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Feeling So Real

Posted: July 14th, 2005 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Musings and Memories | 1 Comment »

As February’s weary fingers wrapped silently against the glass, brilliant formations of crystals exploded like wildfire before them. Four teenagers sat silent in a car. One was uncomfortable, but the other three barely noticed. At the very least, I don’t remember caring much, I was deep in thought.
From the outside, the scene looked all too stereotypical. An older blue Toyota sat idling in the driveway, windows fogged beyond recognition. Bodily shapes were barely discernable through the blurry panes, while the bright winter moon shone down like a disapproving authority figure. The hour was late. They should be home by now.
But inside the car, things were not as they seemed to the prying eyes of curious parents. Though the situation had all the ingredients of usual teenage mischief, there was none here to be had. No secret swigs of forbidden substances. No nervous laughter amidst clouds of illegal smoke. No. Tonight there was something else filling this car, entrancing the four young bodies contained within it. Was it…love? Something new, something unfamiliar and yet all too welcome. Possibly love…perhaps a door being opened before them, welcoming them to a new level of enjoyment and understanding that they were unaware even existed. But again, things were not as they seemed from the outside.
The previous events of the evening proved to be fairly unremarkable. A typical weekend night in west Toledo, Ohio. The farm kids were no doubt raising hell miles away, and the throngs of kids flanking the social circles were assuredly sipping away their insecurities to the Barenaked Ladies or Dave Matthews for the millionth time. I still cringe at the painful remembrance of the “herd mentality” and my utter disdain for it. But here, that night, in the basement of some reception hall, following the Confirmation ceremonies of a friend’s younger brother…there played out the social lives of the in-betweens, the unclassifiable. I’m sure every school has them, as I can’t imagine them being unique to Toledo much less Ohio: The group that could fit in with any other level in the societal stratification of high school. Not jocks, not preps, not fakies and certainly not nerds. They were athletes, intelligent, down to earth kids with good manners. They were not leeches or parasites, they were fine on their own and often enjoyed being on the outside when they chose to be. They blended seamlessly and happily. But most importantly, they’d found each other as friends, a pleasant release from the norm.
My thoughts on these matters raced in a random pattern, one topic leading to the next in a mental pantomime of the spreading frost lines before me. I sat blinking, the cold, calculated music rhythmically thumping from the radio. “This music…this music defines my teenage years,” I thought in some sort of usual, dramatic, narrative fashion, a la The Wonder Years. Though a broader palette overall, *this* particular music captured the social angst inside far more surgically than Bad Religion or Minor Threat ever could. The feedback and distortion from Mr. Brett’s guitars were too typical, too indicative of commercialized revolt. As cogs and gears click into place, synapses firing and sense being made in my head, I’m overwhelmed by the quote by some art guy about “true revolution existing only in the abstract.” That was it. This music was different from all the rest, and yet there was a sense of joy and excitement that somehow spilled forth from this genre that my mother thought was modern rubbish. It was new, and it was abstract. And at that moment, we all sat silently as if observing a new species of animal at a zoo, in wonder, in awe.
As the gearshift thump-clanked into reverse, red break lights blearily awoke for duty. The passenger door opened, followed eagerly by one in the rear. Left hanging in the cold evening air was something…something inexpressible. Years later, I now cannot take for granted that what passed between us that day was an equal experience shared by all. I know one among us was more than likely thinking about a warm bed instead of how this music helped define who they were.
The night that I fell in love with electronic music I was with three incredible friends. Bound by the radio-signaled sounds from a Detroit club in the distance, I discovered a balance of controlled creative expression, not human yet somehow touching the soul moreso than any modern new-rock alternative band was able. It felt different. It made me feel different. It made me feel part of something new and exhilarating.
Though a few years have passed, and I’ve similarly fell in love for the first time all over again with blues, with the sultry voice of Nina Simone, with the scratchy fever of James Brown and soul music, I still remember that night. In one single, atypical evening I shared a silent moment with good friends, and took my first feeble step towards a lifelong romance with music.

The Rules of Comebacks (Your Mom)

Posted: May 11th, 2004 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Life in General, Musings and Memories | 2 Comments »

There’s something about the art of adolescent banter that I miss dearly. Perhaps it’s the quick witted, thinking on your toes aspect. Or maybe it’s just the notion of pubescent one upmanship, self aggrandizing and boisterous displays that is both timeless and amusing. Does every male go through this stage in their life? Do young girls? I’d be hard pressed to believe that intelligent, well mannered pillars of purity such as 14 year old females would stoop to such sophomoric actions. But man, guys certainly do. At least my circle of friends did.

Picture, if you will, a lunch table full of high school freshman. All it takes is one mildly agitating or grandstanding comment thrown into the open like an grenade with the pin pulled. The game has started. Early contributions tend to be trivial, off the cuff and inherently rookie in nature. Typically containing references to “biting,” “your mother,” or most assuredly some anatomical part of your body, these comebacks are easily dismissed by the participants. It’s as if all present realize the unprepared nature of these preliminary words and all equally disregard them as such.

As the game progresses, the true stars rise to the top. By the end, only two or three remain, with the others adding a soundtrack of “oooohs” and “daaaangs.” With comebacks and retorts that are supposedly witty and ingenious, boys throw them out into the arena for approval of their peers–the highest test possible. And all lines are delivered with the greatest sense of apathy possible. You cannot show that you care for what you’re talking about. The odd thing is, that the intention of the comments tend to be less about hurting the targeted victim as opposed to merely outdoing what was said before (in both cleverness and delivery). It’s as if an unspoken ranking is established in a group of friends by this process. Could it be the equivalent of physical fighting? I know that in my group verbal tussles always seemed to determine who was more aggressive and who the weaklings were. But believe that not a scratch was found on us from actual fighting.

Perhaps this indicative of a new breed of males. Less schoolyard tomfoolery, less physical intimidation and more verbal swashbuckling. Or maybe my group of friends is atypical and just plain nerdy. Both are equally probable.

But nonetheless I miss this playful sparring. I miss having to think defensively, having to improvise sharp retorts even while eating or walking to class or in front of girls we liked. Or perhaps I just miss my high school friends. Or maybe I miss your mom.

Understanding in a Car Crash

Posted: March 23rd, 2004 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Life in General, Musings and Memories | Comments Off

They didn’t deserve it. None of them did. Ryan was too young; Nate had such a good heart; Jenny was full to the brim with vitality; Kevin was too popular; Matthew’s just lucky to be alive. They all passed violently, without purpose or reason. And now Pete. Sure Pete’s still here but in what capacity? I don’t even know. I’m not sure about much these days.

Do you like flirting with tragedy? Does defying history and statistics with such blind braggadocio swell your ego? Sheepishly I answer yes. Apparently. Years of losing friends has taught me nothing. I’m 23 and have lost too many friends and classmates to the insatiable jaws of vehicular destruction. And while I wipe away the tears with my left hand, my right is adjusting my stereo instead of securing myself behind a seat belt.All of my friends have tried relentlessly to break me. They’ve pleaded, reasoned and

humored me for years. I have tried, but now I submit to the truth that it was half-hearted. I was doing it for others. For Kate. For Ray and Seth. Never for myself. But why?
I don’t value my own life. I’ve always been comfortable with death, and especially my own death. Now I’m sure that sounds just a smidge morbid for most, but I am. At an early age, I was confronted and submerged in an environment of death in gradeschool (88 funerals in 9 months as an altar boy, to be exact) and in personal life. I’ve been confronted with the possible death of several immediate family members more than once. And of course suffering from depression for years is like the black powdered sugar on top. It’s not that I don’t *value* life, perhaps I’ve just become comfortable with the concept of death. Is it possible to become that at peace with such a monumental psychological construct that you could attach less importance to it? I’m not entirely sure, but for about 9 years or so I’ve been fine with the idea of me passing (read: not *wanting* to die. just not afraid)

But i’ve never given much though to others. Not everyone is as jaded to death and loss as I am. As much as I don’t see why, my friends and family would probably be mildly upset, at least for a time. And the only reason I have come to see this is because I’m finally starting to take stock in my own feelings of loss and hurt when *my* friends are killed. And Lord, have they been.

So this is my pledge…to no one but myself…while I may see my death as insignificant and trite, I cannot play down or belittle the emotions of others at such an event. Therefore I’ll stop being the pompous ass that I am and actually make a concerted, heartful attempt to “buckle up for safety.”

Because as I’m often reminded from concerned friends, “what’s holding [me] back?” — I have been.

City Mouse, Country Mouse

Posted: March 13th, 2004 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Life in General, Musings and Memories | 1 Comment »

I was 13. 8th grade. Sitting on my front porch in a late Toledo autumn evening. What’s weird is that I was with my sister, and we were in fact not at each other’s throats. We were on the steps and she was relaying to me her dilemma about not knowing what “type” of person she was. Unbeknowst to me, my older sibling was struggling with an issue that I would later inherit, much to the same degree but with a different outcome.

My sister’s (and now my own) issue was that she was torn between what type of person she was at heart. She knew a large portion of her wanted to live in a big city, to be immersed in diversity and culture, soaking up the vitality and open-mindedness of the sea of people around her. But she also had the nagging notion of wanting her own little plot of land, a retreat where she could hunker-down and focus on the things in life that mattered to her. Hell, farming wasn’t even out of the question.
So here I am today, several years into the same battle. She grew up, moved east and is stubbornly adherent to her ubran lifestyle. Me on the otherhand? I was torn as well. I love the cultural aspect of big cities. I love the graffiti, the skateboarding kids downtown, the scent of importance and tradition that hangs in the air in larger metropolitan areas. I thought I could be the city mouse just like my sister. So I grew up, went to college in a reasonably large city and decided it wasn’t for me. Sure, the art museums are awesome. The bars, if you have unclaimed amounts of cash to frivolously toss around, would be splendid and chic. But it’s not me. It’s not mine. I miss my space, my privacy and most of all, grass.

So I’m looking into buying land. No, not a house (although I continue to watch the market). Just land. I’m not sure how far I can stretch my dollar, but I want to buy some land, and not in a subdevelopment. The trick is, for me at least, is chosing a city that’s big and friendly but has outlying areas that prove comfortable and retreatable while still leaving only a short jaunt to the city for Culture.

But would I be missing out? I don’t really like the suburban mindset of “let’s sprawl-out all commercial shopping areas and make obscenely large outdoor malls that have the potential to be abandoned in a few years if business dries up.” There’s the ever-increasing need to “expand” in suburbs, taking over everything and moving further and further into the cherished countrysides only to build clone-like houses in a development pairing a cheesy adjective with a boring noun (Windswept Farms, Fallen Leaf Estates). But most of all, it’s the suburban people that I’m not sure I could ever stomach. The grossly-stereotyped-majority of them lack sincere individuality. So many people I know that seem like such great friends just up and decide to build a cookie-cutter house on a plot that costs some nausiatingly high amount of money only to ensure that their next door neighbors will in fact now be *ten* feet on either side of them, as opposed to eight. That’s not me either. I don’t want to surrender my indivduality to a housing development committee or standard architecture and minimal backyard.

I suppose that the moral of this story is that perhaps I’ll never be *completely* happy with my choice. If i live in a large city, I’ll miss my breathing room. If I live in the suburbs, it’ll mean instant death to my spirit. If I live in the country, I’ll be ever fearful of the slowly encroaching Army of Soccer Moms. But I’ll take my chances.
So come visit me in the country. You can paint my barn with your graffiti and your many children can skateboard until their hearts are content w/o fear of the five-oh’s busting up their fun. We can have our own art gallery, music studio and hip bar all in my barn. There will be no paying to park and no one trying to wash your windshield. But bring some ammo to ward of the advancing Enemy, won’t you?

Tracing Life Through Music

Posted: January 12th, 2004 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Life in General, Musings and Memories | 2 Comments »

It’s amazing. As I’m home from work today, feeling useless because I have the flu and can’t go to work, I exist soley on little projects. One of today’s little projects is to restore my cd collection to its jewel-case state.

While for some people this may seem like a trite way to pass time, and a completely unmonumental task worth mentioning, it is quite a trip down memory lane. For me, someone that shys away from the camera lens (prefering to be behind one, instead) and has his whole life, I have very little documentation of my youth. Thank goodness for outgrowing a cd case.

As many of you know, I’ve been carrying my cd’s around in a steel dj box for 2 years or so now. The only downside to this solution is that now that I’ve grown out of the box, as well as the little plastic sleeves, I have to find a new solution. So today, with some hot tea by my side, I began converting back to an at-home-take-only-what-you-need solution, which requires me to go through all the cd’s i own, including all the ones that are shoved in every corner of my room.

As I sit here, flipping and shuffling, the memories come pouring back. It’s as if i’m sitting and looking through a scrapbook of my youth, only better. See, photobooks are great, because they document visually those great times of your life that you want to remember, right? Well for my backwards-ass, cd’s document random slices of my life…the day and time and situation that I buy each cd. And it’s amazing just how I remember the story around almost every single cd I’ve ever bought (save ones people have given me, or if i purchased more than 5 at a time). For example:

Guster’s Lost and Gone Forever album – My friend Tyler burned this cd for me, giving it to me under the notion of “my sister listens to these guys, they’re pretty awesome.” It was June of 1999 and he was about to leave to work in Boston for the summer. I was sitting at the intersection of Central Ave and McCord Rd when I first popped it in and remembered thinking “this is exactly what i’m looking for right now. perfect.”

Nas’ Stillmatic album – It was Dec. of my senior year in college and I had been reading (while supposed to be working on my thesis) about the beef between Nas and Jay-Z and quickly downloaded Nas’ Ether. Being in such a frenzy to hear what the rest of his comeback album would be like, I scribbled the rest of my art history exam essay and ran out the door to go to Media Play. As I drove up to Dana’s to meet my art history professor for a beer, I sank into the first several tracks.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals Come Find Yourself album – Junior year in high school. We were in Columbus for a regatta. Jason and Pete and I were wandering around High Street and went into Used Kids to poke around. I felt so incredibly grown up…Used Kids was the coolest, most indie record shop i’d ever been to (nothing in toledo could ever be this cool, just ‘cuz it’s toledo). I remember finding Faithless’ Reverence album used for $8, consequently making Jason hot under the collar for finding it before him (pouting ensued). I also picked up the FLC album on a whim, after hearing “Scooby Snacks” somewhere over that summer. I didn’t listen to it for a week (until the Head of the Ohio Regatta in pittsburg), because Faithless didn’t leave my cd player.

…and on and on and on. Each disc has it’s own story, etched into my mind. I remember where I was driving when I hear certain songs for the first time, what I was wearing, who I was with, etc. If there’s one stupid, seemingly pointless blessing that I’ve been given, it’s to retain knowledge like this. I pray that I never loose that. Each time I pick up Dookie, it’s like I’m 14 all over again…and I love that.

Nostalgia – 200 miles ahead

Posted: December 24th, 2003 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Life in General, Musings and Memories | Comments Off

I’m back in good ‘ol northwest Ohio where I grew up for a few days of rest and relaxation. I’m blessed enough to get a bunch of time off from my daily designing duties at work. But all alliterations aside, I’m nonetheless mildly comforted by the dreary winter days of my childhood.

We were out last night at a pool hall, and it hit me just how much time changes, yet things stay the same. You know, I’m the type that anguishes endlessly over whether or not friends that I used to hold dear, now living far away, will merely move on. But last night, over beer and billiards, with stale smoke hanging all over us, I’ve realized that generally speaking, things stay the same. Sure I guess statistically someone could have told me that before, but it’s my inner pessimist that always causes me to doubt even my closest friends.

As the snow lazily drifts to the ground here, not everything is blanketing and covered in my life. I’ve come to realize just how much I miss some of my friends from high school. Seeing them, not even passing words, reawakens in me the spirit, the naivite, the innocence of my high school years…and reminds me just how much i loved that time of my life. I’ve finally come to realize just how desperately I long for good, solid relationships with good, honest people.

So, as the immature part of me stomps around and pouts for not having these people directly surrounding me for more than a few select days a year, perhaps I’ll finally learn to appreciate the time that I do have with them. I doubt I’ll ever *stop* missing them, and in fact I hope that I never do.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays all. May you all be surrounded by loved ones that you hold dear to your collective hearts.

Hazings and Heartache

Posted: December 9th, 2003 | Author: Brian | Filed under: Musings and Memories | 3 Comments »

My freshman year in high school I tried out for the soccer team. Among all other other nervous, terrified and falsely cocky pubescent males was one in particular. Nothing impressive in stature, muscle build or even adeptness. All around a middle-of-the-pack player, he blended in beautifully with the other hodge-podge of boys.

As the fall wore on, summer gracefully slipped away and with it went first year jitters. Class schedules and locker combinations became routine, as did daily afternoon threats of hazing from the junior varsity and varsity members. Bonds formed. Alliances were created. Personalities slowly began to creep out of their hiding places among the shadows of false pretenses and attitude. The season of change truly was afoot.

As the soccer season wore down the afternoons became crisper. Soon, with the days of wedgies behind us, we felt like champions. We felt as if we had survived the first grueling stage of adulthood: freshman year. We eagerly waited, trying to ride out the semester as November slipped into December.

The ninth of December. One morning which seemed so painfully normal it was eery. As 18 boys rose from their beds, all in their respective homes in their respective suburbs…we were all approached by our parents. In darkness, in awkward silence, in shock and in awe we were dealt the news that one of our teammates had been killed on his way home from school the afternoon prior.

A tractor-trailer, and icy road and a busy intersection. Three boys, two were killed. There was nothing spectacular about the accident. Nothing overly dramatic or even out of the ordinary. Everything about the wreck was so painfully routine that it even failed to make the evening news.

But come Monday morning, our worlds collapsed. We had to face one another, our questions shimmering in our glassy eyes. Our mortality had been tested. Our comradery had been shaken. And all of a sudden, the painfully normal person that we had lost no longer seemed so unremarkable.

Time wore on and the heartache reluctantly faded. We saw that things were different. Sure, thoughts of him sitting next to us in first period theology class became fuzzier upon recollection, but the strength of the message grew louder in our ears as the years past. Graduation even brought a subtle-yet-classy remembrance of our lost friend.
It’s been nine years since he left us. It feels like not a day past Sunday that it happened. I’d give anything to have him back, to know what the world would have been like if he was still around. Do I feel like I barely even know him since we only had four months together? Sure. But do I feel like those warm summer afternoons that the 19 of us shared were more than strength conditioning and tactical drills? Hell yes.

I will never forget what event in my life caused me to leave behind, arms outstretched, the comfortable days of youth. Catapulted into the blistering numbness of adulthood, borrowed-jersey on my back, things have never been the same since. But the only thing I regret is failing to see my friend as nothing but an ordinary player.