Thoughts of Nubbs

My spelling sucks,deal with it

Proud to have you as a friend

I knew the moment I witnessed it I needed to write about it. I need the world to know or at least those who would read my ramblings to know how exactly I felt at that moment. I was about 45 minutes south of Dallas on a cool, crisp sunny March morning. I had just arrived at what would be my home for the next two days. Before I even got out of the Uber, I knew this was a big fucking deal. Giant company banners flanked the stone gated entry to this 1800-acre compound, Flags with the company's logo lined the long winding driveway leading to most elaborate and fancy barn I had ever seen. Upon entering I was surrounded by the companies' best products, huge banners hung from the rafters announcing the new products name and everyone was frenzied with activity. The room was alive with energy, and it all orbited around one person. This would be the venue for a significant milestone for a company trying to re-launch itself. A company seeking to reimage itself. A company trying to make its way into the American market against all odds. But that's not what I needed to write about. I have been to plenty of product launches over the years, all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds them helps build the excitement and sets the tone for how monumental the event is. I was more impressed by the person behind this event than I was for the event itself. The success of this event and this companies journey will 100% be based on the person they picked to lead them through this tumultuous journey. Though I am not 100% convinced they chose her as much as she made it, so she was the only logical choice for them. That brings me to the point of all this. As I stood in the middle of this vast barn next to a person who has become one of my guiding stars in life I was overcome with this feeling that I haven't felt since I watched my wife walk across a stage to grab her two master's degrees. In my eyes, this day was my friend's graduation.

Let me try to set the energy for this particular say. The room was abuzz, people were running around all over the place, Press flying in from all over the country, Schedules to coordinate and vendors to guide, senior leaders sat at a table taking calls and answering emails, staff was moving products and asking question after questions, On this day, the whole company was on her shoulders, and she carried that pressure with grit and confidence. You know that confidence that is just short of cocky. You know what I am talking about! If you are anything like me, you just sat back and said "Oh shit….this women is a force to be reckoned with" I am here to tell you she is. She has goals, and she isn't stopping for your bullshit. While I have known her for nearly a decade, we have only been close friends for about five years now. But what an amazing five years it has been. During this time I have seen the world throw some pretty ruthless shit at her, sometimes that shit has knocked her back, even knocked her down. But here she is still standing, and she is standing better off today than she ever has. She just doesn't know when to give up or give in; she doesn't know how to slow down and stop pushing forward. She also has the uncanny knack of seeing the positive when nobody else can. These are not traits you find in a lot of people. Especially in a world that wants instant gratification and constant reassurance of relevance That moment, you know the one I mentioned way back in the first sentence. That was the moment I was overcome with pride in my friend. I was so proud of her, and more so I was so honored to be her friend and to be able to witness this achievement. She endured when a lot of other people thought she would fail and some even hoped she would some even tried to make her fail. She believed in herself and her goals and was willing to take risks needed to achieve them. People don't need to be looking at athletes and actors for guidance on how to live. They just need to head to Milwaukee and have some coffee with her. She will help you figure it all out. She did for me.

If what they say about having a fulfilling life because of the people you are sounded by is true. My life is going to continually get better because the people around me inspire me to be better every day. Every one of them in different ways and at different times but all of them pushes me to do awesome shit! On this day my friend showed me that nothing is imposable if you believe in it 100%

First time in the pit at 9:30 club

If you have followed enough of my blog posts you already know that once you get past my rants there is a theme about my posts, Wife, Photography, Beer and live Music. Since free time seems to always be at a premium in my house I always try to do what I can to combine passions so I can experience as many of them as I can in one evening.   One way to get all of the above into one night is to go to the 9:30 club. I plan to write more in the future purely on just how much 9:30club means to me but for now, we will leave it at it being the most awesome fucking venue to see a show.   Many a night has spent with my wife watching great music and drinking from the diverse beer list found at 9:30. But up until this night I had never been able to shoot a show at 9:30. I have shot U-street and the Fillmore but 9:30 had alluded me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I emailed every band I could trying to get a photo pass. But this night is different OKGO, a band my wife and I have seen maybe 5 times already has granted me a photo pass. Now the routine kicks in, the night before my wife and I go over our day of show plan to make sure we get the seats we want. This involves coordinating who will leave work early to get in line and checking the weather reports to make sure we are prepped to stand outside for an hour or so. But now I have to also toss in my pre shoot routine of making sure all my equipment is ready. By this point in my for lack of better terminology career as a photographer I have this routine down pat and can almost do it methodically. OKGO HiRes  (4 of 46)

Day of the show, I blast out of work a few minutes early to try to shave a few minutes off what is going to be 75 minutes of commute to V street. I have basically accomplished nothing all day at the office other than listening to and watch OKGO to get a better feel for their music. This time I am listening for different things, indicators that will help me judge when the members of the band will do something spectacular. It helps that I have seen them before but it also helps to listen to the music and not the words. Songs grow and as they do the members of the band get more animated and this makes for better pictures. In most cases there is an opening act. Most photographers use this time to get their setting right for the light. I don’t because the light for the openers is always different then the main. I use the opener to scout out where I will be shooting and who I will be shooting with. I like to get a feel for how the pit is set up and what to watch out for (where does security stand, how far are the barricades from the stage, where are the barricade supports, where can I stash my bag and lenses, most importantly how many other photogs are there in the pit and how much do they move around). Come to find out there is no opener and we are going to have to go into the pit blind. To make matters even more challenging the show isn’t going to start for 2 more hours. That’s a lot of time for me to get up in my own head and over evaluate everything. I normally don’t drink before a shoot but since there was so much time to wait a beer was a must.

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10 minutes to show time, I kiss my wife and say I’ll be back. As she always does she wishes me good luck. She knows I don’t believe in luck but I think she says it because it sounds better than “don’t over think it just do your thing”. I make my way to the front of the floor which is now packed elbow to elbow, this is going to be no easy task as a small guy with a big backpack full of equipment on his back. Once at the front a get in line behind the other photogs waiting for the band to take the stage and security to let us in. Band takes the stage and we start to file in, security tells us we only get 2 songs tonight, What? In most all cases you get 3 songs, no time to discuss we must run for our spot in the pit. Now with three songs to shoot you get a good amount of time to make sure you get all the images you need. It also gives you time to rotate through some different lenses for different effects. @ songs is going to compress that a bit. Prior to being let into the pit we see there is a cheese cloth like curtain over the front of the stage, no worries it will come down when the band start playing, wrong again OKGO is using this curtain as a screen to project images onto. Have you ever tried to shoot a band through a curtain? At this point it doesn’t even faze me. I’m in the pit at the 9:30 Club, They could have brought brimstone and fire and I wasn’t going to stop trying to get the shot that would make me go wow. 2 songs came and went super-fast and the curtain never came down. We are ushered out of the pit just as the 3rd songs starts and the curtain drops. I rush back upstairs to where my wife is and drop my bag and change to the long lens. I’m in the venue so just because I can’t shoot in the pit doesn’t mean I am going to stop shooting. I have a press pass to my favorite venue watching one of the most energetic bands play. I am shooting until I can’t shoot any longer.  The show is awesome as it always has been from OKGO the quality of the performance and the amazing personalities of the band were the one thing that I knew was going to be a guarantee for the evening.   If you have never seen OKGO perform you need to. Even if you do not like their style of music the pure entertainment and energy these guys have will put you in a good mood for days to come. I have seen a shit ton of bands perform and OKGO has to be in the top 5 of most amazing performance ever. To make this performance even better the lead singer is a local and loves the 9:30 club. This adds even another level of awesomeness to the show.

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All things have to come to an end. I don’t think I have put my camera down for more than 5 minutes since the show started. I have riffled through all my lenses to make sure I captured everything I could. The house lights come up and my wife and I are all smiles. The energy in the room is still amazing and you can feel it. On our way out we run into some friends and my wife wants to go down and play in the confetti that is covering the main floor. We look for some t-shirts and work our way to the car. The hole ride home…… who am I kidding we were to wound up to go home right away so we hit this new Bourbon bar on our route home that we just had to try. After a few samples of some bourbon we were on our way home. It’s now close to 1am on a school night and my alarm is going to go off in 5 hours. I do what most smart professional looking to advance their corporate career do and I start up the computer so I can download all the images from my cards and see what I have……..HOLY FUCK, 9:30 club you once again amaze me with how photogenic you are.

OKGO HiRes  (35 of 46)

OKGO HiRes  (37 of 46)

That’s my first night in the pit at 9:30 club. Thank you OKGO, thank you 9:30 club for being the most beautiful venue in DC, thank you to my wife for opening my eyes once again to the awesomeness that is live music. I can’t wait to get back in the pit!

Till next time,

Nubbs

OKGO HiRes  (45 of 46)

Piss Poor Customer Service (Rant)

Piss poor customer service is by far my biggest pet peeve. This weekend I witnessed some of the worst I have seen in the recent past; even worse than United Airlines. Lead up: My wife wanted to get some additional Passport Stamps added to her tattoo. Both of our regular artists book up months in advance so being that the passport stamps are pretty straight forward she started to look at some local shops to get the work done on Sunday as a walk in.  She called Ricks Tattoo.  Figured this is a good place to start. After all they have been around since the 70’s and are a local land mark. Also they are open on Sundays and except walk ins.

She called on Friday afternoon and asked the person answering the phone if they take walk-ins on Sundays. She was told yes they will have multiple artists in the shop on Sunday and should have no issue taking care of her.   She than told the guy, I am looking to get passport stamps, Do you have a person you recommend that does good line work since these stamps are all line work.  Again he stated it would not be a problem and that they had many artists that do good line work and should be able to knock it out for her.  She than asked, should I make an appointment with anybody particular?  I don’t want to not get tattooed because they get booked up. Again she was told no, there would be plenty of artists there and they will get her taken care of.

Sunday:  We roll into Ricks about 12:45 and she walks up to the counter to say she was there for a walk in. The guy at the counter asks her to sign in and take a seat. They have a few openings and a couple artists that should be able to get her taken care of. He said he will go talk to the artists and figure out who is best. We take a seat and start our wait.  Now I have always wanted to own a tattoo shop, so whenever I am in a tattoo shop I pay close attention to how things run.  I have also been tattooed on 3 continents, by at least 12 different artists in 13 different shops totaling over 100 hours of tattooing. This doesn’t count the countless shops I have been in for piercings and with friends getting tattoos. What I am saying is that while I am not an expert, I have seen my fair share of shops over the years.

What I witnessed next made Ricks the first tattoo shop I have ever gotten up and walked out of.

Ricks posted hours on Sunday are noon-6pm.  After signing in we sat down to start our wait. The first thing I noticed was an employee walking around taking everybody’s lunch order. If you open at noon wouldn’t you think you would eat lunch before showing up to work so that you can actually get work done while at work. Now people clients half way through a session are going to have to stop and wait while some of the artists eat. I am not saying artists should not eat at work. I have taken many lunch break during LONG sessions. But I have also gone to artists that plan ahead and try to not take breaks so we can keep working. No big deal everybody has to eat after all.  There was the proverbial loud mouth egocentric artist that seemed to take way to long setting up because he spent way too much time talking about how good he was and how much of a rebel he was. Again no big deal most shops have this guy and as long as his work holds up I find arrogance to be helpful to some artists.  But it all has to be kind of kept in check and not allowed to run so rampant that every customer is subjected to it for extended periods of time.  About 30 minutes go by and my wife decides it’s time to ask what the status is on them finding her and artist and get a ball park time frame for when she might start the process.  This is when things turn south real quick. The guy at the counter says, well we only have one artist doing walk-ins today and he is busy we also want to show him what you want to get to make sure he is comfortable with the line work.  This came out of left field to my wife as she was told a couple times they had artist that could help her and everybody could do line work. (If you know anything about tattooing you know this is the furthest thing from the truth not every artist can lay good lines).  She questioned the guy again saying, you only have one artist free and you don’t know that he can do what I want? His reply was yes, to which she replied “I called on Friday and somebody told me it would not be a problem and you would have multiple artists available. I even stated I was willing to make an appointment to make sure I could get in.”  She was then told that they do not do phone appointments so that would have never been a possibility.  Ok dipshit, way to focus on the secondary problem without touching the primary.  She than asked why she was told when she walked in that it would not be a problem and that they would talk to the artists and find out who would be best. When in fact she should have been informed that there was only one artist doing walk-ins and they didn’t even know if he could do the work. At this point the so called manager walked up to try and help out. Well at least I think that was her thought. However her execution was so bad that it put me back on my heals.  Just when you think you have seen and experienced the worse of the worse when it comes to customer service out of left field comes this bomb shell.  The manager opened with “shit changes”…….That is how you start a conversation with a customer.  This is a simple case of poor communication on the part of the shop and instead of trying to resolve it you open with “Shit Changes”.  I think my wife was speechless at this comment. I was so in shock that I don’t remember what her exact reaction was. I simple stated we are leaving and asked the “Shit Changes” lady who she was. She stated she was the manager to which I laughed and replayed with “You fucking suck at your job” I think her reply was “So do you” or something along that lines.  By that point I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of that place.

We walked out of Ricks on Sunday and will never return. We will never recommend the shop and will make it a point to do just the opposite. We learned a very valuable lesson.  Go to the shops you know treat customers with respect. Ink Junkeez in White Plains Maryland is a good example of this. The Body Gallery in Sterling VA is another great example of this.  There are also many others that I do not have personal experience with but have heard great things from other tattoo artist and collectors.  Just because you are in the tattoo industry does not give you the right to treat people like shit and hide behind the mind set of “deal with it we are tattooist” I have two artist that I will recommend to anybody. One reason is they are among the some of the best I have ever seen.   More importantly they are great at customer service, they respond to tough situation with class and style; they are open and honest with clients; they go above and beyond to help out when at all possible.

Band of Horses 2/27/14

HOLY SHIT ITS COLD OUT HERE!!!  Over an hour before the doors were to open my wife found herself 2nd in line. Now my wife hates the cold, I mean she despises the cold on a level similar to the hate most real music fans hold towards Justin Bieber.  Yet here she was sitting outside the Lincoln Theater 90 plus minutes before doors in what started as 34 degree weather but quickly plummeted as the sun fell behind the buildings and the night wind picked up speed while howling down U Street. To say she was determined to sit front row for this show was an understatement.  Let’s roll the calendar back a few years to get the real grasp for where this determination started. Image

4 years ago I get a text “Shit, Band of Horses are playing 9:30 club, I really want to see them but tickets went on sale weeks ago”  This was well before we fine-tuned our attack plan for getting tickets to shows we know are going to sell out.  I also at this point never heard of BoH so after seeking out a few of their tracks I set out to find tickets.  I end up getting a set from some young lady who would only meet me in the center of Dupont Circle in the middle of the day and with a friend who stood about 4 feet behind her during the whole transaction. It wasn’t her that was getting robbed that day it was me since I was forking over what at the time was 3 times the face value for the tickets.  It would be months before I told my wife the actual price I paid for the tickets.  We saw them the first time at 9:30 club, than we ended up having to drive to Philly on a Tuesday night to see them after Kings of Leon’s front man proved to the world that he was no Keith Richards and had to go to rehab thus canceling the tour that was coming through the DC area.  BOH was the opening band for that show and in true professional manner did everything they could to reschedule each and every show albeit in 3 hours north in Philly. It was well worth the drive to see them in Philly.  The next time we got to see them was down in Charlotte NC.  8 hours on a bus down there and 8 hours on a bus home lesson learned on that trip.  Don’t take the mega bus for more than 4 hours!

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So the ground work for the lengths that would be traveled to see BoH was paved years in advance.  I was not surprised at all when we found out about the acoustic tour weeks before tickets went on sale and formulated a game plan to get as many tickets as we could so we could be joined by friends for what was bound to be an amazing show.  Not long after the tickets arrived did Shaina lay out her plan to camp out no matter what the weather so she could have front row seats.  She laid this all out with a lengthy dissertation of how this was “THE” show to try to get to the front row. It was clear by the thought and reasoning she put into her decision to get front row that nothing was stopping her and I knew immediately that even if I wanted to there would be no talking her out of trying to get to the front.

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So there we were sitting in the front row looking at the stage that is set up much like a living room.  In what has become their common signature entrance BoH strolls on the stage and greats the audience with a thank you for coming. But this band is different when they say thank you for coming you get the feeling they actually mean it. It’s not just a rehearsed line they spew out every night as it was part of their hit lyrics. There is feeling behind it and it is conveyed with a genuine smile and delight.  They open with Ben, Ryan, and Tyler standing around a mic and set the tone right from the start with how this night is going to play out. From the first note you could tell this whole tour was about having fun and getting to know the audience.  The chatter between the band and the Audience started during the first song and didn’t end until the house lights came up.  The band seemed to have no other agenda than to have fun playing music. Taking requests from the audience and even responding to ones fans request to play “Heartbreak on the 101” with “Come on nobody likes that song”.  This is a band that does not take themselves to serious, Their shows sell out within hours of going on sale. Just this week alone they have been on the Ellen show and the night prior on Latenight with David Letterman. But here this night you would never guess they were more than a local band playing to their most diehard and beloved fans. All of which new the words to every song played. Hootting and hollering was the back drop for the night followed each time by smiles from the band.

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This show was something right up my alley; I love acoustic music and intimate venues. This served both very well. The acoustic show hid nothing and left the band at its most vulnerable. Every note is heard clear as can be with ever crackle of a string or tap of a drum is heard throughout the venue. You miss a note in this setting and the whole audience will know it.  Keep in mind that this environment lends itself well to the somewhat gritty yet soulful voice of Ben Bridwell’s which I find unique and perfect for this style of music.  The acoustic setting also allowed for the audience to hear the three distinct voices of Ben, Tyler and Ryan blend together and become one powerful balance of melody and harmony that at times is lost in an electrified show.  Each member took their due turn to show their skills and talents during different solos that flowed well into each song and never really left you sitting their thinking “its solo time”.   Standouts to me would be the unassuming bass player who proves not to judge a book by its cover.  He hit that stand up every which way but Sunday, even playing some of the best slap bass I have seen in a long ass time than slowing it down and adding to “Funeral” with the slow stroke of the bow bringing out the deep cords of that mate black standup and adding a new vibe to a song that everybody has heard multiple times but never quite like this.  Makes sense he is also a producer.

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The show covered all their popular songs even to my wife great pleasure “Dilly” which up to this point I have never seen them perform live.  As the show progressed on getting closer and closer to what everybody knew would be the 1st ending of the concert, the band put all mystery to rest and stated “We are going to play two more songs, then take a break before coming out and playing some more.” This of course made the audience not only happy but also laugh at the honesty. We all know it is going to happen at 99% of the shows we go see. It was just nice for once to have the band call out the elephant in the room and state that an encore is imminent.  Upon their return to the stage the band announced they will be playing one more song, To which a friend of ours also sitting in the front row yells out “No Two more”  Ben being within ear shot of this smiled and replied with “Ok two”.  At this point the audience turned it into a call for requests. There were calls for everything from the preverbal “Freebird” to the Kings of Leons song “Sex on Fire” I took this a a shot at KOL for the canceled tour a couple years ago.  The encore ended up being three songs all of which were played with the same enthusiasm as the first song of the night. You got the feeling that they would have played forever if they could.  At no time did you get the feeling they were doing anything other than enjoying themselves as much as the fans were.

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While I understand that acoustic music is not for everybody I would challenge any music fan to try and catch their favorite act in an acoustic setting. This BoH show was by far there best to date performance I have seen of theirs and while it is still early in the year the best show I have seen in 2014.  No time soon will I forget this show, not only because of how unique it was or who I shared it with but also because it was just fucking awesome in so many ways.

Till the next show

"Give me the beat boys and free my soul"

If you follow my blog long enough you will see certain trends.  Travel, Photography, Rants and Music especially live music.  I have loved all types of music for as long as I can remember.  Yes even country to my wife dismay. There just seems to be something about it that makes people happy and helps them to escape the humdrum bullshit of everyday life. 

 

For me the true love of music started when I was about 10 years old and I decided to pick up the trumpet and join the school band.  Here’s a little fact that only me and maybe my Mother and Stepfather still remember. I chose to play the trumpet because of a musician named Andy “Day” Dziagwa the front man for a local Chicago polka band named the Ampol Aiers. My trumpet playing lasted the next 15 years or so and served me well.  I always enjoyed playing the horn and making people happy. It was just something about looking out in the audience and seeing people smile that made all the hours of practicing worthwhile. Also for a guy that sucked at sports being a horn player helped with the ladies. I even got paid for it from time to time playing weddings.  Still today the best way to get me to see a band is to tell me they have a horn section!

 

Now that I have completely bored you with a little history lesson I will try to get back on track with where this was going.  I am willing to guess that most everybody has at least one song that when they hear it all the fucked up shit in their life seems to just go away.  I personally have a few.  One is the Doobie Brothers “Give me the beat” others include just about any thing from any of O.A.R.s (Of A Revolution) live albums but to be specific “About an Hour ago” “Black Rock”  and “Crazy Game of Poker” which I happen to be listening to now as a challenge to see if I can write this before the version I’m listening to is over.  What is it about these songs that make me NOT want to completely cuss somebody out until they cry.  That’s a damn good question and I’m not a shrink so I don’t give a shit much past it does. If I had to take a guess you could ask 100 people that question and get 50-75 different answers. The important thing is it does. At the end of a crap day I get in the car and turn on whatever it is that I think is going to make things right. I turn it up as loud as I can and sing even louder. At some time during the intro something clicks in my head and any fucks I have left to give fly right out the window.   I don’t care what the stuck up dude in his fancy suit and nice car next to me thinks when he looks over and I’m wailing at the top of my longs so out of tune that Helen Keller is rolling over in her grave.  A part of me hopes he thinks it looks like fun and when he gets home he is going to do the same thing and thus his day gets better. I know I am not alone, I see people doing it all the time and every time I do I smile because I know their day is in the process of getting better. 

 

What’s better than blasting music in the car and sing like you don’t have a care in the world. Live music and in my opinion live music by non-corporate bands in small venues.  My opinion on where you should see a band differs from many. I personally hate going to Arena and stadium shows. To each there own and whatever puts you in front of live music do it!  For me I like it when bands are hungry to get their break. It seems they play to the audience more and have a stronger passion for it this si why I like lesser known bands. They also have a core group of fans that will follow them to the ends of the earth because they love their sound and not because their songs are in the top 40 repeat list and they are the cool thing to see.  As far as small venues go if you haven’t yet, just go see a show at 9:30 Club you can thank me later for seeing a show at one of, if not the best damn small indoor venues in the country.  It honestly might be the best thing Washington DC has to offer.

 

Part of starting this blog was to have something my wife and I could look back on at the end of the year so we never forget how fortunate we are to take part in some of the things we do.  Music is something that my wife and I do a lot together. I would guess we see about 15 concerts a year all across the country.  We are tracking to see the most shows to day in 2014. So you will probably see more and more concert reviews in the near future. I hope you like them because I like writing about them.

 

 “When my mind is free you know a melody can move me”

 

Now go hit play on your favorite music device and have fun.

 

Thanx for reading Talk to you soon.  

This is going to piss off the once a year romantics.

I fucking hate Valentines day. If you need corporate America to remind you once a year that you should do something special for your loved one than let me break it to you easily. YOU SUCK AT RELATIONSHIPS!!!! Every day I wake up I kiss my wife good bye and tell her I love her. Honestly, I do not know that a day has gone buy in the past 5 years that we haven't told each other "I love You". We go on dates at least once a month if not more. I do not need commercials and flower companies and co workers telling me I am a bad husband because I didn't buy her flowers or take her to some fancy dinner on Feb 14th.  I have never in 5 years bought my wife flowers why the hell would I start now?  I'm glade everybody thinks they know what my wife wants when they are telling me I need to go buy her flowers and diamonds.

Better yet I heard a radio commercial yesterday that stated "Just because she said No she doesn't want flowers doesn't mean she meant it."  Sorry , That logic doesn't work for me.  I thought No meant No. Stop guilting men into doing stuff that they would normally not do. All it is doing is setting up woman for disappointment when the guys do absolutely nothing for the other 364 days of the year.

Now onto the asshole whole also made Feb 14th Singles Awareness Day (SAD).  If I find out who you are I am going to kick you so hard you will never be able to reproduce, Why because the world would be a better place without people like you thinking that singles need and awareness day especially on the day Corporate America has turned into a circus of momentary commercial love.   For me personally I loved being single, It was some of the best years of my life. I never wanted anybody to feel bad for me because I was single. But for others it is hard being single. Partially because of the circus Feb 14th has turned into. More so because society seems to label people who choose to be single as some type of failure.  Maybe people are not single by choice. Maybe their loved one stepped out on them, maybe they passed away. Maybe they celebrated valentines day every year with their loved one who just passed and now you are reminding them that they should be SAD because they are single. Have some fucking compassion for the people who are not single by choice and stop fucking labeling them!

Before I get flamed by everybody who lives for valentines day!  I don't care that you celebrate it, I care if it is the only day of the year you do something special with your loved one. I care more if you judge others who choose not to celebrate it, I fucking loath you if you label the singles who very well might want to celebrate it but can not for any number of reasons.

If you do go out tonight please make sure to tip your wait staff well.  They after all are working to make your night special.

Our First 4wheeling adventure.

So this past weekend my wife (Shaina) and I headed down to the Charlottesville area to do some off-roading for the first time.  Before I get into the actual events of the weekend we should start with this Jeep we have owned for about 3 years now.  It is by every measure the most impractical vehicle anybody could own living in the city.  Standing 6 foot 6 inches tall you find yourself prospecting probable living locations based off the height of the garage entrance. It handles like a dump truck and accelerates like a 90 year old man with no legs.  When your phone rings while driving all you can do is laugh because you envision yourself yelling over the roar of the “I can’t believe they consider these street tires”.  The conversation with your passenger at times requires yelling and with an echo like fashion you constantly hear “what did you say”.  That’s all during the winter months when you have the top on and the doors affixed. In the summer with the jeep completely open and you at the mercy of the elements you just forget about conversation all together while the Jeep is in motion.  It’s a maintenance hog and would probably be the equivalent of a land going boat, just a hole you through money into.  If it wasn’t for the fact I can handle 95% of the maintenance myself this thing would have put us into the poor house years ago.  Trying to start the Jeep requires the summoning of the carburetor gods to shine nicely on you at that moment. Once started the gas needle moves faster than the speedometer and you hope to be able to get it into gear.  With all that said this Jeep is by far the best and most fun 4wd vehicle I have ever had and ever driven.  As a guy that tires of vehicles quickly and is always looking for the next one I find myself never wanting to part with this Jeep.  Maybe it is because both my wife and I have always wanted a Jeep and find ourselves in a situation to be impractical, maybe it is because my wife bought this jeep for us and it is the first thing other than a couch we owned together.  Actually I think the couch and this Jeep is still the only thing my wife and I own together.  If you have never owned a jeep you need to go buy one now and not one of those pansy ass 4 door Jeeps with all the creature comforts of a modern day luxury car. I’m talking an old ass Jeep. A Jeep built when having only power steering was considered highline luxury.

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(Nice and clean and ready to roll)

Enough about the Jeep and onto this 4 wheeling excursion.  For years we have wanted to get the Jeep off the blacktop and into the woods. But with our schedules we have found it hard to work in. A buddy of ours hit us up and said he and a group were heading down to do some wheeling in the middle of January.  Perfect that’s between semesters and we should be able to make it work just fine.  So we set out to get the jeep and us ready for this trip. Wheels bearings had to be replaced, CB radios installed, fire extinguisher mounted and a new wheel purchased so we had a spare tire, back up fluids had to be bought and the jack had to be fixed, tow strap located and recover points checked.  Than we had to figure out how to fit all of that shit and our clothes into the Jeep not to mention my camera equipment that follows me just about everywhere.  With the Jeep all loaded we sat in our living room and looked at the forecast, High of 35 degrees, I don’t mind the cold very much but my wife fucking hates it when it drops below 50. We contemplated not going because all I could think of was “when this P.O.S. Jeep breaks down I am going to have to fix it in 35 degree weather” We decided it would be a game day decision and on Friday afternoon we headed south to meet up with the rest of the group at a brewery.  You will also learn that Breweries are a common assurance in most anything we do. Didn’t take long to realize the 4wheeling groups are not far off in personality from my Drag Racing brethren. Great people who just want to get out and have fun.  We left the first brewery with beers to take home and headed to the next. This is when stuff started to get interesting. The next brewery we ended up at had some of the most shit crap beer I have ever had, I mean this stuff sucked so bad it made Star Hill beers seem good.  Not to mention it was located in a converted 7-Elleven.  We all had a laugh at their expense and then headed to the hotel.

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(At the start of the first trail)

Saturday morning we meet up with the group again out front of a Gas Station/Deli/Convenient Store/Gun Store/local Seafood shop.  Within 5 minutes of being their Shaina notices that the sign out front says “22 Ammo in stock” however they put the 22 on backwards so the sign really read “ss Ammo in stock” most of the time we would brush that off as a honest mistake but we are in the south at this point and from what we had seen the stores dress code was camouflage everything not only for the employees but also the regular customers.  Fortunately the Jew bump on my wife nose is not very predominant at all so we felt safe sending her in after the black guy to get some coffee.  (Side PSA if that last sentence at all bothered you I would recommend you never read this blog again). After a quick drivers meeting we head out to the trail.

4wheeling involves a lot of scouting trips where you walk the path in front of you to see if you are going to make it past any obstacles. The first obstacle we come across is less than 300 feet into the trail.  We all take a look at it and the leader says he is going to give it a try. He promptly gets stuck and has to winch himself off.  Now we are the only Jeep in this group and have probably the most capable rig on the trail. So I do what anybody would do and I drive right around that first obstacle and take a rash of shit for doing so.  Just because the Jeep is capable doesn’t mean the driver was.  Plus I didn’t want to run the risk of breaking the damn Jeep 300 feet into the first trail.  We all start heading up the mountain and I realize quickly that mud tires are great in the mud and there is a reason they are not called snow tires. We continue up the trail and things start to get real narrow.  I mean the branches and trees are knocking the mirrors in and banging on the side of the jeep so hard we figured there would be dents. At one point a large branch smacked the top of the windshield frame so hard I figured we dented the frame and cracked the fiberglass top.  The whole time Shaina and I are laughing our asses off because the Jeep has what looks to be a $100 Macco special paint job and to us every dent and scratch is a story we can tell and look back on.

We finally realize we are at the top of the mountain when the trail abruptly ends and we are left with figuring out how to turn 11 vehicles around in an area that might fit 5.  The next hour we spend playing a life size game of Tetris with trucks.  The trip down the mountain was much quicker. We reach the first obstacle again and most everybody tries to tackle it this time around. After taking 3 hours of abuse for not trying it the first time there was no way we were not taking it on this time.  Prior to attempting it I get out and scout out the best path.  With my plan in my head we make our way to the obstacle, as soon as the front left tire hit it the obstacle my plan flew out the window and I went with the old stand bye of throttle through everything.  We made it through without even the slightest hold up. This opened a world of what I am sure at some point will be over confidence in my off-roading ability. Our leader than proved he could get stuck on the same obstacle going the other direction and had to winch himself off yet again.  That ended the first trail and after meeting back up at the all in one country store some of us headed on to the next trail while some headed to a different trail.

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(Trying to keep the drinks cold, They ended up freezing in a short amount of time)

Now down to 6 rigs we head off to the next spot. The road leading up to the 2nd trail would be interesting and somewhat terrifying on a dry day.  Toss in 3-4 inches of snow and it made for 30 minutes of ass puckering so tight I could have probably made a diamond.   This access “road” I use the term road very liberally in this description as the “road” was really a glorified cart path.  It was about 15 feet wide and about as smooth as a ribbed condom. It had I would guess a 9-12% and probably 15-20 180 degree switch backs.  There are no guard rails and on the driver’s side was a rock wall about 200-300 feet tall while on the passenger’s side there is a sheer cliff about 200-300 feet down with nothing but sporadic large trees to stop you should the vehicle go over.  No problem let’s do this after all we are all in 4wd vehicles.  So we start up the “road’ and it doesn’t take me long to remember I forgot once again to switch into 4wd. I’m new to this whole thing after all. Now I don’t know if you can switch on the fly with our Jeep so I figure I will tough it out in 2wd for a while as I do not want to stop on this packed snow covered “road” .  Being in 2wd wasn’t an issue until you tried to accelerate out of the switchbacks at which point the rear tires would just spin sending the Jeep sideways and me getting in touch with my inner drift driving skills. I was having some fun with this and was not kicking the jeep sideways on purpose but using it to my advantage to get up the next incline. Shaina on the other hand found a new view of the mountain.  The reason for this was that 200-300 foot drop on her side would move from the side window to the front window and she would get an even better look at the drop off when the Jeeps back end would start to think about passing its front end. At one point she asked are you doing that on purpose. Which I of course answered no, this was the truth…..This time.  It seems she was not quit as confident in the Jeep and the “road” as I was. Truth be told she was probably not as confident in my driving as I was which is also a very good instinct for her to have. After getting home she informed me she was having fun sliding but had a nagging suspicion that is something happened I may not be able to recover control fast enough. She was probably correct after all the road was 15 feet wide and the Jeep 10 feet long. This didn’t leave much room for error.  So I figure it was time to test out shifting to 4wd on the fly.  I grab the 4wd lever and give it a yank, after a quick grind of the gears it’s in 4wd.  What would you know you can switch on the fly but it doesn’t sound like the Jeep likes it but it worked.  We reach the top and head onto the trail.  This trail is much wider and has some awesome views.  It also has water holes or ice holes as they turned out to be.   We all had a blast hitting the sippy holes and splashing mud everywhere.   We were extremely happy to have the Jeeps height on our side as some of the water was still up to the doors.  Again I found the best way to get through the water holes was with a shit ton of throttle.  This served two purposes, one was to make sure we made it through and two was to splash as much water as we could everywhere.   Once we reached the top we quickly realized that the gate was blocking our planed way out and that we were going to have to tackle the access “road” again but this time going downhill.  With the sun setting fast we all turned around and booked our way back to the road because none of us wanted to be on the road in the dark.

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(Shaina and I at the top of the first trail)

Since I am writing this you can guess we made it down the hill safe and sound, we all headed into town to grab some dinner and a couple beers before heading home.  We shared stories and talked about what we broke on our trucks and started planning the next trip. The Jeep held up awesome, no issues at all and the worst damage was a block of ice bent the license plate and the only other issue was losing a valve stem cap which caused the stem to fill with ice making it hard to refill the tire.  We had a blast and meet some great people. It was great to beat on the Jeep a bit and put it through its paces. It was now time to head back to the city as we had a party to get to. Shaina jumped behind the wheel and we hit the road. This is when I realized she wasn’t bullshitting when she said there was a lot of cold air blowing on the passenger’s feet.  Looks like something else I need to fix along with a laundry list of other things.  I consider myself very lucky, most guys have a Honey-Do list for their house I have it for our Jeep.  And I have a wife that wants to help out.  So while the jeep is the most impractical vehicle most anybody could own it is by far the best vehicle in our fleet for no other reason than we get to enjoy it together in every aspect.

Until our next adventure thanks for reading

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(I think she looks better dirty)

Year in Review

I think it is important at least to me to sit down and reflect on the prior year.  I personally do this so that I do not take anything for granted.  You should never take the good stuff for granted, we all know that but I do not want to take the bad stuff for granted either. For anything bad that has happened in my life I have learned more than I have from all the good stuff. What was my last year like:  I traveled to 3 continents, spent Christmas and New Year’s Day surfing and swimming.  I got to have one of the most amazing New Year’s eves with complete stranger who have since because friends. I traveled to a music festival to appease my wife and came out the other end with a new-found respect and love for music and festivals in general. If you are at all a music fan you must go to SXSW!  I incorporated my photography business, started and closed a photography forum.  I failed stats once and passed it once, being .500 means I had a better year than the Cubs did.  I was promoted at work. I took up cycling and meet 90% of my personal goals. I got to spend amazing times with friends and laughed until it hurt on a number of occasions.   But for all that good there is bad. I had to say good-bye to a friend that changed my life for the better in the short 10 years I knew her. At some point I will talk more about that.  I just don’t have it in me to do right now. So that’s my year in review.

Now that is covered onto New Year’s resolutions.  So by this time into the New Year most people have already abandoned their new year’s resolutions. Part of me is very grateful for that since I no longer have to wait in the gym to use the equipment. I find the act of making New Year’s resolutions completely and underlay stupid.  I feel the same about Bucket lists which is yet another topic I am sure I will rant about in the future.   Every year people come up with a list of stuff they want to do different and every year the majority of them make a half ass effort to accomplish the action they want.  Than 3 weeks into the year they give up or forget about it and chalk it up to “hey at least I tried” Well that’s bull shit if you ask me.  I do not make New Year’s resolutions. Why?  it’s not because I think I am above them or anything or that I feel that I have nothing I need to improve in my life. It is actually just the opposite. I have a metric shit ton of things I need to improve in my life and if I tried to tackle all of them once a year I would also fail just like the majority of other people. For years I came up with a list of resolutions and I failed, than I would put off what I wanted to change about myself for the next year. This repeated itself year after year after year.  The next thing I knew I was 10 years older and had improved next to nothing in my life.  I think I actually tried to quit smoking 5 years in a row.  You know when I ended up quitting smoking for the last time? September 11th 2008.  It had absolutely nothing to do with New Years. It had everything to do with not waiting to make a change.

I think most people fail at New Year’s resolutions because it is acceptable to fail at them.  Or because they make a huge list of things they want to change and in the end it is so daunting that they give up on all of it.  So how do you go about changing the things in your life that need to be changed? That’s different for everybody and up to you to figure out. I am in no position to tell people how to change their lives I can only speak to what seems to be working for me.  What has worked for me over the last few years is; I just do it! Every month I try to find something in my life that I feel needs to be changed.  Lately it is using the proper words in their proper form. This has come to make a lot of my friends very happy! In conjunction to that I wanted to read more books and be better husband.  By working each thing into a daily routine I find I tend to accomplish more.  The next thing I know I am reading two books a month (or in my case I listen to them) I come off more intelligent because I tend to know when to use their, there and they’re and my wife hasn’t left so I must be doing something right there (see what I is just did there).

More so than making resolutions I think people should take the time to look back on the previous year and be honest with themselves on how it went.  What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What did you do that was OK but you could do better in the future.  I had a lot of great things happen in the past year. But I also made a huge amount of mistakes and took a lot of great things for granted.  I failed a class in School which pushed off my graduation greatly; I spoke out too much at work and didn’t conform to corporate life properly which gave me the stigma of being and angry person.  I noticed these things and decided to make the changes I needed to make sooner than the New Year. I buckled down in school and passed that shit class. I evaluated how I fit into my current companies culture and decided I cared less about how my current boss viewed more and more about being true to who I was and what I wanted out of life than how my current boss or team viewed me.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t toned some things down at work. I like getting paid and all.  It just means I will not let the corporate bull shit and lack of desire crush my passion for certain aspects of my job that I enjoy.   I make conscious efforts to make positive changes to different aspects of my life throughout the year. I do not accomplish all of them but I accomplish a hell of a lot more than I did when I made New Year’s resolutions like so many others did. I hope to never slip back into the making empty resolutions that seem to be so tossed to the side and disregarded almost like it is a badge of honor to some to fail at their resolutions.

Well that’s my quick year in review and my outlook on New Year’s resolutions as a whole. The funny thing is when I sat down to start typing this it was going to be about “Hindsight is 20/20”.  That train of thought derailed along the way, welcome to how my brain works.  Sit down with one thing on your mind and go a completely different direction.  My wife is a saint for dealing with this on a regular basis.

Cheers,

Snow(Cold) Day Rant

As I write this it is 45 degrees with on and off mist of moisture in the air here in Herndon, Va.  Just in case you missed that, it is January 6th and is 45 degrees.   Yet 3 school districts in the area have closed because it is going to drop into the teens over 12 hours from now. Many more school districts have reported that they will close school tomorrow because it will be a low of 10 degrees. I don’t want to turn this into a “back when I was a kid rant” but for fuck sake what type of example are the schools in the area setting for kids when they close because it will be cold in a few hours or is going to be cold tomorrow.  The forecast shows that at 3pm it will still be in the upper 30s.  This goes beyond them closing down the government, schools and everything else because we are getting less than an inch of snow. It is 45 degrees and school is closed...No wonder we have a generation of people that feel they are entitled to everything they want.  Schools are not teaching kids to overcome adverse conditions. Instead they are teaching them that when things get a little rough we will make it easy on you because that how the real world work.  As one of my friends so eloquently put it, "Don’t let little Billy stand out in the cold! He may grow a beard and a pair of balls and become a man!!" News flash to everybody, it fucking winter, it gets cold in the winter this is why they sell winter coats and long johns.  If they closed school every time there was a low of 10 degree in Alaska or North Dakota or any of the number of other cities or states that are happy to see a high of 10 degrees the kids would never go to school. Yes I had life a lot easier than my parents and my parents had it easier than theirs. I understand that this is a natural progression but at what point to we put a stop to it and stop coddling people. I know I am not the only person that had to work through adverse conditions and figure out how to get shit done. I am also not the only person who had to dress for the cold and prepare to be outside to wait for the bus every day.   I am grateful now for the cold Chicago mornings waiting for the bus because it taught me responsibility and how to look at the weather forecast! Noble thought of preparing in advance for what is to come, god forbid we teach kids to prepare for anything.  The message being sent by closing schools when it is cold is long lasting.  I see it all the time, I can’t come to work because it is raining, snowing, to cold out.  Employees not showing up to work for any number of bullshit reasons because in my opinion they have been programmed to make excuses from a young age. Pusification of a nation is a great title for this behavior.

Some people are going to say “You don’t have kids and if you did you would feel different about sending them out in the cold” Yeah……No I wouldn’t and the fact that I do not have kids I feel puts me in a better spot to be open minded and see the whole picture. I am not jaded by the fact my little precious off spring has to suffer in the cold. My parents didn’t feel bad when they told me I had to go stand in the cold to get to school or that I should look at the weather the night before so I was better prepared for my commute the next morning. They told me to make sure I dressed warm.  This is one of the lessons I bitched about nonstop when I was in high school yet learned to love when I got older.

Others have told me that they don’t want their kids going to school when it’s this cold out because they could slip and fall on the ice and might get hurt.  Are you fucking kidding me! If that’s the case you should wrap your kid in bubble wrap and lock them in their room. Also I hope you understand that ice forms at 32 degree and the logic for this argument would mean your kids are not allowed to leave the house for most of the month of January and February. I could go on and on about this as it really strikes a nerve for me but I will leave it at I am grateful that my parents didn’t coddle me and try to protect me for anything bad that could happen. As for those who make the decisions to close schools at the first sign of any adverse weather. Thank you for doing your part in shaping a generation of entitled assholes who expect to skate through life without ever having to man up and deal with anything outside their narrow comfort zone.

Lets get this started

Ramblings of a middle aged guy who never wants to grow up

Fair warning to all before reading any further. I say Fuck a lot; I spell at the level of an 8th grader on a good day. To say I a grammatically challenged would be an understatement. To say I am an opinionate person would also be an understatement. If any of this would bother you please do not read any further.

I tend to speak what is on my mind and deal with the consequence of hurt feelings after what I have to say it out there in the open. I try not to mince my words and feel that political correctness is bull shit in most cases. I do not understand why it falls on us to be mindful of how others react to what we say. After all it is my personal opinion and as long as I am not oppressing yours than it is your responsibility to not take what other say so fucking serious.

I grew up in a working class family in Chicago and transplanted to the Northern Virginia area about 10 years ago, talk about culture shock. It’s almost like polar opposites of the humanity spectrum at times. I was going to be here 2-3 years and then set out to find the next place to live, that got derailed by many things, all of which I am grateful for. Growing up I was taught to work hard for everything you have and to treat people right. Mind you, sometimes treating people right is telling them the truth, which could hurt them a bit at first but is much better in the long run.

What you might read about should you decide to stick around; my distain for piss poor customer service, entitled ass holes, travel, concerts, photography, cycling and any number of other things that I feel might be worth rambling about. But for christ sake what you should not do is take anything I write to serious as it is just the random thoughts of one person. I have no intentions of changing anybody’s opinions or making the world a better place. I just want to write and vent.