Lockdown: Sail on down the line ’bout a half a mile or so

It took eight hours in bed to get just over six and a half hours of sleep Saturday night, but I got it. I considered missing the first half of the first football game to try and make it eight hours, but I knew it was useless. My brain and body were up, and my body was kind of tired of being in bed.

During the first, pretty good game, I did the usual Sunday morning stuff. Breakfast was a day-old cinammon roll, then the last of the broccoli-Brussels-sprouts soup with leftover hapa rice. Thank goodness. Worked on the Spelling Bee, did some writing, read the news, thought about work. I even did a few easy chores.

The second game wasn’t very good, and I got a little restless. Did a lot of snacking, mostly on Chinese roast pork, which I picked up when I had that Hawaiian plate Saturday. Also tortilla chips and kimchi dip, which was good but really, really sinful. I wasn’t sure I was heading to the office, but the restlessness did it, so as the game wound down, I got everything ready to go. I also packed up some bottles for recycling — $6.50 worth in a huge garbage bag. I also changed into board shorts. Worth a try.

I was out the door pretty much as soon as they awarded the Lamar Hunt trophy to the Chiefs. Got to the beach nearing six o’clock, and it was still pretty packed. No parking on the Kewalo end, which suited me fine — there were a lot of people there. The volleball courts were insanity. Do people not know about this pandemic thing?

I didn’t find parking until I got to the Magic Island lot, and had to drive up and down a few aisles before I got something. I knew it woudn’t be long before spaces opened up — it was getting close to sundown.

I slinked my way through openings in the crowd and got into the water. It was quite cold for the end of a day. It felt good. Swam from what I call the last lifeguard tower to the last buoy (my mind is oriented from the Kewalo end) and back. I went pretty hard for a little while then just kind of cruised. First time in the water in 15 days, dang it.

Dropped the bottles off at that Korean immigrant tribute park on Beretania, between Keeaumoku and Kaheka. Usually I look for someone to hand the bottles to, so there’s no fighting or whatever. Also to give someone a moment of human contact. But after dark it’s best to leave people alone, so I just left the trash bag near the trash cans, knowing someone would find them.

Someone did. A woman claimed the bottles and was carrying them to her spot in the park before I was back in my car. I said a quick, sincere prayer for her.

Got to the office to do some software updates and hopefully get some work done. I got the updates but really just thought about the work. Which could have been useful or not; it’s kind of impossible to tell. Ate dinner at my desk — a can of mackerel and some of that heat-and-eat brown rice I keep in my desk. A simple meal but satisfying and really enjoyable.

Stopped at 7-Eleven on my way home to purchase another money order for the second half of the rent, and got home at about ten-thirty.

The plan was to get to bed early because the Youth Media Awards at the annual Mid-Winter Retreat of the American Library Association was Monday morning at 4:00 our time. The presentation of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals, which I have never missed since they began streaming.

But dang it. I couldn’t put my brain to rest. I finally managed to quiet things down at about 12:30 for a 3:30 alarm. Great.

No texting again Sunday, making it the second day in a row. It felt like a relief, actually. I would have welcomed any messages from the usual people, but it didn’t bug me to be out of touch for another day.

I’m more bummed, bothered, and baffled by the miscommunication with Ali than I’m letting myself believe, but it creeps in every so often, like when I’m in the ocean all by myself minutes before the green flash I never see. I’m bad at letting things and people go, as I have probably written about in this space a zillion times. We could have a really good friendship, but it’s plain she doesn’t need that from me, and that’s fine, obviously. For a while I wished we could have come to that mutual understanding in some less contentious way, but then without the contention, why would we?

I’m backing off, which I think I wrote yesterday or the day before. If we keep it to smalltext, we can stay friends without these recurring miscommunications. Anyway, as I also wrote the other day, my last words to her a week ago were “I’m sorry,” and if that’s the fading note in the outro, it’s a good note.

My review of Class Act has caused the Commodores to be on my mind pretty much non-stop, so I finally caved. As I write this, I’m listening to All the Great Hits, their first compliation album, on Spotify. I talked my sister into splitting for the cassette when I was in sixth grade, making it one of the first albums we bought with our own money. I’m not sure, I but I think I still have it.

That’s why I’m easy
I’m easy like Sunday morning…

We bought it either at Gem in Waipahu or DJ’s Sound City in Pearlridge. How’s that for dating myself? I’m old. Too old to be messed up by the possible end of a friendship with an early-thirties grad student I’m unlikely to see again.

Connection. You might need it. If you do, leave a comment and I’ll send you some contact info. Don’t be put off my my apparent neediness in this texting relationship that’s gone bad. I promise it’s atypical! Maybe!

Lockdown: Worshipping idles

Another six hours of decent sleep Friday night, this time cut short by my need to run a few early-ish errands Saturday morning. It didn’t hurt since I knew I had the day wide open and could take a nap if I wanted.

I had to choose between efficient use of my time and efficient use of my milage. I opted for time. Got to Young’s shortly after it opened and didn’t wait behind anyone in line. Hawaiian combo, even though I just had Hawaiian food Monday. I was just craving it.

Then to H-Mart for a bunch of kimchi, bean sprouts, and baby bok choi. Then to Hawaiian Pie Company for a pumpkin-custard pie. Then to a nearby credit union to get cash for the rent, but the stupid ATM there has recently refused to dole out the money. It’s my second visit in a few days and both time it wouldn’t cough it up. I hate it when ATMs only tell you they can’t give you the money but don’t tell you what the problem is.

So I went to 7-Eleven, where I was going anyway for a money order, but had to use the ATM there with a $3.75 fee, plus the $1 my credit union charges me. Annoying, but whatever.

It all took maybe half an hour and it was a lot of stuff ticked off my list before 10:00. I had a feeling all that efficient productivity would make me more likely to enjoy idleness the rest of the day. Not to mention gluttony.

The combo was good for breakfast and lunch with a cinammon roll for dinner. Yeah, yeah. I know.

Spent most of the day writing. And napping. Listened to a lot of Rush music just because it’s good to have in the background while I’m writing and napping. Right before bed I made some kimchi dip and kind of had that for dinner, too, with some slightly stale tortilla chips.

I went to bed at one, hoping for eight hours of sleep before Sunday’s first football game.

I had a deliberately text-free day. I would have been fine responding to others’ messages but I wanted a day completely to myself. It was nice. A good, quiet, mellow day with some decent writing and good food.

Sunday there are only two football games. Big ones. But they’ll be over before dinner, leaving me a lot of time to do hurry-up-before-the-weekend-ends stuff. It’s an annual tension for me: loving football all season but also looking forward to getting those hours back Sundays.

I’m considering slowing down on social media and texting, not to withdraw (as is my want) but just to focus on a few things before the end of the month. Still, I’m always here for the texts, even if I may not initiate them much. So if you need someone to connect with, leave a comment. I’m finding I need it a leeeeeettle less than usual, lately, but hey. That’s likely to change at any moment! Don’t be disconnected unwillingly.

Review: Class Act by Jerry Craft

Class Act (New Kid, #2)Class Act by Jerry Craft (2020)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jordan Banks and his classmates at Riverdale Academy Day School are in eighth grade now, no longer the babies of the school, but they’ve got a whole new set of problems to go with some continuing stressors from the year before.

Jordan’s feeling overlooked by Black schoolmates because his skin’s a lot lighter than theirs. He’s self-conscious about his fondness for comic books and drawing, worried they are signs he’s still a child. And the physical aspects of his adolescence don’t seem to have kicked in yet.

His best friends have issues too. Drew still won’t play basketball, his favorite sport, because he doesn’t want to be a stereotype. He’s become increasingly aware of the differences between his experience catching two buses to and from school every day, and some of his friends’ experiences, dropped off and picked up by drivers.

Jordan’s other best friend Liam’s parents never come to his soccer games, and their arguing at night makes it difficult for Liam to get sleep.

In Class Act, Jerry Craft tells the story of a school year, weaving young people’s social weirdness with their school’s awkward, sincere effort to improve multicultural understanding. The themes are heavy, but the storytelling is silly and fun, and Craft’s tone-setting illustration moves between dramatic, melodramatic, whimsical, and poignant as his story dictates.

There are smiles everywhere in this graphic novel, some of them right in your face as the artist parodies popular literature for young readers (including his own book!) or draws emojis next to characters’ faces to show their moods.

Some chuckles are subtler, and likely intended only for the grownups in his audience. In one panel, Jordan and his friends meet in front of an ice cream truck called EZ Like Sundae Mornin’, a visual gag unlikely to be appreciated by even forty-year-old readers, never mind middle-schoolers.

Teachers at RAD attend a conference held by the National Organization of Cultural Liaisons Understanding Equality with never a reference to an acronym. These little, silly touches are everywhere, and they make Class Act a joy to read.

Yet Craft doesn’t try to laugh everything away. When Jordan’s father is pulled over in his car by a white cop, it doesn’t matter if the officer is friendly and helpful. It’s a routine traffic stop for the officer, but there’s no such thing as a routine stop for someone like Jordan’s dad.

Craft’s New Kid won the Newbery Medal in 2020, and as I write this, the announcement for 2021’s recipient is two days away. It would be a first for a writer to win the award in consecutive years, but because Class Act is at least as good as its predecessor, a touching, thoughtful story right for its audience and time, it would be well deserved, and it wouldn’t be a shocker.

Lockdown: Liquidy goodness

Five hours of good sleep Thursday night did not feel like nearly enough. Of course it’s not, but quite often I can make it feel like it since it’s something of an improvement over most nights.

I finished the short piece about the dental programs and submitted a first draft. Worked a bit more on the UH Hilo story. Outlined a few responses for my midyear self-assessment. Wasn’t super productive and only kind of industrious.

Friday felt like Monday all day long. I even texted Crush Girl to ask how her weekend was. She didn’t call me on it; just replied nicely.

I listened to several new albums, all metal, and none of them really did it for me. The new Therion album is my kind of metal, but it was mostly unmemorable. I spun it twice and it just doesn’t stick. Might listen again with headphones to see what the deal is. I might as well since nothing outstanding has come out yet this year.

The new Liquid Tension Experiment single is the monster’s balls, though. If it’s an indication of what the new album next month (tried to pre-order but the package I want isn’t available yet) is going to sound like, it’s going to be tough to beat for album of the year.

After work I (sing it with me!) crashed and took a long nap. Then lazed in bed for far too long. I kept looking at the clock to see what was still open for dinner takeout. I was actually out of bed, dressed, and headed to the door with my key in my hand to get Italian takeout when I realized if I made pasta myself I’d enjoy it almost as much.

So angelhair pasta and jarred sauce (with gin, brown sugar, and blue cheese) it was, and it was lovely, and while I would have loved a thin, pan-fried chicken fillet in lemony butter sauce with capers to go with it, what I had was more than pleasurable enough. And I didn’t overdo it, as I certainly would have done with takeout.

I worked on Saturday’s NYT crossword while I ate, and then read the news for like the fifth time of the day. Cleaned up, got ready for bed, and read Jerry Craft’s Class Act in its entirety (it’s a graphic novel) in a couple of hours. Excellent book.

There have only been a small number of writers to win the Newbery twice, a couple of them for works I question the value and impact of (however, Lois Lowry and Katherine Paterson definitely deserved both theirs). No writer has won it in consecutive years. No writer has won it the second time for a sequel to the first Newbery-winner. I would be surprised for this reason if Jerry Craft won it in 2021 this Monday, after winning it in 2020.

But it would not be shocking, and it would probably be deserved. It’s not as good as its predecessor by just a couple of whiskers, and it’s more ambitious, more nuanced, and more immediately relevant to its time. Truly a super-impressive follow-up.

The author calls it a companion, not a sequel, and I can see why, but it does have the same characters a few months after the end of the first book. Discovering why it’s not exactly a sequel is possibly better left to the reader, so go read it.

Went to bed at around three.

Not much texting Friday. Crush Girl a few times. Texted Jennifer to respond to a couple of texts she sent Wednesday. Got some weird messages in the Suzanne-Cindy-Julie group text. Asked JB how his family’s doing.

Breakfast was from the Taco Bell drive-through. Skipped lunch and had the pasta for dinner. In between were a small bag of chips and a slice of Dutch apple pie.

Sucky pandemic sucking sucks and continues to suck for several more months. Don’t go through it disconnected. Leave a comment if you want my contact deets. No promises I’ll reply promptly, but I’ll reply.

Lockdown: The short, factual things

It’s the wee hours of Saturday morning as I type this about Thursday, and Thursday seems like forever ago. I just read what I wrote about Wednesday and that doesn’t even feel like this week to me. The inauguration was only the day before yesterday?

Wednesday night I got something like six hours of good sleep, wakened only once in the middle of the night and not for long.

Breakfast at my desk was leftover broccoli and Brussels sprouts soup with some freshly made hapa rice. Ah, rice. I missed you. The rice improved the soup, but not by much, and I regret to say I still have about half a serving of soup left. It was a little too much to throw out, somewhat to my chagrin.

Work was slow, again. Worked on copy edits for the employee handbook, then put together most of a short story on some dental outreach programs the school is doing, with help from a local dental insurance agency. Sometimes the short, factual things are more difficult to write.

We had our weekly department Zoom call, and right after it my one-on-one with my supervisor. Apparently one of the development officers made some good progress with a prospective donor, with the help of something I wrote a couple of months ago. It’s nice to hear.

My late lunch was more hapa rice with a couple of fried eggs and a can of Vienna sausage. I would have preferred some other unhealthy breakfast meat, of which I have plenty, but after this I only have one can left, except for the hurricane-slash-emergency case, which I’ll leave alone until next hurricane season. Anyway, it was a decent lunch.

If you don’t know what I did after work, you’re not paying attention. Pretty much went right to bed for a long, hard nap, then got up to make a pot of kimchi stew for dinner, except I’m out of kimchi, so it was (I guess) tofu stew. It was freaking delicious. Filling and flavorful, and the only unhealthy thing in it is a small portion of meat, and really not that much. They say a healthy serving of protein on your plate is about the size of your fist, and in these stews I use less protein than that. I’m going to try it with a small piece of fish one of these days. When I was at the supermarket Wednesday morning, there wasn’t anything decent-looking in the seafood case except a few ahi filets, but darn if I’m going to use a nice hunk of ahi for that.

Spent some time writing things in social media, then did a few chores and went to bed. And then I got right back up because dang it. I couldn’t sleep. I spent the next few hours reading a bunch of news things, listening to some new music, playing stupid games on my phone, and thinking about taking a summer course at a community college in something. I did a lot of window shopping on Amazon, but didn’t pull the trigger on anything except an ebook that was on sale.

I finally collapsed just before four in the morning. I know. It’s stupid. It’s bad habits creeping back into my life, but this time it was legitimate insomnia. I suppose the long nap is partly to blame, but this time it doesn’t seem like the primary culprit.

Katie Nolan interviewed Mina Kimes on her podcast Thursday, and they spent a lot of time on their respective problems with sleep, and darn if that didn’t cause me to think about my own insomnia, which I’m nearly certain is why I couldn’t sleep. Mina even said lately when she can’t sleep, what she’s thinking about is not being able to sleep.

Not much texting lately since my disagreement with Ali, but it’s okay. Sylvia texted to tell me she spotted an apartment available right across the street from the office. The price is kind of crazy for such a crappy neighborhood. Young Street, between Piikoi and Keeaumoku. Yeah. If you’re familiar with the area, you’re thinking that’s not a pleasant neighborhood at night. I said we should find two other people at work to split the rent, then use it as a crash pad and break room.

I need a reset. I’m going to use this weekend to get stuff done and try to reset my brain and my sleep pattern. Ha. Ha. That never goes well, but whatever. Now that I’m not doomscrolling as I have for the past four years, the demons in my brain are going to have to actually put in the work if they want to torment me, and I’m not just going to allow them their way.

If you’re not feeling tethered to someone who cares about you, leave a comment and I’ll send you some contact info. Don’t go through this madness alone.

Resolutions: next post!

Lockdown: Good morning

I woke up Wednesday morning at 6:30, just in time for the swearing-in of the new Vice-President. Whatever your political leanings, you have to acknowledge this is a big deal. A woman. An African-American woman. An Asian woman. Second in succession to the presidency.

As I have made clear many times, I’m a conservative, but during the run-up to the primary elections, I hoped the Democrats would nominate her for the presidency, and I wanted her to pick Amy Klobuchar as running mate. Looking at the numbers now, I don’t think Harris would have won the general election against the incumbent, and the primaries would have been super contentious probably to the very end.

Biden is something of a compromise, and you know how it is with compromises: nobody’s truly happy with the outcome. But hey. Middle ground. Middle ground worked.

At 6:45 or so, when the new president was sworn in, I popped open a bottle of cava I purchased a couple of weeks ago specifically for Wednesday morning.

It was a little later in the morning than I prefer for grocery shopping, but I really wanted to pick up a few things at the drugstore and the supermarket. The drugstore wasn’t bad at that hour, and neither was the supermarket until I was getting ready to check out. Not crowded or anything, but more people than I felt comfortable being around. Now I know when it picks up there: around eight.

While I was out I picked up a breakfast combo from L&L. An assortment of breakfast meats with rice and eggs. Don’t tell my doctor.

After breakfast, I went back to bed. I’d asked for two hours off Wednesday actually with a beach trip in mind, but we’ve had so much rain there was no way I was jumping in the ocean, so I grabbed what sleep I could before getting to work.

I had a phone interview with a UH Hilo athletics coach, then posted a web story, and worked on the longer version of that UHH story. Boy was I moving slowly.

After work I meant to finish the story and read Class Act by Jerry Craft, a sequel to Craft’s 2019 Newbery winner (novel in 2019; Newbery in 2020) but I ended up taking a super long nap instead, then spent a little time in the late evening writing.

After a few chores and lots of zoning, I put myself to bed around two. I think.

Lunch was a bowl of instant ramen with a lot of bean sprouts and an egg. Dinner was kimchi stew. I’m expecting this to be lunch or dinner every day for a while. I don’t see myself getting sick of it, and it’s easy to make.

Crush Girl texted me to tell me she’s nearly done with a book I lent her. I asked her how she was liking it and she said a lot. This led to my expounding a bit on the writer, none of which Crush Girl responded to, which is fine. I was just sharing.

The light at the end of the tunnel grows larger and brighter, so we must be heading in the right direction. I think it’s still a long way off, though, so hey. Leave a comment if you need someone to connect with. I’ll send you my contact details and we can text each other through the miserable spring and into summer, the earliest I expect things to return to (don’t say it!) some kind normal.

Resolutions, next post!

Lockdown: Slow day

Monday night I again got a decent amount of good sleep, something in the area of nearly six hours with Darth Vader. It’s still not enough but I’m trending upward.

Tuesday I got up a little earlier than usual and hit the drive-through at BK. I was just craving it for some reason. When I was working on campus, the nearest fast food drive-through was a BK and there were weeks when I’d go through three times for breakfast. When you have sleep issues, sometimes you have to dash out the door and pick up breakfast on the way to eat at your desk. It was a little embarrassing. Every time I hit that drive-through it was acknowledgement that I couldn’t get my act together.

It was a slow day at my desk. Not very many emails and I was waiting for feedback on a smaller version of that UH Hilo scholarship story. So I worked on the employee handbook almost the whole day. It wasn’t fun, but I was pleased to be involved.

After work I took a nap and made plans to watch the inauguration Wednesday morning. The TV coverage was set to begin before four in the morning (coverage of the incumbent’s departure earlier than that) and while I tried to figure out if I was going to just stay up all night or try to get some sleep I ended up staying up too late and then going to bed for not enough sleep. I’m such an idiot.

I ended up going to sleep at around three, then waking up around 6:30.

Breakfast was a couple of Croissanwiches from BK with hash browns. Lunch was a bowl of penne with jarred sauce (with gin, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, dried garlic flakes, dried parsley, and blue cheese). Dinner was a couple of quesadillas.

Jennifer texted me a link and some video I haven’t looked at yet. Sylvia and I texted about work stuff. Sharon asked me a work-related question and I happened to know the anwer. I sent this James Cordon link to Crissy but she doesn’t like James Cordon. Continued a text conversation with the other Jennifer about listmaking.

There was some FB messaging with a few people. One of them got me to sign up on MeWe. Like other FB alternatives, I don’t expect it to last, but who knows? FB was the MySpace alternative that unseated MySpace, and something will eventually take FB’s place. It’s still the frontier now, though. I think I only have four contacts there.

I finished writing this a couple of hours ago but for some reason didn’t press publish. It’s late Wednesday night now and I meant to get a ton of work done this evening but I was too tired. Will have to work really well Thursday to make it up.

Leave a comment. If you need someone to connect with. In these crappy. Pandemic days.

Lockdown: Nohagi

It’s already very early Wednesday as I write this about Monday, and I’m just not in the mood. It may be quite short. Or rambly. Or disjointed. Or boring!

I got a pretty good six and a half hours of sleep Sunday night, despite waking up every two-and-a-half hours. Finally got out of bed at eleven or eleven thirty. Or maybe noon. And I was hungry! Like tear into a living beast with my teeth kind of hungry.

There’s this new smashburger food truck in a used car lot on the edge of Aiea, which is much farther than I ever drive just to get takeout, but the weather was yucky and it was a holiday, so I thought maybe it wouldn’t be very crowded. And the photos of the burgers are amazing. I’m not linking to the website until I take a few photos of the food myself.

I pulled into the lot and there were maybe twenty people waiting around either to order or to get their food, and there was nowhere to park the car. I didn’t even have enough room to maneuver my car. I basically pulled in, looked around, and hit reverse right back onto Kam Highway and took off.

Ah well. There was this burger place in the 99 Ranch food court I’ve been meaning to try. It was on my way home.

Aaaaaand the burger spot was closed for the holiday. Great. Okay, plan C: just pick up some ohagi from Kansai Yamato in the same food court, then drive home and eat leftovers.

Aaaaaaand Kansai Yamato was out of ohagi. Ugggggh. I settled for a couple of peanut butter mochis and a couple of azuki mochis. Which is nothing to complain about but I was jonesing for ohagi.

There’s a decent Hawaiian food spot in the very back of the food court. Used to be Cafe Ivy but it’s Cafe Hana Hou now, and it’s been several years since I’ve been there. So I picked up a combo plate (kalua pig, laulau, lomi salmon, rice, chicken long rice, sweet potato, and haupia). It was a lot of food in all, even if portions of each item are smallish. Enough food that it was all I ate until just before bed.

I watched Sam Dunn’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey on DVD while I pigged out. I’d seen it before but really wanted to see it again. Such a good documentary. Then, of course, I took a very long nap. Hawaiian food will do that.

The rest of the holiday was just idling and goofing off. I didn’t read. I listened to a bunch of music. Then I wrote that Springsteen review. Very late, I had a bowl of instant ramen with a mountain of bean sprouts and a couple of eggs.

I was actually getting ready for bed before midnight when the power went out at about a quarter to eleven. I fired up a couple of small lanterns and did a crossword with pen on paper while listening to music. The HECo website said it expected power in my neighborhood to be restored by 12:30 so I wasn’t worried about using phone juice. I had backup juice anyway.

I hate going to bed with the power out.

Lights came on around 12:15.

I texted Crush Girl my adventures looking for a burger, since I’d shared with her the article about the food truck. She wasn’t very chatty. Texted Charles the Rock and Kathryn, two friends who live in my area, to ask if they had power (they did). Texted Vicky to tell her I wasn’t ignoring her; I was just a bit stressed with current events so I was unable to help her with contacts for her MLM just now. Sharon texted to tell me she’s found the best place to get lemon peel gummies at Windward Mall. Sylvia and I texted a little while the power was out. She lives a few neighborhoods over, and I was curious.

After the breakfast-slash-lunch of Hawaiian food, I ate the four pieces of mochi through the rest of the day. Forgot to mention that.

Get me outta here. As I’m writing this, we have a new president in just under five hours.

Leave a comment if you want someone to check on you when the power’s out. Pandemic days continue and you shouldn’t-slash-needn’t go through them disconnected. Seriously.

Lockdown: Conflict from con-text

Sunday was quite a bit like Saturday. The first football game started a little earlier, but I think I also fell asleep slightly earlier and got something like five and a half hours with Darth Vader, waking up only once in the middle. Decent.

The games weren’t very interesting, so I worked on several things while they were on. I think I had a slice of pie for breakfast. For lunch, I made a broccoli and brussels sprouts soup from a recipe in the Washington Post. In the Instant Pot. Prep was simple, ingredients were simple (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, coconut milk, lime juice ginger, garlic, salt), and cook time was about 25 minutes unattended. I chopped some orange bell pepper for garnish, which wasn’t the best choice for this soup. I added a lot more lime juice and a bit more salt when it was done, then splashed some rice vinegar in, about halfway through my first bowl.

It was decent. Not great. But lots of potential, and I like the simplicity and quick cooking time. I have three more cans of coconut milk, so there will be more soup in the near future. One can is saved for mochi, which I hope to make at the end of the week.

After the games, I drove to the office to update software, picking up chicken katsu from Grace’s on the way in. I meant to start thank-you cards but I was just too lazy. Did some housekeeping and emails, then requested some medical leave for blood work next week and some vacation for a little beach time this week and next.

Got home around 10:30 in the evening and did some writing. The review of The List of Things That Will Not Change came together quickly, and I meant to keep it kind of short, but it took a while to get it done. I kept getting distracted, and took a few lie-down-in-bed-and-stare-at-my-phone breaks. Which I kind of want to do right now.

I spent quite a while reading the news (and commentary), and I don’t know what I did with my time, but I didn’t lie down for bed until about four. Yikes.

Sunday morning when I woke up, Ali texted, asking me not to send _____ texts anymore. Which is fine. Except I hadn’t. The thing I sent her was very far, far away _____ and I explained it. This did not lead to mended feelings. Feelings were made worse, on both sides. I totally sympathize: _____ was something I wasn’t aware I was doing until we discussed it a couple of weeks ago. But now I was being asked not to do _____ and I didn’t in fact do _____, and I was still getting raked for it. Ugh. I hate to say it, but I think I need to back off this relationship’s growth, which I suppose may have been a one-way effort. Maybe the friendship is good enough right where it is.

I may just small-text with her for a while until we find our groove again. When we click, we communicate so well. When we’re off it’s utterly miserable. Argh. Argh. Argh.

I’m taking deep breaths as I write this. If someone you care about asks you not to do _____ and you don’t do it, but it’s mistaken for _____ (I’m not talking about interpretation here; I’m talking factually not doing _____ but mistaken for doing _____) of course the person’s feelings are going to be terribly hurt, and correcting the error doesn’t change it. I know. Something I did caused her to be upset. But I didn’t do it, so where am I supposed to go with this? I mean, why be upset with me? Ugh.

I’m letting it go. It’s worked when we’ve had miscommunication in the past. At least my last words to her were I’m sorry. If it’s over, I’ll be glad it ended on those words.

I had nicer texts with Crush Girl, sorta. Some of it was about this texting problem with Ali.

The power just went out. I’m typing this on laptop battery power. Inconvenient. It’s getting close to bed time and I hate going to bed when the power’s out at night. I don’t mind during the day, but I just think something bad could happen and I want to be awake for it. I might go for a drive if this keeps up. Or keeps down.

Resolutions, next post.

Leave a comment if you need someone to connect with, although the way things are going lately you might not want to reach out to me. Based on recent interactions. Sigh.

Review: Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You

This is a little embarrassing, but I still haven’t listened to the new Bruce Springsteen album from last year. So I’m going to give it a first spin right now and just jot down some thoughts as it goes. I’ll probably look at lyrics as I’m listening too. Important disclaimer for some people. Some songs I listened to more than once before moving on, but nearly everything I’ve written here was on the first listen of each track.

Part 1: All the tracks from favorite to least favorite

Letter to You

Really like:
I’ll See You in My Dreams
Burnin’ Train
Last Man Standing
Song for Orphans

The Power of Prayer
One Minute You’re Here
If I Was the Priest

Janey Need a Shooter

House of a Thousand Guitars

Part 2: Track-by-track evaluation

Track 1: One Minute You’re Here

I thought I knew just who I was
And what I’d do but I was wrong
One minute you’re here
Next minute you’re gone.

Starts off with just solo acoustic guitar. Almost whispered singing. Some orchestration after first chorus, then more instrumentation, like acoustic piano and tom-toms and tambourine. Mellow and pretty!

Track 2: Letter to You

I took all the sunshine and rain
All my happiness and all my pain
The dark evening stars and the morning sky of blue
And I sent it in my letter to you

Big and rocking. Full E Street Band in effect. It’s ringing, driving, and chiming the way all the good, huge Bruce songs are. It’s going to be an enormous concert favorite. Ooh the organ is sweet in the instrumental after the first chorus. This is what a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band song is supposed to sound like. I haven’t heard a Bruce song like this in decades.

Track 3: Burnin’ Train

With our shared faith, rising dark and decayed
Take me and shake me from this mortal cage

It sounds like a song about dying but I’m not sure. It’s one of Bruce’s faster songs. Great drumming by Max and cool guitar solo at the end by someone; I’m guessing Nils.

Track 4: Janey Needs a Shooter

So I held her real close, she was more saint than a ghost
And told her I so long had been prepared for her

This song goes back to the early 70s but I’ve never heard it. The lyrics are dark as heck but the melody and instrumentation are uplifting and hopeful. It’s a tough listen. I don’t know how I feel about it. I imagine singing along would make me feel weird.

Track 5: Last Man Standing

You pack your guitar and have one last beer
With just the ringing in your ears

Big, hopeful, uplifting, and wistful. Max sounds great here. Jake Clemons plays like his dad.

Track 6: The Power of Prayer

It’s a fixed game without any rules
An empty table on a ship of fools
I’m holding hearts, I play the pair
I’m going all in ’cause I don’t care

There’s a lot of religious imagery in these songs. The solo piano intro makes it sound like a Styx song at first! Man, it sounds like it’s the most unironic Bruce ever, but then right in the middle is this fixed game refrain, sung twice in a row, kind of cynical, kind of nihilistic, kind of whatever-will-be. I love the tension. I love where Roy Bittan’s piano is mixed here. In most of the album, in fact. I really don’t like the second-to-last line: “As Ben E. King’s voice fills the air.” Cheesy.

Track 7: House of a Thousand Guitars

House of a thousand guitars, house of a thousand guitars
Brother and sister wherever you are
We’ll rise together till we fire the spark
That’ll light up the house of a thousand guitars

Wow. This solo piano opening and first verse sound like a 70s Diana Ross or Crystal Gayle ballad. Full band kicks in after the first chorus. I don’t dig the background vocals. The chorus is cheesy and just not good. Ew. Ick. This sounds like an E Street tribute band; I’m not kidding. Even Bruce’s vocals are bad.

Track 8: Rainmaker

Rainmaker, a little faith for hire
Rainmaker, the house is on fire
Rainmaker, take everything you have
Sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad, so bad, so bad
They’ll hire a rainmaker

Holy cow; who’s playing slide in the intro? Oh yeah this sounds like it’s from The Rising. In fact it sounds like “The Rising.” I’m digging this chorus and bridge, although the bridge sounds a lot like “Darlington County.” First song on the album that sounds political.

Track 9: If I Was the Priest

Well there’s a light on yonder mountain and it’s calling me to shine
There’s a girl over by the water fountain ’cause she’s asking to be mine

Most folky sounding song on the album so far. Ah, I just read this song was written in 1970 or 1971, which makes sense. Bruce was trying to be Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan then. Seriously, though, it sounds like an outtake from Western Stars. Good backing vocals in the last choruses. Harmonica leading to the outro, of course. It’s nice. Nice guitar solo at the end! Miami Steve or Nils? Song is epically long though; kind of lyrically self-indulgent. Tighten up, Bruce!

Track 10: Ghosts

I turn up the volume, let the spirits be my guide
Meet you brother and sister on the other side

This song really moves. It’s going to be another concert fave. Hand claps. Not a fan on an album version. Long la-la-la fadeout ensures it’ll be a hit at concerts. Jake Clemons and Charles Giordano (organ) rocking in fadeout.

Track 11: Song for Orphans

Well sons they search for fathers, but the fathers are all gone
The lost souls search for saviors, but saviors don’t last long
Those nameless questless renegade brats who live their lives in song
They run the length of a candle with a goodnight whisper then they’re gone

Bruce considered this for inclusion on Born to Run. It’s epically long as well, but the things I dislike about “If I Was the Priest” I really like in “Song for Oprhans.” I don’t know why, but it all works better here. Dylan-like harmonica in the outro. This song reminds me a lot of Dylan, and of other songs by musicians I love who love Dylan.

Track 12: I’ll See You in My Dreams

I’ll see you in my dreams when all our summers have come to an end
I’ll see you in my dreams, we’ll meet and live and laugh again

This song sounds like an outtake from Human Touch, an album I was unsure of when I bought it on release day but grew to love, two decades later. Pretty guitar solo after the first chorus, and very Federici-like organ playing. This is a pretty song. I can see Bruce and the E Streeters closing shows with this. Good way to end the album.

Part 3: Summary

This the most E Street sounding album since 2002’s The Rising, and possibly since 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. The album mostly rocks, and it’s just really, really nice to hear Bruce playing the way he should: live in studio with the whole band cranking (most songs on the album were recorded this way). If you don’t think about it too much, you don’t miss the E Streeters who’ve died, as their replacements do more than an able job.

Themes and imagery dominating the lyrics are death, bars (especially at closing), guitars, and songs. I don’t know if Bruce intends this to be a farewell for the E Street Band but it sounds like he’s thinking about it, and how could he not? He’s been at it a long time, and he’s 71 (nooooooooo…).

The production is excellent, and I approve of the prominent placement of Roy Bittan (piano) and Max Weinberg (drums) in the mix. This is Max’s best playing in ages — he tends to sound a little robotic sometimes, so good is he at keeping time — and he sounds like he’s saying it’s not over yet, Bruce. Or maybe he’s saying if they’re going out, they’re going out like this.

Like most Springsteen albums, it will take many listens before I’ll know where to rank it among the others, but I haven’t loved a album of his on first spin as much as this one since The Rising. The best songs on that album are probably better than the best songs on this one, but this is the more consistently good album, track-by-track. This album will never unseat any of his albums leading to Born in the U.S.A., but it could possibly be his best work since.

Rating on first spin: 83 of 100, but I’m starting low to give it somewhere to go as I give it more listens. A score of 80 means “really like,” with 90 meaning “love.”