipated adventure just around the bend. Better than anything else I could have predicted is that I have my best friend and better half to go with on these adventures. Forget what I wanted to be. I'll be whatever happens to us next.

Besides, vinyl pops and clicks anyway.


Irrational Fear

I'm an idiot. 

Not all of the time. 

Just some of the time. 

You see, last night before I went to sleep I was reading an article on the game Slender. It's a free-to-download PC game that has the player running around a park at night collecting pages of a book, avoiding the titular Slender Man, a meme that plays on our fear of the unknown and undefined. You look at him too much and you die. That's it. Sounds simple, right? It sure does, but according to almost all who have played it, it is supposed to be pants-fillingly terrifying. Something about the premise, setting and execution have made a simple yet disturbing game. Needless to say I'm stoked for it. It's sitting on my desktop but I'm waiting for Halloween. Or at the least, the month of October. My terror induced diarrhea must be timely. 

That's not why I'm an idiot, though. At least, not this time. 

No, the thing was that in the article was a link to this video from a series of YouTube clips about...something. I don't even know, really. However, that short clip was so effective in its use of framing timing that I was unnerved to the point of continuing anxiety. I had to put it out of my mind to sleep last night, and all during my run (in the dark, natch) this morning I would get these bolts of memory that would jar me and I honestly found myself looking back over my shoulder just...because...you know? 

Look, I'm no scientist. But! I majored in Logic and Philosophy in college. I spend most of my brain power working out the rules and systems of the world around me. When given a game to play, I love looking for ways to break the system, to test the boundaries of a pre-established world. That we, as a species, have worked out the cosmos from the multiverse down to subatomic particles astounds me and makes me marvel at being alive. But I don't believe in the supernatural. I know a few people reading this will be disheartened to hear that as much as I love Mysterious Universe, I don't think of it as a journalistic endeavor - it's more a source of entertainment. Much of my ability to deal with the horrors of the world and the cruelty of fate stems from the cold, hard logic of science and how cause and effect operate, coupled with a good ol' dose of Chaos Theory. There's a lot of math I don't understand, but even cats can use an iPad even if they'll never build one. 
The point is - I know this stuff is pure, Grade A baloney. Noises in my house are the house settling or creaking in the wind or my cat being a little unhinged. No one chases me during my run except my thoughts and the local rabbits. Despite knowing these things...I still get the creeps. The willies. That little tingle up the spine that lingers from an evolutionary holdover in which was originally supposed to warn of large animals watching from the bushes. 
I'm not saying there's not danger in the world. Of course there is. Cancer. Car accidents. Random acts of violence. Super volcanoes. But I only control my own self and how I react to things. So why can't I control getting creeped out by stuff like that video late at night? Why do I love to torture myself, especially non-stop in October? Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Or maybe I like to pretend there's more out there. See how the other half lives. Who knows. 

I'll just glance over my shoulder every now and then to be sure.