Resolution Hill

wk 2First, I am going to say what I always say: it doesn’t matter whether or not I ever succeed in keeping to my New Year’s resolutions. What matters is that I’m in a constant state of introspection, evaluation, and improvement. I am always, always in some stage of trying to make myself better at something, better in some way. It’s the only way to approach life, with a belief that I’ve got a long way to go, but that I’ve come a long way, too. People who don’t make resolutions have no hope. They will call themselves “realistic,” but what they really are is cynical at worst. At best, they are just party-poopers, adding something like, “I don’t need the new year to inspire me to self-improvement.” Psssh. Of course you don’t NEED it. But it’s a great time for it. You can celebrate the new year on some other night than the 31st of December, but you’re just doing it to urinate on everyone else’s celebration, and we’re probably better off without you.

I feel less resolute this year than most, I think because I’ve had kind of a downer of an end to 2015. Over all, it was a great year, but it ended on a stressful note, and the self-loathing in this house was thick enough to choke on, which I often found myself (figuratively) doing.

So let’s resolve to do something about that. I already mentioned one of my goals: 75K steps weekly, possibly to be increased as the year progresses if I find it too easy to manage. I’m finding it pretty easy lately, but I walk slowly, which means this is time taken away from other stuff I might need to be doing. It’s still a bit unclear to me how I might maintain this, but I want this to be part of my lifestyle, at least until I’m back in the water on a regular basis. We’ll call this my physical health resolution.

I have very slowly been getting my house tidied. It’s taking really long, but I’m making baby steps. In recent years, I’ve tried to set schedules for having certain parts of the house tidy enough to show visitors (if ever I decide to have visitors), but that hasn’t worked, so I’m going with something more like the walking goal. Let’s call it two-and-a-half hours of tidying per week, to be increased if I find it sustainable, and this will be my mental health resolution. It averages to half-hour bursts five days per week. I’m going to go easy on myself some days, if the task I choose is especially unpleasant.

For example, the other night, I finally went through a shopping bag full of stuff R left for me. There are more than just the shopping bag, but this one was different. She was about to move to California, and I helped her clean out her house and put stuff in storage, and this bag contained some of the half-used stuff from her kitchen, stuff I typically used on a regular basis, like boxes of brown sugar, a bag of flour, and some bottles of spices.

That was more than ten years ago, and I’ve never opened the bag. I have enough experience with stuff like this (tales of horror for some other day), and I knew what I would probably find: tiny holes chewed into the plastic zippered bags, and the corpses of multiple generations of bugs that had been born in that stuff, lived their short lives there, and then died, leaving whatever was left for their progeny.

I don’t know exactly if that’s what I found or not, because I didn’t inspect the items very closely. But they are tossed out. I didn’t just toss the shopping bag and its contents in one blind swoop, in case there was something else in there (CDs I might have lent her, or some memento from some night out), but everything ended up in the trash one item at a time except for a half-consumed bottle of brandy, which I might still toss, but it deserves some thoughtful consideration before I decide.

Anyway, that didn’t take thirty minutes. It took ten years and fifteen minutes, I guess, but the real fifteen minutes of effort it took was considerable, and so I’m counting that as half an hour.

There is a third resolution, something related to creating content, but I’m not going to think seriously about it until I have my living room and hallway tidy, which will hopefully be within three weeks.

Gettin’ Down (to business) on Friday

About a year and a half ago, I went through a life-change I neither wanted nor anticipated, one which I still have not detailed in this space, ‘though I have every intention of doing so once the entire thing is resolved, which it still isn’t.  Just over a year ago, it looked like things were finally settling down in that one huge area of my life, but there was just one little detail that needed finishing up before I could exhale.  It was anticipated by those around me who’d know that this resolution should come at any moment.  They kept saying that, and it kept not happening, and I kept waiting, hanging around in this limbo I’ve referred to on multiple occasions here.

Then at the end of last year, while one piece of the resolution seemed to be appearing, the ground shifted beneath me again, completely out of my influence or desire, and not only was the ground I stood upon still in the midst of a strange limbo, the rest of the atmosphere was too, from the air surrounding me to the sky above me.  It was all a bit strange.

I imagine apparating (ask a Harry Potter fan if you don’t know) to be kind of like this, minus the one-and-a-half years part of it.  The whirling seems to be slowing, and I’m getting a glimpse of where I’m landing, but I’m not ready to stand up yet, and there’s still a chance (albeit a slim one) that I’ll find myself yanked somewhere else.  On the other hand, if this ground will stop spinning for a moment, I may just step away from it and walk to wherever I’m going next.  Other options are presenting themselves, some of them more secure than others, some more exciting than others.  And for once, the more secure (which is still not really that secure) possibility is also the more exciting one.

I’ll continue to be vague until things settle down, as I’ve been saying for the past year and a half, but I do expect to emerge from this limbo within six months.  Three, if I can swing it.  Nine as a probable worst-case scenario.

I feel like that video game character who has to make a huge leap to safety, but has to time it just right.  The ground I’m standing on is about to dissolve, but the ground to which I hope to spring hasn’t swung into reach yet.  I know I’ve got a lot of leeway on this end, but the window of opportunity on the other end seems tiny.  Just gotta pick my spot, I think.

My job has turned into something I haven’t had much of as a college graduate: just a job.  I know how to have just a job; I’ve had several during my career as a teacher.  But the just-a-job job has always been a second, side-job.  Now my primary job is just a job, and I’m not sure how to feel about it.  On the one hand, I have the time and mental energy to pursue a few other things, things I’ve neglected because my teaching gig was both a major timesuck and energysuck.  This has made my life better in multiple ways, not the least of which is that it’s satisfying a long-back-burnered part of my soul.  On the other, it’s not a very satisfying way to spend a third of my life, five days a week.

Thank goodness it doesn’t suck, and thank goodness I like the people.  In fact, there’s really nothing bad about the job or the workplace itself.  It’s just the peripherals.

This weekend is all about that paid writing I’ve been doing for the past few months.  I’m trying to get ahead of schedule (yes, I know I keep promising details; I’ll continue to promise them), at which point my responsibilities will be added to, something I welcome whole-heartedly.  For now, it’s a lot of my away-from-work time, including most of my weekend time, plus several nights during the working week after my regular work.  I feel it getting easier, though, which is a most welcome sign.

I will also squeeze in time to catch up on some house-cleaning, and I’m going to start an enormous crockpot of beef stew, which I did two weekends ago as well.  I can make ten meals out of twenty bucks worth of ingredients, usually, and in these lean days, this is key.  Plus, my stew is delicious.  @aipohaku sent me some DVDs and I’m hoping to watch at least one this weekend too.  Netflix delivered Tiger Eyes, a film directed by Judy Blume’s son based on her very best novel.  Can’t wait to give that a look, too.

And Allegiant.  I don’t think I’ll finish it (I have about a third left), but I would like to indulge just a little while I’m not researching these articles I’m hoping to have done by Sunday night.

Whoa-Oh, Let’s Do the Disco Limbo

I have got to find some way to be more productive on weekends.  I think I slept twelve hours Friday night and Saturday day, and then another twelve Saturday night and Sunday day.  I had a ton of stuff I wanted to get done and I got very, very little of it outside of my domestic chores, which I’m just finishing up now while I have the Oscars on, via TiVo, an hour or so after the broadcast was finished.

I don’t know what it is, really.  I get up.  I do things, but not the things that are on my list, some of which I’m getting paid for.  I move to the bed for a few minutes, maybe to take my WwF turns or to respond to a few text messages.  Then I wake up two hours later.  It’s extremely frustrating.  And yeah, I know that the solution is easy: just don’t get back into bed once I’m up.  But it’s not that easy because, well just because.

I keep thinking there is some way I can get some work done at home, but for years that has proven almost every time to be impossible.  Or maybe not impossible, but too difficult, and maybe I am just too undisciplined.  But where I used to able to go to a neighborhood cafe and just get to work, that’s been challenging too lately for different reasons, and I’m not very efficient there anymore either, at least not on weekends.  On weeknights, it’s different.  I have a little bit of desperation on weeknights, and that helps a lot, but it’s not sustainable.

My brain has been feeling kind of strained lately, exhausted in a weird way I’m unaccustomed to.  I don’t know where this is coming from or what it is, but it is a regular, constant presence, this feeling that I just want to put my brain on cruise control for an extended time and do nothing more challenging than read murder mysteries or complete crossword puzzles.

There was a screw-up with my paycheck at work on my most recent payday, something that’s really the by-product of a weird bureaucratic situation, and I only got half a paycheck, with a promise that the rest of it is coming not on my <i>next</i> payday, but the payday after that.  Because of my new year’s resolutions, I had just liberated a chunk of money from a place I probably should have left it, but I was feeling more concerned about solving a couple of problems than about the repercussions of moving that money.  I can’t tell you how enraged and discouraged I was to have to use that money just for normal everyday expenses like paying the rent and putting gas in my car.

It was depressing.  I’ve been super, super blessed in recent years to be making the money I make.  It’s not a lot, compared to my friends who chose non-teaching careers, but it’s been enough, you know?  To pay the rent and to feed myself and to clothe myself and occasionally to treat myself to a nice dinner.  But right now, I’m making quite a bit less than I’d been making, and I’ve been able to trim some of the excess in my life, but I envisioned checking a couple of problems off my list and that’s just not going to happen yet.

I had to refocus.  Had to set my sights on the near future and rewrite my plan, and I had to kind of survive and endure these past couple of weeks in a limbo within my now-normal limbo.  It’s been kind of surreal.  I’m not suffering the way I’ve suffered in the past when money problems have arisen; but because I told myself I was going to deny myself certain pleasures until certain problems were resolved (like going to the beach in the mornings before work, or seeing movies after work once a week) just to motivate myself to take these things seriously, I’ve been living in a condition of denying myself some of the things I love most in my daily life, for a time extended beyond my intentions.

The psychic toll that’s taken is kind of ridiculous, and I feel maybe I should loosen the restrictions a little, and I still may, but what is the point of putting sanctions on one’s behavior if one doesn’t intend to stick to them, even when something unforeseen should pop up?

In my calmer, less depressed moments, I’ve been able to restructure the plan, to reprioritize the resolving of these problems based on the funds that will be available for the next few months.  I don’t like it quite as much, but it will feel good to get some things taken care of on my next payday and then other things on the one after that, and then I’ll take another look and see what’s what.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep my head up.  I’ve been through worse.

U2 just performed “Ordinary Love” on the Oscars.  And holy cow!

Be It Resolved

Okay. Here it is.

go

One of my best qualities, I believe, is that I don’t get too stressed out about little things. In the plus column, you could write things like: I stay calm in problematic situations, I don’t get worked up about things beyond my control, and I cut people a lot of slack. In the minus column: Little things often snowball if I let them (and I let them); my let-it-be attitude often causes other people stress, and my priorities sometimes seem out of whack. I’ve noticed this has really become a problem in certain areas of my life in the past ten years, because my decision-making tends to favor what’s important today at the expense of tomorrow, and because little problems become big problems, and I’m the sort to kind of push big problems to the back of my mind so they don’t freak me out and cause me more stress. And the big things often require larger amounts of money to deal with, and if there’s one thing I just don’t have enough of, it’s money.

I’ll avoid some of the specifics, but how it usually works is like this: I have everything under control. Then something unfortunate but normal happens, the kind of thing I should probably take care of right away, but if I don’t it’ll be okay if I take care of it in a certain amount of time. But when I don’t, the problem gets bigger and then it often has an unworkable deadline attached to it, and then when I spend my resources (time, money, and mental energy) on finally fixing the problem, I don’t have much else for other things that would be really fun or really beneficial to people I care about. I had to make excuses about going to Ross’s bachelor party because I was in the middle of such a crisis and couldn’t bring myself to show up without a gift. Ugh.

I’ve spent December and January practicing regaining control of these kinds of things, and I’m pleased with my progress, and have decided this is a lifestyle change I can find a way to make over the course of 2014. I wanted my main resolution to have something to do with adventure, but adventure is difficult to manage when one doesn’t have control over one’s mundanities. I need to get that back, if I ever really had it in the first place.

So (here come the specifics), now that I’ve finally got the student loans paid off (thanks to help from Bank of Dad), here are the three things that cause me the most long-term stress, things which I have let get out of control.

Car: I have four car things that need taking care of. I will take care of Car Thing One within ten days from now. It’s a big deal but a small, easy fix and hasn’t gotten out of control yet, but I would like to avoid its becoming a big deal. I’ll take care of Car Thing One Point Five by March 15, and then Car Things Two and Three by the end of March. This will pretty much put me and my car back in good health, something I’ve come to rely on in a way I didn’t stress about too much in the past. Bus riding wasn’t that big a deal to me just a couple of years ago, but it doesn’t fit anymore with the life I want to live.

When it’s all taken care of, I need to set up a car fund, money specifically set aside for the big deals that come up without announcement. My radiator cracked right before Christmas, and I was able to take care of it right away, and then to get a set of new tires (one of the things I’d been putting off) the next day. I need to put myself in a position where I can do that all the time, so beginning in April, I will contribute to my own car fund, if not with religious fervor, with a kind of regularity that will give me some amount of peace. I have a figure in mind but won’t disclose it here yet. I’ll reflect on how this is all going at the beginning of May, and adjust the resolution from there if necessary. Obviously, if something big comes up between now and then, it’s going to throw the timing off.

House: When R started dating G, I decided I had enough in me to keep doing my job well, but nothing else. I let a whole bunch of stuff go that year, and I have never really reined them all back in. The state of my living space is the most obvious, most stressful example. There are seven months between now and the beginning of September, and I think that’s enough time for me to continue to regain control of my living space to the point where I can have people over. There are five areas of the house that need reclaiming; I’m going to have them in acceptable condition, one per month except the living room, which may need two months. My kitchen and bathroom are decent enough already, because those are the two areas where you really can’t lose control, and my bedroom can probably be taken care of in a day or two, but I shall still allow it one month just in case. I will pause for reflection and evaluation on the first weekend of every month. I’m leaving the rest of the year (September to December) to practice keeping everything up, plus to figure out what to do about my garage and back porch, which I am not counting among the before-September spaces. I need a limbo for stuff I’m not sure about, like my teaching materials.

Those two major areas are going under the heading of CONTROL.

My other major category is WRITING. Thanks to the new writers group, I have a pretty reliable schedule for getting together and sharing work, and it’s been a healthy, encouraging environment for creating. I’m not producing quite as much as I’d like, but I’m getting better and don’t see any problems with continuing the trend. So my goal is related to the novel in progress: I will have a first draft done by the beginning of May. I’ll have a first major revision done by the beginning of July. I’ll have a second major revision done by September or October, leaving me a little bit of room for a third revision if I think I need it, because by December 1, I’m sending a manuscript to an agent. I already have one picked out, the identity of whom I will keep secret for now. He or she may be a bit too big-time for me, but I might as well shoot big. I will reflect and evaluate at the beginnings of May, July, and September, and adjust as necessary.

If I can take care of those three major things, I will have a great year. However, I think I need to add something fun. So between now and December 31, I’m going to record myself singing 52 songs and post them somewhere public (probably just here). That will be one song per weekend between now and then, plus a few extras here and there. I’m not going to approach them in the spirit of NaNoWriMo: most of them will be awful, but if just a few of them are decent, that will be a few more songs than I’ve recorded in years. Most will just be covers of stuff I like to play, but I think I’m going to shoot for one original per month. That means 11 originals between now and 2015.

Exceptions: Original poetry can take the place of recorded songs on a one-to-one basis. I don’t really see this happening very often, but if I get an idea, I want to ride it and not have to worry about a song while I work on it.

And one more fun thing: I’m going to revisit and rewrite my 43 Things list and start attacking that at some to-be-determined rate. More on this later.

There we go. It’s a huge, ambitious list, but as I have said, I’ve sort of been practicing for the past two months, and I think this is doable.

Resolved.

Morning Fictions, Perhaps

This is what I am thinking. I usually get to the beach, on mornings when I go (it’s four or five mornings a week), at about 5:00. It’s too dark to swim then, so I walk to a nearby Starbucks and grab a latte, then wander about until about 6. Then I jump in the water and am usually back in my car at about 7:00.

If I get to the beach at 4:45, I increase my chances of getting the parking spot I like, and I can get to the Starbucks at 5:00, when it opens. Then I can sit there at the cafe for forty-five minutes and write. Then walk back to my car and jump into the water.

Forty-five minutes four times a week isn’t much, but it’s more than I’ve been spending. And now that I’m in a writers group that meets every other week, I need to be more productive.

I think I’ll try it Monday.

I no longer have the attention span for football, even though I still love the game. So Sundays have been the day when I put the games on but only sit still for twenty minutes at a time. I’ve been saving up a bunch of chores for those Sundays, and it’s been mostly working. I’m trying to do each week’s chores on Sunday plus a little more, hoping eventually to get caught up on the multitude of things I’ve let get out of control. So far so good.

I haven’t really needed a daily planner for a few years. I need one now. Keeping track of things in my brain in this new working environment is just completely different from what I’m used to. My brain is used to thinking of things in the short time as a series of periods punctuated by bells. It’s used to thinking of things in the long term as a school calendar. All kinds of things are not finding their place in my daily remembrance, and I’ve done some stupid things, like miss meetings and forget to return calls or emails. Not a LOT, but enough to concern me.

So this week will be devoted to finding a planner that works for me. Electronic options don’t really do it for me, because I need scribble space and I need a place to STICK things that I can file later, like business cards. With Evernote I’ve been able to photograph certain things for filing later, but that doesn’t work for everything.

It’s almost October and I think I finally have my Best Songs of 2012 list done. I will unveil it sometime in October, I guess. Hope nobody’s been holding his or her breath. Much to my surprise, there is a Muse song on it.

F5: Greener Pastures

The wheels are back beneath me, and there is much rejoicing. Car guy said it was just one of those old-car problems, and he liked the way the rest of what he saw looked. I’m so grateful for parents who bail me out of problems like this, and although I fully intend to pay my folks back for the needed dough, I’m pretty sure they’re not even thinking about it.

I haven’t been reviewing films lately because my mental energies have been exhausted on other pursuits, but I expect to get caught up this weekend.

In the past few days, I’ve asked six college students if they knew who Hawaii’s lieutenant governor is, and none of them did. It’s a tough question, one that I think a lot of people, not just college students, would have trouble with, since he was appointed and not elected, so his name hasn’t been broadcast nearly as much as if he’d been elected. My point in asking this question is not to say there’s something wrong with young people today; rather, it’s to illustrate to myself that there’s a huge disconnect between young adults and the stuff that most news agencies consider news. It’s a problem I’m forced to confront for work-related purposes, and I don’t have an answer. I totally don’t blame young people for not caring enough about local government to pick up a newspaper once in a while. The feeling that knowing what’s going on is either too hard or simply not rewarding is something I won’t dispute. But I wish I could make young people believe that forcing yourself to pay attention makes it harder for those in power to do whatever they want. I wish sometimes that I could convince myself.

This past weekend, I re-read Ender’s Game for the first time since 1993, and ti was actually better than I remembered it. Poor Ender. And poor Valentine. I’m almost always drawn to a good alienation (not a pun!) story, but in this case it isn’t Ender I relate to, the way I’ve always related to Bart Simpson, Harry Potter, and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (the Disney version). I feel myself connecting more to the kids who admire Ender and understand what an important person he is, who love him without his even really knowing it. I don’t think I’m a world-saver, but maybe I’m part of the support system of someone who is.

Friday 5:

  1. What’s something non food-related you have to go to a nearby town to do because the town where you live doesn’t have it?
    I live in Honolulu, which is a real city of some fairly impressive geographic size. The next towns (not part of Honolulu) are Kaneohe to the north, and several suburban and rural towns to the west, most immediately Aiea (the only town in America whose name doesn’t have a consonant) and Pearl City. Aiea has the nearest bowling alley (can it be that there are no bowling alleys left in Honolulu? It can…), and Kaneohe has a huge botanical garden which allows overnight camping.
  2. What’s something you go to a nearby town to do because your town’s version of it isn’t as good?
    One of our unofficial state meals is something called a plate lunch. Wikipedia says it’s similar to the southern US’s “meat and three” but of course the cuisine is different here, influenced as it is by Asian, Pacific Island, and American flavors. And my favorite place to get one is at KJ’s in Kaneohe. Many of my graduate classes were on my school’s Kaneohe campus, and I ate there a LOT while working on that degree. I sorta go to church in Kaneohe too, but not because churches in Honolulu aren’t as good. Ha.
  3. What’s something people in nearby towns come to your town to do?
    Since Honolulu is the county seat, state capital, largest city in the state, there are multiple things people come from out of town to do, including work. During the Christmas season, a lot of people who live on the other islands fly in to do their Christmas shopping. There are many, many things you can ONLY do in Honolulu, something many people from the other islands resent it for.
  4. In what way are residents of a nearby town different from residents in your town?
    In general, because I live in the big city, I live where people are (overall) less friendly. But you know, I think people in my homestate are very friendly anyway (something many of my friends who’ve moved here from other states would dispute), and most of the time, I really like the people I encounter on a daily basis, as long as I don’t have to (a) share a movie theater with them or (b) ride the bus with them. Yet as friendly as Honoluluans are, they are not nearly as friendly and laid-back as people from the nearby rural towns. I’m going to cite Waimanalo (though my dad would contest that) as one of the pleasanter nearby towns to hang out.
  5. Many towns give themselves nicknames, like “______ Capital of America” or “America’s ___________est Town” or “Home of __________.” What would be a good nickname along these lines to give the town where you live?
    I am kind of wishing I’d written these questions to be about neighborhoods and not towns, because Kalihi, where I live, is a great neighborhood with many things that separate it from the other urban Honolulu neighborhoods. But I can still wax poetic of my dear Honolulu, and I’ll go back to one of the metaphors many people use for Hawaii itself: that it is not so much a melting pot as it is a beef stew, with each ingredient maintaining its separate identity and flavor while still contributing to the sense of the whole. So welcome to my Honolulu: America’s Mixed Plate.

The Wheel Deal

*sigh*

The unsettled thing that could change any day? It’s sort of back to square one, which on one hand is a bummer, but I think the board is being reset to tilt the odds more in my favor. So while I have to wait for some kind of closure on this thing, the closure is more likely to be the result I want. I’ll explain this all later. Hopefully within eighty-nine days from the end of July.

Uuuuurrrrggggh. It’s a little stressful just typing that. But I’m going to focus on the positives, which are that I’m at least better off than I was a year ago.

I’m making arrangements to have the car towed tomorrow to a transmission shop. If not for a cheerful loan from Bank of Dad (again), I don’t know what I would have done, but I’ve been incredibly blessed to have these wheels for the past year and a half, and even though I try to live a life that’s not automobile-dependent, the switch to bus-commuting this time was going to be really difficult. True, it was going to be a one-bus ride each way, but man is it a long ride. It always takes me some time to get my bus-legs back, and the three days I rode to work (and back), I was getting nauseated a couple of miles from my destinations.

Another major setback, living without wheels, was going to be no more trips to the beach on my way to work. I’ve been stopping on my way to work three or four times a week, having a cold swim and shower at one of the beaches of my childhood, then relaxing for a little, while runners panted past me on the sidewalk behind, and the rising sun slowly warmed the sand and sea before me. It’s been good for my heart and for my poor, tormented soul. That’s just not possible when I’m riding the bus to work, even with enough time to do it, which I most definitely would have. There’s nowhere to stash keys and wallet and clothes and other stuff I need to have with me. And I’m not ready to give that up.

I recently picked up a gig writing word puzzles for an iPhone/Android app. The pay’s good, but I’m trying not to think of how it breaks down hourly. These have been a bit tougher to put together than I anticipated, and although I’m having fun doing it, it can be slightly stressful, knowing I have to deliver a product that someone is paying me for, one that will have my name on it. I’m just about finished with a third of the puzzles I owe, and I get to submit them for review when I hit that mark. Looking forward to critique. Details later, when the puzzles get published.

This week has been stressful with all the car stuff, but it could be a lot worse. The mighty Anto loaned me his car for the week while he’s on a trip, and not having to worry about the bus all by itself makes life so much more livable.

I’ve decided on Faulkner. Picked up The Sound and the Fury the other day. Now I have to figure out when I’m going to read it. I flipped to the middle to check it out, and I like the narrative voice. He’s more accessible than I was led to believe.

Turn Up the Radio

Yes, I am aware that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not a 20th-Century work. I realized I must have misunderstood the list right after posting that last entry. Too many of the canonized novels written in English weren’t on it, and they all had in common that they were pre-20th-Century. I wonder if Gatsby would make my own top 20 if I were only considering 20th-Century work.

For the past year, I’ve been using my space here in a manner I never intended. For reasons I still won’t go into (I guess I can no longer say “can’t go into…”), I have intentionally avoided the usual details of my life here. Around mid-February, that looked like it was about to change, and that’s the state things have been in since: about to change. I’ve been in a weird (‘though not altogether unpleasant) state of limbo in a couple of areas of my life. While that’s not as bad as it could be (or in fact as bad as it’s been), in some ways it’s more stressful, this feeling of being on the verge, for an extended time, of a major change. It’s literally been an it-can-happen-any-moment situation for five months. Unable to make commitments to certain things or to make long-term plans, or even to tend to certain everyday situations because of what might happen tomorrow or the day after gets tiring after five months. It’s been a real test.

One of the stresses is that I cannot really afford a crisis, and as we all know, crisis is always right around the corner, and it never comes at a good time.

My car refusing to go forward just a few driveways from my house could have happened at a much worse time and in much worse circumstances, but whatever. I’m going to deal with it. A long-delayed and much-needed paycheck is coming tomorrow, and although I’m still going to have to wait for the funds to become available (my credit union, which has always been the epitome of customer-pleasing, recently changed one policy that has made my life much, much more difficult than it need be, something I could fix with one piece of paper if only my on-the-verge status would resolve itself in my favor), probably until after the weekend, the car is in a pretty safe place, and I may only have to deal with bus-riding for one or two work days, sandwiched around a weekend.

So things could certainly be worse, and I’m not really complaining yet. I’m sort of expecting it to get slightly worse when certain uncertainties reveal themselves (the cost of the repairs among them), but for now I think I’m mostly okay. The recent canceling of one of my favorite bus routes didn’t affect me too much because shortly after it happened, I attained my new wheels. And one of the adjustments the bus company made to atone for the canceling of that route was to extend the alternate (less pleasant) route all the way to where I’m currently working, so it’s a one-bus deal, even though it’s a rather long and unpleasant route. I’m actually considering transferring to another route mid-way, just to get on a better bus, but at least for this one day, I think I’ll try and live with the one-bus drive (shudder) through Waikiki.

I’m up too late, since it’s now past midnight and I’m hoping to hop on a much-too-early bus at 4:45. It’ll get me to work about three hours earlier than I need to be there, but heck. Catching a bus arriving there at a more decent hour means dealing with more commuters, and if I can avoid people AND traffic by getting up earlier, I’ll do it. I’ll grab a few winks at my desk before anyone comes in.

Here comes the Friday 5, which I complete this week because the questions were inspired by hearing an old Fleetwood Mac song that brought back a flood of memories. I’m too young (Yay! I seldom get to start a sentence with that phrase!) for that to be the music of my high-school years; I was six when the Fleetwood Mac album came out, but I got pretty seriously into them around tenth and eleventh grade, more than a decade later.

  1. What song, album, or artist, disliked by you in high school, now sounds pretty good?
    There are two quick choices here: Debbie Gibson and Prince. To be fair, I never disliked Debbie the musician; I just didn’t care for her poppy girlness. I appreciated that she wrote all of her songs (she’s the Taylor Swift of the 80s!), but rocker me couldn’t get into the tunes. Now I groove to the early Debbie stuff and love it. And Prince? Geez, forget about all the stupid, psycho pretentiousness. Have you ever heard Around the World in a Day on a really good stereo, at very loud volumes? I have. It was like the scales fell from my eyes (or ears) and suddenly Prince made a lot more sense to me.
  2. What specific high-school memory do you have of discovering some song, album, or artist you considered old?
    This happened a lot when I hit the switch on my stereo and moved my entire life from AM top-40 radio to FM rock in eighth grade. The move (which I may have related in this space some time ago) was prompted by my love of Styx. The FM rock station had the new Styx album (Kilroy was Here) and was playing it in advance of the album’s release, so I turned all my attention to that station and never looked back. This meant hearing a LOT of really great music for the first time as a musically retarded thirteen-year-old. Zep, Sabbath, the Eagles, Steve Miller, and a hundred other artists I’d never been decently exposed to suddenly consumed me, but it was the first time I heard “Come Sail Away” (1977) by Styx that I really remember. I’d known enough to think of Styx as a rock band, but not like this! It had to be Styx; there was no mistaking that Dennis DeYoung vocal. But it rocked like crazy in a way I would come to love, with all instruments going full-throttle and still playing together. I got to school the next morning, and asked my friend Derek if he’d ever heard the Styx song that went “Come say away; come sail away with me…” and he told me the correct title, and told me what album it was on. Other bands I’d grow to love that year (Yes, Rush, REO) did it better, but to my young ears, Styx did it first.
  3. What song or album best serves as the soundtrack for your senior year of high school? (bonus challenge: answer this question with a different song or album for each year of high school!)
    I’m going for the bonus challenge on this one, and extending it down to seventh grade.
    Grade 7: “I Love Rock and Roll” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Styx’s Paradise Theater was still the soundtrack to my entire life that year, but all the songs from that album remind me of sixth grade, not seventh, so I’m going with this song because it was one of the songs I could bust out singing between classes and my classmates (some of them) would join me. It’s one of a small handful of songs I remember that year really appealing to just about all of us. I think “Destroyer” by the Kinks was another, and it’s one of the few 45s I remember buying that year, but I remember an overwhelming sense of universal love for the Joan Jett song.

    Grade 8: The entire Kilroy was Here album by Styx. The anticipation of that album, documented above, changed the course of my music life forever. Forget just the music for a second: in addition to opening my ears to a whole new universe of artists, it pretty much gave me my primary social group for the next couple of years, the guys I’d go to my first concert with, the guys I hung out with on the front steps every morning before school. A decent alternate choice would be Def Leppard’s Pyromania album, but there’s really no question on this one. It’s Kilroy.

    Grade 9: Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man was released in August right before the start of my ninth-grade year. I bought it on cassette a few months later, in October or November. In January of that school year (this would be 1984), right after I turned fifteen, I got my first paying job at the Aiea Public Library. This meant no more rides home in the family carpool. I was getting on a bus right after the last bell every day and riding to Aiea to put books on shelves, and then getting on a late bus home to Waipahu after closing. An Innocent Man was the album I listened to most on those long bus rides (and longer bus waits), and those songs always take me back to that year. I can still sing every word of every song on that album, in order. I did that job from January to June, and memories of that job are inextricably tied to memories of that album.

    Grade 10: There is no contest here. On June 4, 1984, right after the end of my ninth-grade year, I stood in line at Tower, a special line where they were selling only one album: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.. I bought it on cassette, and pretty much listened to it non-stop throughout that summer and through most of grade 10. There’s a darned good chance that if I had to pick one album to stand for all of high school, it would be this one. I simply cannot believe that in a year, this album is going to be thirty freaking years old. I think I’m about to cry simply because I am so old. I was fifteen, which I think may be the magic year for everyone. There’s probably an album for everyone when they’re fifteen that stands for their whole high-school lives. This is mine.

    Grade 11: This is more difficult to write about than I thought it would be, but I was in amorous pursuit of Lisa, a grade younger than me, throughout tenth grade, and despite interference from some of my best friends (two of whom were in that group of rockers I spent a sentence praising a few paragraphs ago) and a few non-friends, by the last quarter of tenth grade, it was pretty clear we were going to be together, something that officially happened that summer between my sophomore and junior years. So my eleventh-grade memories are mostly memories of this first relationship, which lasted until the first week of summer after my junior year. I was a sap for love songs that year, and there were two that sort of stuck as our songs: “Rainbow Connection” by Kermit the Frog and “Faithfully” by Journey, even though the lyrics don’t really have any relation to our lives. It was just the song that was playing the first time we danced. I’m thinking I have to say it was “Faithfully” for the soundtrack of that year, but boy do I wish I could say it was something cooler. Of stuff from that year, John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow and Amy Grant’s Unguarded were in pretty heavy play on my Walkman. If I had to pick an album from that year, it would probably be Amy. Especially since that was such an important album for R, something we were all very aware of that year.

    Grade 12: Lisa dumped me the summer before my senior year, and that was a rough year. Romantically, my interests were all over the place, including still hoping to get back with Lisa. I went to a Journey concert (on their Raised on Radio tour) that was missing two-fifths of the band I loved (American Idol’s Randy Jackson was the bass player), but I disliked the album they’d just done and so I can’t pick that. I was having enormous trouble getting along with my Dad for the first part of the year and was having pretty much a miserable year from August through December. Then I don’t know what happened, but things thawed out (or cooled down) between my Dad and me right after the new year, and I started doing better in school (too little, too late, alas!) and although my heart hadn’t really settled on anyone, my girl-FRIEND relationships were really good, and my guy-friend relationships were good too. By the end of the school year, I’d discovered Bruce Hornsby’s debut album and that’s a mile-marker album for me, but for me, that was really closer to the end. I think for the first half of the year (the troubled half), I’ll go with a two-sided C-90 cassette with Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet on one side and Stryper’s To Hell with the Devil on the other. For the second half of my senior year, the good half, I don’t think there can really anything other than U2’s The Joshua Tree, released that March and immediately a classic.

  4. What’s a song, album, or artist from your high-school years you loved then (and might still love) but have great difficulty listening to now, and what’s the reason?
    Certain songs from Amy Grant’s Unguarded remind me too much of R, and they can be tough to listen to. “Sharayah” and “Love of Another Kind” come to mind. They’re not as hard to listen to now as they were a couple of years ago, but boy is it bittersweet to hear them.
  5. What song, album, or artist from your high-school years, seemingly forgotten nowadays, do you still listen to with fondness?
    You never hear those .38 Special songs from their Tour de Force album on the radio anymore, at least not around here. That’s such a great album. Others that come to mind: “New Gal Now” by Honeymoon Suite, “Say What You Will” by Fastway, the whole Next Position Please album by Cheap Trick, and “Turn Up the Radio” by Autograph.

Thankful

Middle of Thanksgiving weekend. I spent Thursday (early) morning at the beach, then the afternoon and evening at the folks’ watching football and eating, which was mostly mellow and relaxing. Friday I was at the beach again, then worked on a few things at the new Starbucks on Nimitz in Kakaako. Came home for a nap, then went to dinner with Penny and Grace at Reid’s. The conversation was mostly good, but one does get tired of debating every point of every conversation sometimes.

I did something stupid with my car last week, which has made me less interested in driving it (perhaps more about that later), so this morning I just slept in and goofed around. A lot of my downtime has been spent lately with focused, dedicated house-cleaning, but today all I wanted to do was veg.

I have my iTunes 2012 playlist going in shuffle mode, and am reminded of how good a year it’s been for new music. Songs come up, and I’m like, “This is the best album of the year!” Then “No. THIS is the best album of the year.” So far the only 2012 album I’m ruling out for album of the year is Liv Kristine’s solo album, Libertine. Despite my fondness for her (and her band, Leaves’ Eyes), it’s just not that interesting an album, and her singing sounds off in too many places.

Still, albums by the Wallflowers, Asia, the Raveonettes, Minus the Bear, Abalone Dots, the Choir, and several other artists I really like have made it an interesting eleven months so far.

Friday 5:

  1. What’s your favorite black article of clothing?
    I wear black every day. It’s my favorite color. I have this black trench coat I got for fifteen bucks in a thrift store; it looks really cool and I’ve been offered fifty bucks for it by strangers. Haven’t worn it for a while because it needs dry-cleaning. I also have a pair of plain black board shorts that I’m fond of.
  2. What’s the best black food?
    I guess balsamic vinegar’s not a food, so I’m going with a tie between nori (in multiple forms) and blackberries.
  3. How did you pass the time during your most recent extended blackout (power outage)?
    Mostly sleeping. I got kind of (uncharacteristically) stir-crazy for a while and drove around my neighborhood, which you’re not supposed to do. I tried to keep close to home so I wouldn’t be one of those unnecessary contributors to traffic. Twitter was a constant companion, as it has always been for the past six years in times of island-wide crisis.
  4. When did you last play blackjack?
    A few years ago at George’s, I think. We were there for a poker night but we played some blackjack too. I’m not a big fan of that card game.
  5. What are some songs in your iTunes (or other media player) whose titles contain the word black?
    I have thirty-two songs whose titles contain the word “black” in my iTunes on this computer. Here are my fifteen favorite:
    “Back In Black,” AC/DC
    “Black And White,” Cherryholmes
    “Black Cloud,” The Choir
    “Black Cow,” Steely Dan (I only recently learned what a Black Cow is)
    “Black Flag” (Live), King’s X
    “Black Sails at Midnight,” Alestorm
    “Black Saturday,” Soundgarden
    “Black Tongue,” Mastodon
    “The Blackest Crow,” Bearfoot
    “The Blackest Crow,” Brittany Haas
    “Blackout,” Scorpions
    “Islands In A Black Sky,” Bruce Cockburn
    “Little Black Backpack,” Stroke 9
    “Man In Black,” One Bad Pig
    “That Old Black Hole,” Dr. Dog

    The Soundgarden, Choir, and Dr. Dog songs are from 2012. 🙂

Where to Go

One of the things I hate about myself is my inability to make myself do regular, everyday household chores on a regular basis. My evening hours are often a weird combination of vegetative decompression, escapist media consumption, and enslavement to the tyranny of the urgent, an urgency created by my not doing things ahead enough of time. If I’m doing laundry it’s because I have to do it that night. If I’m cleaning out the fridge, it’s because I’m either out of shelf space or out of storage containers.

I don’t know why this has worked, but so far it has. For a few weeks now, I do my post-dinner TV- or movie-watching in fifteen-minute blocks. I’ll hit pause on whatever I’m watching and then do something. If I’ve already prepared the next day’s lunch or made sure I have something clean to wear, I’ll address one of those other chores on that bottomless list. The result has been that I’ve actually been ahead on some things, and I’m making dents in long-neglected stuff like decluttering the living room or organizing files.

I’m trying not to get too comfortable in thinking of this as a problem licked. I’ve had spurts of productivity like this before and never has any of it stuck. But if I can make this work, set it up as part of my day, I think I’ll feel mentally healthier. I already feel it slightly.

Some might be appalled that I watch movies this way. What they should probably know is that lately my attention span for films has really been challenged. It’s not as hard to hit the pause button on a good movie as it might once have been. I need the break!

Friday 5:

  1. Where do you go for a great cup of coffee or tea?
    The coffee at Glazer’s near the UH-Manoa campus is really good, but who can find parking near there?
  2. Where do you go for a great doughnut?
    My first choice is a glazed doughnut at Liliha Bakery, in the next neighborhood over from mine. When I was younger, I favored fancier stuff, but in recent years I’ve really grown to appreciate the simplicity of a really good glazed doughnut. For fancy, it has to be Regal Bakery near the airport. Maple bacon doughnuts? Yes please!
  3. Where do you go for a great sandwich?
    It’s a toss-up between Paradise Bakery in the Ala Moana Center and Heidi’s downtown. Especially when you can get it with a pasta salad on the side. Heck yeah. And when I’m needing something decadent, there’s something about the Monte Cristo at Kenny’s Restaurant (just down the hill from my house).
  4. Where do you go for a great bowl of soup?
    There’s only one place: Covenant Books and Coffee in Kaimuki. The soups there are ridiculous.
  5. Where do you go for a great post-midnight snack?
    Zippy’s is the old standby. Liliha Bakery’s not bad if it’s not a weekend (weekends it’s crazy in there), but there’s only counter seating, so it’s not the best for conversation. Sticking closer to home, there’s Diner’s, a 24-hour plate-lunch place a couple of blocks away. That’s one of those places where you really have to know what to order. It’s rather hit-or-miss.