Monday, December 31, 2018

Let's Dig In: Religion Part II (where my existential crises and limited philosophy skills play together)

These are some of the rabbit holes my brain goes down when I'm off on an existential crisis. A majority of times I'll stop myself from going down the rabbit hole because I don't want to think about such things, and because there really aren't answers to the questions, at least not satisfying ones. But it is important to think about such things... sometimes. You just also have to stop yourself because it could drive you bonkers. So for me, maybe writing these things down will help me to stop before I go completely bonkers. Also it's important to stop oneself because these thoughts often get dark and can lead to dark corners of the mind that house the negative voices. And giving them a voice can lead to bad behavior and wrong choices and ultimately harm others or oneself. So on THAT lovely thought, here are things and concepts I struggle with:

One of the first things you learn in church is that god created the heavens and the earth. *He created the world in seven days, and created "man" in his own image. I know as an enlightened individual that all the earths creatures were not made in a week, but what a day is to god is probably not the same to us humans. We equate a day as a single revolution of the earth. So if god is sitting up there in the universe looking down at our little spinning ball, it's probably spinning pretty fast in his eyes. Basically I'm saying time and space are irrelevant here. So yes, I think those who take the "god created the heavens and the earth in seven days" thing literally are a bunch of ignorant fools. Now if I take the stance of only science and that gasses and quarks, atoms, and space dust floating around and banging into each other and slowly over billions of years making planets and stuff, I can understand it to a point. I get evolution and the slow creation of plants and animals. But you cannot create something from nothing. So where did those elements come from? Okay so there is stuff out in the universe. But where did it come from? The worlds religions answer that with a being who created the stuff of which we and the universe is made of. Ta Da! This is how many people of science are also religious. The god got it all started. But do I believe that? I can't wrap my head around that concept. So if I can't even believe that fundamental element of faith of pretty much every religion in the world... am I just screwed? I can't explain the something from nothing.

Second thing is the concept of a soul. Humans evolved over billions of years into the species we are today. And if we don't ruin the planet or blow it up in our stupidity we will continue to evolve. So if god created us, at what point in our evolution did he decide this is the point in our development where I give them a soul? We as a species, religious or not, kind of accept that we are conscious beings, the smartest species on the planet, and have something in us that sets us apart from all other species. Conscious thought, a soul. But is it a soul? Is it evolutionary instinct? Intuition? Something happened the day my mom died. And everyone in the room saw it. My mom left her body before her body stopped working. She was still breathing, heart beating, but she wasn't there. Her "soul" was gone. We looked at her and said she's already gone. Just the outer shell was there. Science cannot explain my mom leaving her body prior to her body dying. But religion can. Religion gives an explanation of a soul and what it is. So did her instinct, intuition, and brain (whatever it is that makes us the unique species that we are) stop working first and that's what we saw or did her soul leave first. Did god take her soul prior to her body completely stopping? I don't know. I can go see my mom at her grave. I know that her ashes are under her name plaque. But I "know" she isn't there. What made her her isn't in that urn in the ground. But I don't think she is out floating around in the universe as a conscious being either. And I don't think she is a conscious being in heaven either. I understand that it makes us feel better to think that after we die there is something else. That we continue on in some way. It makes us deal with people dying around us easier to accept. To "know they are in a better place" or whatever. I kind of like the idea that we just cease to be. The brain switches off, the body stops working, and our consciousness just goes to sleep. The end. There's no judgement. No purgatory. No heaven. No hell.

So does this mean I believe in nihilism? Eh..... not really. Because I want my life to mean something. I want purpose. I want meaning. I want to be on this planet for a reason. If I believed that life in general is meaningless and my existence means nothing, then there would be nothing holding me back from just ending said life right now, because what's the point. I don't want that, and I don't think any of you want that either. I need my life on this planet to mean something, to have an impact. I need a reason to live, to keep breathing. I'm not done yet.

If interested, here's some other interesting/funny things I find on the internet:

Here's an 18 year old kid, who at 16 had an existential crisis and his conclusions: NateIsLame My Thoughts on Religion

And here's a collaboration of a young animator (TheOdd1sOut) and a musician (Boyinaband) poking a little fun at living a balanced life: Life is Fun

Lastly for the day, I take issue with religious leaders who play politics. On second thought, I don't want to talk about this. Lets just say that these people are utter shit heads who are horrible, idolize and worship false gods, are power and money hungry (the exact opposite of what a religious leader should be), and give religion and believers a bad name and image to the world.

*In the earliest versions of the bible before being translated into English multiple times, god was not masculine or feminine. God was just god, a being. But in our so called modern culture, god has been given masculine characteristics and prefixes. So growing up in the church, god was always male. And therefore males were better than females. So I always felt this underlying resentment toward the church because I, as a female, was somehow deemed a lesser being. Because Eve was made after Adam and from Adam, she therefore belonged to him. Was less then. That may not have been the lesson intended, but that's what I learned. And no one ever said, "no, no, that's just some dickhead mansplaining bullshit. What god actually said was all humans are created equal and in god's image." Period. End of debate. Male, female, equal. Lesbian, gay, trans, equal. Black, brown, white, equal. Native, immigrant, refugee, equal. Rich, poor, homeless, equal. Autistic, genius, dumb as a doorknob, equal. Whatever you are, you are not more than or less than any other human on this spinning blue ball we all call home in gods eyes. That is what should have been taught in Sunday school. That is what should be taught in Sunday school.

Let's Dig In Series links: Religion Part I     Depression Part I      Obsession Part I

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Have you tried rebooting? I hear it's all the rage

Just turn it off and on again. Instead of New Years resolutions, and yes I know I'm posting this before Christmas, I'm rebooting myself. Every single New Years resolution I have ever made, I've broken. It doesn't work for me. And I'm not saying making them is bad. I think for some people, maybe even many people, they are good. They are suppose to motivate you, to make you want to become better human beings. So be a better human being, dammit! sorry

I've decided to reboot instead. Like clearing your web browser. Or cleaning out your cache and deleting your cookies (your web cookies, not the real ones in the cupboard). Or hitting reset on that game. But more like actually rebooting your computer after it crashes right before your auto save saves so you loose all the work you just did. Yeah, that. So instead of punching my metaphorical computer (myself) or going all Office Space on it every time it crashes (fails at something), I'm going to reboot (start over) it.

I'm also not waiting till next week either (why does everything new have to start on January 1st? It's just another day, it's not like some super awesome most amazing person was also born on that day or anything). I hesitate to say I've had a sucky year because I know that many have had WAY worse times than I, but it wasn't all sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows. Not even a single unicorn.

Part of my reboot was getting help for my depression. Yay. I started journaling, which has helped in pulling the writer part of me out of her dark dank hole (hello blogger, nice to know you still exist on the internet). And today I got a haircut. May not seem like such a big deal to you but I haven't cut my hair in well over a year. I did cut my own bangs (so I could continue to see out of my eyeballs) and I did shave off the back (that was sort of liberating), but still, going out and having some stranger try to make small talk while cutting my hair is a big deal, okay? Geesh. I think I did good though. I think I said enough random mundane things to not make her think I was too much of an awkward, slightly pudgy, crazy cat lady freak show. There were only a few long drawn out silences. I call that a win. Also the "blowout" part where she pulls your hair with the brush thingy and the hair dryer bit felt good. Yeah, I'm not weird at all.

Also today I bought a new shower poof. So out with the old and in with the new. Apparently you're suppose to switch them out every 30 days????? Seriously?? Yeah, I uh.... well... *cough* I have a new one now. I should switch to a new toothbrush while I'm thinking about it.

With the journaling thing I mentioned above, I've been writing three goals for the next day. They are by no means monumental goals. Not trying to save the rhinos or anything. They are usually quite simple, like do all your work assignments, make dinner, go for a run, do laundry, or shower because you stink. Small things. And some days even these small things are too monumental for me to accomplish, but I can usually do one or two. So I am finding that even though some days I can only manage a shower, I've accomplished something that day. I wasn't a failure... at that. And guess what, I ran twice this week. Don't mind that that was last weeks goal, but I did do it. I'm learning to celebrate the little accomplishments. I got out of bed today and put on adult clothes! Woo Hoo!

So yeah, please stand by while I reboot... it may take a little time... you may want to go get some snacks.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Let's Dig In: Religion Part I

*Trigger Warning* We're going to talk about organized religion and why I don't like it.

I started going to church in utero.  The church I grew up in wasn't the strictest, but it wasn't the most open either. There were rules, and you were suppose to follow them. There were certain things you were suppose to do and certain things you were suppose to say and if you didn't do those things, you were told you were wrong, and you were living in sin and you were not going to heaven because of it unless you asked for forgiveness and changed and conformed. I never felt bullied. There was pressure, but I never felt threatened. I never felt comfortable though either. I never felt like I belonged there.

Being gay was wrong. Being transgender was wrong. Dating or marrying someone outside the faith was very frowned upon. A former pastor was kicked out and his license was taken away because he and his wife got divorced. So growing up in that environment was at times very confusing to me. My grandparents got divorced but my grandma was still a church member. At first, as a child, I just accepted what I was told and taught. But I was at odds with what I was told to believe and do and be and what I thought and felt I was and who I wanted to be. I can remember when I was very little, maybe 5 years old, and my mom or dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. A simple question asked to many a 5 year olds. I distinctly remember saying, "I want to be a boy when I grow up". I don't remember what my parents thought of my answer or what was even said but I vividly remember saying that. I was standing in the hallway at our old house outside my then bedroom. I meant it. And I remember feeling the peach fuzz on my upper lip and thinking when will this grow into a mustache? How old will I be when it starts to grow? (The answer is early 20's) Of course now when I see any random hair that isn't fuzz on my face I yank that sucker out. I also remember thinking when I was in my late teens and 20's, thinking that because I wasn't into dating or boys or having sex that I was maybe a lesbian. But then I thought, I'm not really into girls either. So what was wrong with me? I did figure that one out. I am heterosexual, but I'm also asexual and if you don't know what that is or means, you should go figure that out, go learn something and broaden your horizons on what the range of human sexualities and genders are (there are more than two). This was always a conflict within the religion I was brought up in. There were two genders, there were men and women and they had certain roles to play and if you deviated too much from those roles then you were deviant and sinning and hurting god. Well fuck that shit.

It was okay to be single... as long as you were still looking for your mate. "That poor lady. She must be really sad and lonely. She hasn't found her other half yet." So sorry, that you think I'm only half a person for not marrying.

I know that many of you who read this know me personally from the church, but you also then know that I swear a lot in this space and many of you also know I don't go to church now as an older adult. I finally stopped going every week by around 19-20, and completely stopped by age 21. I only go now for special occasions. When my mom was still alive, she wanted the family to all go to Christmas Eve service. So I went because she's my mom. But I wouldn't participate. I don't pray. But out of respect when my dad or other family or friends do, I bow my head.

I'm just uncomfortable there. I've tried other churches, other denominations, and other religions. I'm not at ease with any of them or within any of their walls. I feel like I'm being manipulated there. They use music, lighting, and the way the leader speaks to invoke certain emotions within me. I don't like that. But that's what they are suppose to do. It's suppose to be a "religious experience". How else are they to do it? I don't know, but I don't like it.

So now do I call myself a christian? No. Do I call myself an atheist? No. Do I call myself agnostic? No. I don't know what I believe. Do I think there is an afterlife? Usually no. But then I find myself in conversations with people and I say things like, "well my mom is happy now, she's with Jesus." When I die, will my soul/spirit go somewhere? I don't think so, but then I think that's kind of sad. Aren't we suppose to think about how great it will be to be reunited with all our loved ones again, like my mom? If there is an afterlife, will I go to the "good place" because as a child/young person I "accepted Jesus into my heart"? Well, that depends on which religion you believe.

I start to question myself and doubt myself and think there might be something wrong with me because I just don't feel or believe in it. And I see these amazing and brilliant people around me like my dad who is super smart and has a very emotional and analytical mind who whole heartedly believes in god and heaven and who knows with every fiber of his being that when he dies, he will see his wife again. How can I then, in my own mind believe that that is all bullshit? That religion is just man made stuff made up to make people feel better about those unanswerable existential questions? Does he feel like a failure because his children aren't necessarily religious? Do other's see him as a failure for it? You better not, because we're freaking awesome!

Then I think well I'm a good person. I try to make the world around me better than I found it. So then if I'm wrong and there is a god and the religion I was raised in is "the one correct" religion will I then go to hell? Because I chose not to believe or do I get to go to heaven because deep down, I'm a good person. Are all the other religions wrong? Because if you look at the majority of the earths religions, the big picture and over arching themes are all the same. It's only in the details where they differ. So then are all religions the correct religion? Or are all these people who believe such things stupid for believing? There are some very intelligent people out there who are religious. They can't all be wrong can they? Then I think well then why do I have such a hard time with the concept?

I was religious for half my life so far. I tried. I tried to fit in. I tried to conform. I was in the scouting program. I was in church musicals, youth group, bible studies, worship team member. Even went to church summer camps and conferences. Listened to christian music, went to christian concerts and festivals. I was never comfortable. I couldn't be who I wanted to be. I couldn't be my true self. I couldn't say what I wanted to say. I was never comfortable in my own skin there. Why would I continue to go to a place week after week, year after year, if I was uncomfortable? That's like a slow torture.

Again, this is mostly about organized religion and churches. I have a long list of issues I have with organized religious institutions. Which is why I won't go to church services. (and that goes for protestant, catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc.) Maybe at some point I will delve into some of them, but not now.

People always tell young people or anyone to "just be yourself". Well I can't do that with these walls and rules and judgement.

So am I a christian (religious in general)? No. Am I agnostic? No. Am I an atheist? No. So what am I then? You have to be something. Everyone has to be something. Well, if you have to have an answer now then, the best I can do is, I am human. You may think that's a cop out or lame or a way to avoid the question and answering it but that's all I got right now. I am human.

Is my dad wrong for believing in a higher power? No. Am I wrong for not believing? I hope not.  What you choose to believe is right for you. What my dad believes is right for him. Everyone's beliefs are individual and specific to each. No two people believe the exact same thing. So what I believe is very different than my dad and neither is incorrect. Both are valid. And belief and faith evolves. It grows and adapts and morphs just like we do. We as individuals grow, learn, forget, adapt, and morph our entire lives. My beliefs will change. And so should yours.

Let's Dig In Series links: Depression Part I      Obsession Part I

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Let's Dig In: Obsession Part I, At it Again... Not quite an addict with a pen

Before we even get into this, I started working on this months ago (literally months ago). So the beginning dates to this past September. And slowly got worked on a bit at a time. And I know this won't be everyone's cup of tea. This took sooooo much time and effort. There's a lot of links. (all links are to the band's YouTube videos whenever possible) And it's not a funny poop story or roadtrip adventure. Maybe later. Okay, so here it is:

My dad switched up his music playlist a few weeks ago (it's back to his usual again - it was a short lived diversion), and thought I should do the same. Actually I've finally moved on a bit from Thirty Seconds to Mars 24/7 finally anyway. Not sick of them by any means, but thought I should put some variety in there. Started slow with the new Imagine Dragons single, Natural. Then I saw that Muse has a new album dropping in November and pre-ordered it and downloaded the singles they have released so far ahead of the album. (Imagine Dragons and Muse's albums are now out) And while I was scrolling through my itunes where I saw that Muse was releasing new stuff soon, I saw that Twenty One Pilots were as well.







Sweet mother of God, these boys! Just... UUUHHHHHHGGGGGGGGGG
Where do I start? First, lets begin where I first heard them... on the radio. They rose to radio over time and then pretty much saturated the alternative, rock, and pop stations to the point of being over played between 2015-2017 (they even won a Grammy in 2017). I heard them on the radio, liked the songs, and then went into itunes and downloaded the two albums that were getting the radio play: Vessel (2013) and Bluryface (2015). I first saw them on TV in 2015, with their performance at the VMA's (that's when I realized they were just two guys). In 2016 they released a single, Heathens for the Suicide Squad movie. And that was pretty much it for me. I would listen to the albums every once in a while, but never really delved into the duo, or their music videos and such. I understood then that their music and lyrics had substance and meaning (how can you not realize this with songs like Migraine and Car Radio, for Christ sake), but for the most part, I kept my listening superficial. I thought they had spent most of their career (I thought they were much older than they actually are) underground (i.e. purposely away from radio, radio charts, being famous, etc.), had a few radio hits and got mainstream exposure, but preferred to go back underground. (after doing some research when I got obsessed, I learned that they were underground and got pushed into the mainstream, and after the (over)exposure, purposely went silent - I'll explain more later). My first impression of them was that they were these intense kinda angry guys, maybe a bit older than me, who hated being exposed to the mainstream. Booooiiiii was I wrong.

And then... I saw a video interview recommended with Tyler Joseph (the singer/song writer) on YouTube (while I was looking at Thirty Seconds to Mars stuff). Yay for YouTube with their, hey you may like this section. It was 35 minutes long and about their new album coming out on October 5th. Oh my goodness. I went into the interview not knowing anything about the band, Tyler Joseph, or anything about their upcoming album. And after, I was intrigued. Not just intrigued, but full on "I have to know it all, and I have to know it now". And so the deep dive into YouTube everything Twenty One Pilots began. I have yet to come up for air. I even re-watched that initial interview after I learned more about them and caught so much more upon the second viewing (I think I've watched it 5 times now-don't judge me). Here's a link to it if you are so inclined. It's REALLY good.

Seriously these two boys are amazing. I'll try and be as brief as possible in explaining their background. Back in 2007, Tyler Joseph made his first record, No Phun Intended in the basement of his parents house (it was never officially released). He was 17, a senior in high school, and paid to put the songs on itunes (He's since deleted them-but nothing is ever truly gone from the internet). He, with two friends (Chris Salih on drums and Nick Thomas on bass) formed Twenty One Pilots in 2009 and self-released their first album on their own, the self titled Twenty One Pilots. While working on their second album (again self-released), Regional at Best, in 2011, both Salih and Thomas left the band and Josh Dun (drums) joined (who met Tyler after one of their shows and they became fast friends). They got the attention of the music industry by selling out large venues in their home state of Ohio and signed with Fueled by Ramen in 2012 (Tyler successfully negotiated to maintain ownership of their previous songs and albums and all future songs. That's amazing for a 22 year old). They released their "first" studio album (but really their third) Vessel in 2013. Followed by Blurryface in 2015. Followed by the single, Heathens in 2016 for the movie Suicide Squad. Great song, horrible movie. They then went completely silent (stopped touring, no interviews, no social media) for 15 months (the dreaded hiatus). And during that time came up with Trench (released October 5th, 2018). I recommend the video series' the band puts out for their releases and tours, starting with Regional at Best, Blurryface Tour Highlights, Twenty One Pilots Goes East, Emotional Roadshow Tour Highlights, Sleeper Series, and the Bandito Tour Series (which is going on now).

Ok so now that you're sufficiently bored, on to the cool part (it's all cool to me). These two have a very passionate fan base which they named the Skeleton Clique. And with any fan base there is drama and screaming tweens and teenage girls, but we won't dwell on that (because that will just make all our heads hurt). What I think truly makes them unique and powerful are a few things. 1: their genre blending (they do not fit into any category) much like Linkin Park. 2: their lyrical content (very introspective, often very dark, but always hopeful and uplifting [you have to pay attention]), and 3: the two boys themselves.

Point 1: These boys blend and merge genres not just in an album, but in songs. Tyler will rap and play the ukulele at the same time or pound the piano keys in a hard rock or electric synth dance song. A few examples: Ode to Sleep and Heavydirtysoul, both of which opened each album Vessel and Blurryface respectively. Many times song structure is completely thrown out the window, as well as time signatures, tempos, and genre. And somehow it never sounds wrong.

Point 2: There are only a few songs that aren't introspective in some way. Tyler has only written two love songs... both of which are to his wife and both are somewhat twisted (Tear in my Heart and Smithereens). He wrote House of Gold (on Vessel) for his mom, and Legend (on Trench) honoring his late grandfather (who graces the cover of Vessel along with Josh's grandfather). He never writes fluff. No sex, drugs, or money bullshit. Which is why I despise most rap music today. It's usually very personal and about his and Josh's personal demons. Their songs are multi-layered. He almost always writes in metaphors, so that listeners can inform their own meanings. One of my favorites off Vessel is Guns for Hands which basically talks about how he has a hard time going to sleep knowing that there are people out there (fans) who are harming themselves or thinking of killing themselves. He writes:

I know [...] That you all have guns
And you never put the safety on
And you all have plans,
To take it, to take it, don't take it, take it, take it

He then goes on to say to take that negative energy and instead of focusing on yourself, to turn it and project it at him.
We've turned our hands to guns, trade in our thumbs for ammunition
I must forewarn you, of my disorder, or my condition
'Cause when the sun sets, it upsets what's left of my invested interest
Interested in putting my fingers to my head
The solution is, I see a whole room of these mutant kids
Fused at the wrist, I simply tell them they should shoot at this
Simply suggest my chest and this confused music, it's
Obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist

He talks a lot about depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. Tyler admits that he suffers with depression (like real dark). Josh admits to suffering from anxiety (crippling). Both are very open about their struggles. And although Tyler has never said in public, we can speculate from his lyrics that his depression has led him to some very dark places where perhaps suicide was contemplated. (he writes in Migraine: Thank God it's Friday cause Fridays will always be better than Sundays' Cause Sundays are my suicide days. And in Car Radio: There's no hiding for me I'm forced to deal with what I feel There is no distraction to mask what is real I could pull the steering wheel. Addict with a Pen: My trial was filed as a crazy suicidal head case.) Some fans go as far to say that he may have even attempted it. But again, that is all speculation. However, he freely admits and is very clear that his music and the creative process of making and performing said music saved his life and continues to do so. He delves into this very subject in the above linked interview.

Car Radio (on Vessel) talks about how dangerous it can be to be left alone with your thoughts when there is no distraction. How it is both frightening and necessary at times. They've also jabbed at the music industry a few times (listen to Holding on to You, Lane Boy, and Levitate). If you watch Holding on to You, then watch the Behind the Scenes of that video, and then watch the music video again... there is a particular scene in the video involving a rope, that Tyler had a very real moment that was caught in the behind the scenes. Two people in the video saw this moment and tried to help him, only one of them succeeded. But if you go back and watch that moment in the music video... he isn't acting. That's just real, raw, and honest emotion.

My current favorites are as follows: Air Catcher (off their self-titled album). It reminded me right away of an old Colplay song, Politik the opener off their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head (which definitely came out first in 2002 when Tyler was still just a wee 13 year old) I listened to this on my drive home from Arcata way up in Humboldt County recently. It was on repeat until I learned the words and then went on repeat some more while I upped the volume and sung along... very loudly. I feel on this song and on this album in particular you can just feel Tyler's frustration and anger at life and the noise in his head and struggling to understand it and handle it.

Guns for Hands
Which I've already talked about above.
He says: While you're doing fine, there's some people and I
Who have a really tough time getting through this life
So excuse us while we sing to the sky



Cut My Lip

Critics have often said of them that their songs and lyrics celebrate or glorify depression and suicide. They couldn't be farther from the truth. They weren't paying close enough attention. Listen to Neon Gravestones off their latest album. This is one of the only times he doesn't write in metaphors. Yes Tyler writes about his demons. He writes about depression, self harm, anxiety, doubt, and suicide. But you have to pay attention. In every song I've mentioned so far, each is a story, a narrative, and each have a solution or conclusion that ends in victory.... not death. Migraine: And I will say that we should take a day to break away From all the pain our brain has made, the game is not played alone And I will say that we should take a moment and hold it And keep it frozen and know that life has a hopeful undertone

Truce: Now the night is coming to an end The sun will rise and we will try again Stay alive, stay alive for me
He's always offering solutions. Options that have helped him. Whether that be their music, any music, creating something, creating any form of art, faith in a higher power, or reaching out to family or friends. Kitchen Sink (Regional at Best) is a perfect example.

Okay on to point 3: because I can ramble on and on about song lyrics. These two boys are just pure joy. Geniuses. Precious smol beans that must be protected. They really do just radiate positivity.  They are goofy goobers. Complete and utter dorks. They have an amazing bromance. They really are best friends. And they feed off each other and rely on each other. I honestly don't think they would be the young men that they are today or be the musicians they are today without each other. I was trying to find a video or interview that best encapsulates them but there just isn't just one. There are so many little gems and inside jokes and really good interviews (why Taco Bell is sacred, why they are called smol beans, their aversion to bananas, the fact that they make up a new story of how they met any time they are asked). I'll just say if you choose to go digging, here are my suggestions. For good interviews check out the ones by Stryker from KROQ, Donny Fandago from 105.7 the Point, and the "press conference" where fans got to ask questions by ALT 98.7 FM, The Woody Show from 2015. And just because it is freaking hilarious, this 4 minute video of Josh and Tyler's conversation while playing Happy Wheels Adventure (video game) where they coined the term "Use your glutes".

So I said I'd dive into their genius a bit, and I've touched on it slightly already, but if you choose to dig into their music, you notice themes and concepts and an evolution right from the very beginning. Now whether or not they planned this all out from the beginning, I doubt, but because of how Tyler writes and the way they construct their music and live shows and music videos, it allows them the add on meaning and new interpretations onto their older material and continue stories and themes that were started way back in the very beginning. The Blurryface album was about a character named Blurryface and was introduced in the song Stressed Out. A character that represents Tyler's insecurities. And by the end of the album, Blurryface is defeated (Blurryface is manifested visually by the black paint Tyler smears on his hands and neck in music videos and live performances). In the latest album, Trench, and if you clicked and watched that first interview, you know that it is a "concept" album and expands what they created in the previous album. Artist don't really make concept albums anymore. It's quite risky, they risk alienating radio and mainstream media consumers (which they don't care if they do). I can only think of three other bands that have done/do this recently. The American Idiot album by Green Day, Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, and what the Gorillaz do with all their albums. So part of their genius is that you don't have to know any of the story to enjoy the album(s). You may not understand some of the lyrics, but it doesn't take away any of the surface enjoyment of the songs and there is meaning to each song that isn't tied to the concept. There are layers. But for those who like digging and stories and mysteries.... you can go down to the bottom, underneath the insane asylum and get lost in the world they have created. Some examples without going way nerdy on you (since you've stuck around this far):

The Jumpsuit video (Trench) is a continuation of the last video they made Heavydirtysoul from Blurryface. They actually knew and started planning Trench when they made that video. You can see that Tyler isn't wearing red (used as a theme on Blurryface) and Josh's hair color is yellow (Trench's color). The hooded figure driving the car is a Bishop (whom we don't get introduced to until Trench).
The three part story they made in the singles they released in their music video form: Jumpsuit : Nico and the Niners : Levitate are a call back to the song A Car, A Torch, A Death from their self-titled album (the videos tell a story even though they are track 1, 9, and 2 on the album). The song Car Radio (from Vessel) is mentioned in Levitate. The song My Blood has a call back to the lions den reference in Migraine (Vessel). The Nico and the Niners video has call backs to the music videos Stressed Out and Ride. And the car from the Heavydirtysoul video is in the Jumpsuit video as well as Levitate and is used in their live shows on the new tour.  Hype isn't, to my knowledge, a call back to any of their previous work but it just reminds me of my good old days. Very reminiscent of late 90's Oasis or early 00's Blink 182.

Then the way they announced their break (the dreaded hiatus) and the content for this world they created was so cool. There are whole websites and YouTube channels dedicated to it all. I just can't explain it here.

But if you so choose: The site they created is again genius (you have to start at the bottom of the page). Every couple days or weeks they would post something new to the site over the summer. And you can spend hours, days, weeks picking it apart or you can do what I did after solving just one mystery, go to the subreddit where everyone else already decoded stuff and posted their theories. I can't find the one I read now, but here's someone's synopsis of what went on to the lead up of the release of Trench. It's old now, and some of the theories (one in particular that Tyler is Clancy) have been proven incorrect now. But it's fun to get a glimpse of how fans were decoding things as they were happening. FPE (part of their iconography and tattooed on many a body, from the song Fairly Local, the Few, the Proud, the Emotional) now has another meaning in the world of DEMA (Failed Perimeter Escape) which if you are well versed in the world means so much more than just what the words are. They love doing things like this. Filling words that normally don't mean anything with meaning. Jumpsuit, East is Up, Bandito, Sahlo Folina. Say what now? That last one. There are layers upon layers to that one. Unscramble the letter and it spells out "all Ohio fans". "Sahlo" means to enable in Somali and the name of Folina has a meaning of "happiest when you are expressing in some creative, artistic way, and not conforming to strict routine" so it means "to enable expressive creations". Then in a Reddit Q&A, Tyler responded saying that, it's their cry for help when they're in trench. And then there's this theory, which I like a lot (you can skip to .56 to skip past the ad) Sahlo Folina.

Here is a list of YouTuber's who have really good content and explanations and theories about the new album and stuff. If you're lazy like me and want everyone else to do the work for you:

Pop Song Professor's theories and explanations on the new album Trench (he also does some really good song lyric analysis)
Dema for Dummies Part I click here
Dema for Dummies Part II click here
Dema for Dummies Part III click here

Gingersheep: If Tyler and Josh are smol beans, then Gingersheep is the smol bean of the fandom and must be protected. I'll just link to his YouTube home page because he has too many really good videos. But he is a good source for all things Dema and Towers of Silence, and Vialism, and the website. The link above about Sahlo Folina is his.

Nalbis did a three part series. He's an aspiring film maker. A bit weird and hokie at times, but really good.
The Dema Universe click here
Who is Clancy click here
Welcome to Trench click here

Wheatmaker: I just found her, she deserves many more followers and views, in my opinion. She's a physicist. I like her because unlike the Pop Song Professor, who can sometimes come off as over emphasizing how religious each song is, she comes at them with the more analytical side of the mind. Yes you can interpret many of the songs to be about god, praying to god, reaching out to god, god, god, god, etc.,  but that's not the one and only way. I think the majority of the Clique is christian (the boys themselves identify as christian), and so that interpretation of the music is most prevalent when looking at YouTube content. However, part of their genius is that you don't have to be a religious person to find meaning in their songs. And Wheatmaker, I think, brings a much needed discussion that the religious leaning Pop Song Professor does not, that the new album is saying there are problems with blind faith/organized religion and there are problems with only relying on science. Both have issues, yet one can't rely on just one or the either. So songs like Morph discuss that juxtaposition.

Some honorable mentions:
Pillow Pilots: who started out as a fan animation page and morphed into all things fun and silly to
entertain the fans during the so called hiatus.
CrankThatFrank: a self professed Emo God, who's reactions to the band coming out of the dreaded hiatus and their music video's is just fun to watch because he is so genuine. His reactions to the video trilogy: Jumpsuit : Nico and the Niners : Levitate

A few more thoughts. I swear I'll finish this soon. I had a few observations on my deep dive into all things Twenty One Pilots. I was never nervous playing in an orchestra or band. Only once in the MLJ's (HSU Marching Lumberjacks) was I unable to play. Which was when I was the only bone player and a song on the set list had a bone solo. I played second parts, not first and couldn’t play the bone solo. So I told the axe major I couldn't do it. We still played the song, but I handed my trombone to a trumpet player (who is an amazing trombone player) just for the solo. Something happens when you put the uniform on. Whether it was the crazy MLJ gold t-shirt or the slick black of orchestra attire. I'm not shy or reserved in a group performance or when in disguise (which is one reason why the boys wear masks sometimes). Individual performances were a whole different story. I would get nervous and anxious to the point of crippling performance anxiety. I puked my guts out after a violin competition. It got worse as I got older, to where I couldn't even get up on the stage. To the point where I quit playing all together. I stopped taking piano and violin lessons, in a way so that I wouldn't have to perform anymore. Tyler and Josh can’t do it solo either. They need each other. Somehow knowing that you’re not alone in the performing or experience allows me to not experience the sometimes crippling effects of anxiety. Tyler has said many times that he would never do a solo project or "go solo". Both of them say that they couldn't get up on those huge stages night after night, show after show, if the other wasn't there. Having that support, the "you're not in this alone" is so vital to people like me and them.

I still can’t listen to Linkin Park (I swear this isn't some random tangent). At least not entire albums. If a song comes on a playlist or radio, it's fine, but I still can't just seek them out and play their entire discography. Especially their last album. I'm not the biggest fan of pop (which their last album sort of was) but also because the band catered to Chester on that last album. His vocal range to be specific. They wrote the lyrics first and then arranged the songs and created them in key signatures that best fit his range. They usually wrote lyrics last. And the lyrics are so spot on to him and his demons. They were hopeful but then in the end he lost his war, which still makes me sad and angry at the same time. Maybe it will change with more time. I didn’t care for The Hunting Party album when it came out. It was too hard sounding. But now it’s my favorite album of theirs. Mike has released his first solo work after Chester's death and is touring and sharing about his time with Chester. He said, I think at an awards show, how after Chester died, Tyler from Twenty One Pilots called him and reached out.

ALL of THAT to say, this band, these two boys and their latest album Trench got me to a state where I was able to write this blog post. The album was released the night before. I listened to it twice all the way through not an hour after it was released at midnight on the 5th. I listened to that quiet one and listened to Vessel in the car while I drove to the park. When I got to the bench, I pumped Trench into my earholes, and that blog post just gushed like flood gates were released. It's rare that that happens to me, where my hand can barely keep up with my brain (unlike this blog post that I've struggled with for almost three months). I wrote so fast, for fear of loosing any of the thoughts that were pouring out. So thank you Tyler and Josh. Thank you Twenty One Pilots for being that first handhold, that first step on my way out of my hole. Because before I was just down there at the bottom looking up at the light, hopeless. The journey out of a deep depression is long I am finding. Which is normal, so I'm told. Also thank you to those of you who read that post and wrote me or reached out. Thank you. Knowing you're not alone and that other people who you know personally have some of the same difficulties you do is affirming. I'm still in the hole, but I'm not standing at the bottom anymore. There are good days. There are bad days. I saw my primary care doctor who referred me to a therapist, who I saw last week. I'm back on birth control pills. And I'm slowly getting back into exercising. Due to the extremely bad hazardous air however, I'm just using the rowing machine in my garage. But I'm learning that small victories are victories. Small steps in the right direction are still steps in the right direction.

And finally, I bought tickets to their show in Oakland, that was on the 11th. The concert was sold out, so I had to buy scalped tickets which were way over original price, but I felt it was worth it. And boooooiiiiiiii was it. I took my BFF (who when she agreed to go with me didn't know who they were) who is now completely obsessed with them. She texts me randomly saying, "damn you, I now listen to them in the car, while working, and at the gym". I'm like a proud mom. We talked and talked about how both of us just needed that night. How special it was. And just the simple thing of looking forward to going to a concert with a friend can literally save your life. She's so obsessed now that she called me the other day and said "So keep May 12th open in your calendar." Uh, why? I ask. "Because Twenty One Pilots will be playing in Vancouver Canada that night and we should go." Well hot diggity. After I got off the phone with her, I went to their website and looked up the tickets. She called me back, and I told her what I was doing and I said I can buy them now. So I did. So BFF, her daughter, and I will be flying to Canada in May for yet another amazing weekend. And I'll get a stamp in my new passport... finally! And that's one more thing to look forward to. That's one more handhold, one more step in the right direction. East is Up.

Let's Dig In Series links: Depression Part I      Religion Part I

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ode to a dead friendship

As my dad likes to say, I need to park it. As in, I need to write down what I need to say so that I can park it and move on. So hopefully after this, I will be able to move on.

I apologize in advance for any and all bad language I will most likely use... to those of you with somewhat sensitive ears (or rather eyes) to such language. Sorry.

I went to my all-class high school reunion this past weekend. I wasn't going to go. I didn't have the best high school experience. But my sister and her good friend were going, and they persisted in nagging me, and I finally gave in to their pressure. I was actually having a good time. I got my picture taken with Crazy George. I meet up with former soccer team mates and they remembered me (I didn't have the best of experiences on that team-but they were genuine in their excitement to see me. That was nice.). I went over to see if I knew anyone from my class, and low and behold, I remembered people, and they remembered me. All was well. Towards the end of the day I saw that my high school through age 30 best friend came (I knew her older sister was going to be there). She was a year ahead of me, so she wasn't sitting all that far away. So I kept looking back over to where she was sitting. She was chatting away with some of her classmates. It was getting toward the end, so I mustered up the courage, got up, and walked over to where she was and simply said, "Hey, I just wanted to say hi." That was it. That's all I said to her. She... said nothing. She didn't even acknowledge me. Not even a head nod. She looked at me, and then turned back to her friend and kept talking. Thankfully, one of the people who she was talking to also knew me (We went to Germany together on the exchange program) started talking to me, so that I wouldn't be left standing there awkwardly in silence as my spirit crumpled into a tiny paper ball thrown into a fire and burned to death. So thank you high school German exchange program friend! You are super duper awesome! Seriously. You are a goddamn HERO!!!!!

Now, why did my former best friend ignore me? That is a very good question. I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA!

A little back story: I've known this person since I was one year old. ONE. My family moved to San Jose just after my first birthday. This person, who was two at the time, was in the same church nursery as me. Now of course I didn't really become a sentient being until maybe age 6. She came to all my birthday parties. I went to all of hers. I ate all her Grammy's amazing cooking when she came to visit. She played all our video games when we got an Attari and then the 8-bit Nintendo systems. She would play with my cats and I would marvel at her goldfish. We never went to the same schools until high school. She saved my awkward ass in high school. She invited me to sit with her and her friends at break and lunch so I wouldn't be alone. She encouraged me to try-out for the swim team and the softball team. I got to swim and play ball with her. It was awesome. She got me into the science club. Even the chess club. However, I just watched her play. Chess was not for me. I only liked playing battle chess on the computer because I liked watching the pieces beat the crap out of each other. And I always lost (even on the super easy "you're an idiot" level). She then went away to college, and I came and visited her. I did my college thing. When I came home from college, it was like no time had passed. We were best friends. She got married. We still hung out. Got coffee. Saw movies. Cooked food. Baked pies. Talk for hours. We even went to Graduate School together. She in Chemistry, and me in Anthropology. We would meet up on campus for lunch. And then she got a divorce. It turned ugly. She stayed at my house sometimes. I went with her to court dates. Helped her move out. She got a cute little apartment just a mile from me! And we'd go get pumpkin spice latte's at Starbucks and eat at Happy House. And then, my sister and I bought our first house.

–and then whatever it was that was so horrible happened–

All communication just stopped. No more phone calls. I sent her birthday cards. I got nothing back. And then I got blocked on Facebook. She fucking blocked me! I don't know what I did. All I can think of is that I moved 30 minutes away. Well, she was 30 minutes away when she was living with her stupid ex-husband, and I still drove it to see her! Maybe her stupid ex-husband told her something about me and she believed him? She's smarter than that.

I can say all this because she blocked me on Facebook, so she'll never see this post. Whatever it was that I did that was so horrible, she never told her family because I'm still Facebook friends with all of them. I would have loved to have talked with her sister at the reunion but when I say her, she was with the former best friend who refused to acknowledge me but the sister did light up when she saw me and we waved to each other very bigly. So I guess that was nice.

I would have been fine if she had told me 10 years ago (when all communication stopped), "hey, I don't want to be friends anymore." I would have been sad and confused. But I would have accepted it. I wouldn't be sitting here 10 years on now wracking my brain for the smallest of memories of what I may have done.

You know what really pisses me off? She never even said a thing when my mom died. Nothing. Not a single thing! Well FUCK YOU! We've known each other for almost 40 years now, the least you could have done was unblock me for five fucking seconds and wrote "Sorry your mom died" and then reblock me. It's not that hard. Co-workers who I didn't even get along with showed more sympathy than you did. Facebook friends I've never met in real life showed more feelings than you. At least her parents sent a sympathy card. It came really late, but at least they sent something. Asshole.

Now I'm the kind of person who is a people pleaser. I HATE conflict. I avoid it. So I almost always bend over backward for other people. I'm also an emotional person. I mull over everything. If you read the previous post you got a glimpse into what happens in my head. I don't have many friends. So when the one friend, the one I leaned on, the one who I shared my most personal things with, just up and walks out of my life without a word? How do you think I took that? Not bloodly well, obviously. Ten years on, and here we are. I'm still confused. I'm still angry. Her snubbing me at the reunion in front of her friends was such a blow. I would have felt better if she'd had just punched me in the face.

I know that it isn't my fault. But because of the way I am, and how my brain works, I keep trying to find what I did wrong. But it wasn't me. I didn't do anything wrong. Our non-friendship is not my fault. But I still blame myself. I couldn't just let it go. I need to just accept that I will never know the reason why she walked out on me. Perhaps now, after what transpired at the reunion, I can finally just let her go and move on. She obviously has.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Let's Dig In: Depression Part I, Listen to the quiet ones

There are many voices in my head. Some are loud. Some are mean. Some are dangerous. There's a quiet one. That quiet voice in my head was telling me I needed to come here. To this bench. In this park. I didn't know why. Only that I was to come and bring pad and pen. And so I listened to the quiet one and came. A short drive and a short walk to the spot. I had started a post about another favorite band, and I'll finish that one at some point but apparently this needed to come out first. This may be a sort of series with that favorite band as a part of, but we shall see. My brain doesn't always do what I want it to, as you will soon learn. (the band post is important to this. It got me to write this and got me to this bench)

I have depression.

And no, it didn't start when my mom got sick. And no, it didn't start when cancer took her from me. I don't know when I first realized I had something foreign in my head that I didn't have total control over. My guess is that I was in high school when I became aware. I did not like high school. It was not fun. (sort of ironic I'm going to the all-class 50th reunion next weekend) I wasn't bullied or ostracized, but I didn't have the best of times and never felt comfortable. Besides the typical teenage angst, I woke up spiritually. I started questioning the church and religion I was born and raised in. This made life extra confusing. But that's another post I may or may not get to in this series (it can always end up being a single chapter series).

It has finally dawned on me that for the past two years my depression has gotten worse. From high school to two years ago (even during my mothers journey to death) I was always able to take control of that thing in my head and beat it down. Punch it in the gut. And climb out of the hole it would put me in. I developed over time, techniques to cope. Some times it was getting outside and soaking up vitamin D in the form of sunlight and nature. Music- listening to, playing, and creating. Writing. Being social- spending time with friends or playing sports.

That all changed two years ago. I, of coarse didn't realize what was happening while it was slowly taking over control of my mind. It has a way of being sneaky. A few things have happened that jolted me into waking up, but I wasn't able to climb out of the hole this time. It was too deep. Chester's death by suicide was one of those times where I woke up and said, "shit, I'm really in a dark place. I need to get out of this". And for a bit I thought I got out. I thought I escaped and took control back. And maybe I did succeed in climbing out. But that hand reached out and caught my ankle and pulled me back down. That bastard. And without fully realizing it, I was back down in that hole in my mind and not in control. My thoughts were dark.

*now listen. I will preface what I write next with this. I am not suicidal. I will not take my own life. This is not a cry for help*

My thoughts were dark. I thought about suicide. How would I do it if I chose to finally end the war. Would I drive off the road? Would I take the entire bottle of pills and just go to sleep... forever? These questions would also lead to other questions about religion, faith, and the questions about an afterlife. Again thoughts on that will hopefully come in another post in this fictional series. I would spend my days sleeping and the nights awake. I gained 30 pounds. I stopped running. I slowly stopped hiking. I started eating crap. Drank soda again. I became anti-social. I would hole up in my room for days on end. Couldn't even shower. Working was difficult. I'm writing this like it is in the past, but I'm still in the hole, not in control. But I am aware. I'm awake. I'm woke.

Two things changed two years ago. 1: I quit my job at the coffee house and went to work at my current employer *full time. This is important in that one of those key coping mechanisms that would help me take control was gone. Socializing. I hate socializing. I'm an introvert that thrives on quiet alone time. The friends I choose are few, but they know. The coffee house job forced me to communicate with the outside world. I love my current job and my co-workers and friends are precious to me. They are a life blood. But I work from home. Alone. I don't have to put on adult clothes, get in my car, and go into an office. I work alone. No outside world stimuli. 2: Because I quit my coffee house job, I lost my medical insurance which meant I no longer took birth control pills. An interesting side effect of the pill (depending on the person and the type of pill) is that it can either cause depression or it can act as an anti-depressant. For me, it acted as an anti-depressant. So unbeknownst to me, I was medicated for 15 years! And two years ago, I went off my meds.

Thank the trees I live in California and make enough money to qualify for the ACA, I have medical insurance again. I'm seeing my doctor this week. Specifically for this. I'm woke and aware but I need help. I can't climb out of this hole on my own. Perhaps I never could, I just thought I could.

Depression is someone that never dies. It adapts. It builds immunity's. It runs around in an infinite loop. It can take control of my mind. I've had this writers block or not wanting to take the time to write any of the things in my head. So it was preventing another of my outlets or coping mechanisms.

I'm dealing. I go for walks 3-4 times a week. I take showers (perhaps not frequently enough, but again, I don't have to go out in public much). I get my work done. I meet my deadlines. I see friends when I need to. I get out in nature when I need to. There's light when I look out of my hole. I can feel the breeze on my face. I will be okay. Know that I will be okay. Yes, I have depression. And it and I live together. We battle for control. It may have won the current battle, but for me life is a war. And I'm not done yet. I'm not done fighting. I'm just needing some new weapons.

I got out today. I listened to the quiet one. Not the loud one that tells me bad things. Just listen...

Let's Dig In Series links: Obsession Part I      Religion Part I

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Little Obsession Can Go A Long Way

A little obsession is a good thing. Right? When I find something I like, which isn’t often, I obsess over it. It’s all I'll listen to, or watch, or read about for an undetermined duration. Until I work it out of my system or I've absorbed all that I can. These certain obsessions tend to happen at particular times in my life when they are actually desperately needed. And mostly unbeknownst to me that I needed them in the first place.

A few examples:
Taft. I had a very real mental breakdown which I’ve written about before HERE and HERE and had I been a violent person, I would have punched holes in my hotel walls. I needed to break something. And the physical pain involved in punching walls sounded very appealing. So did screaming. But I didn’t. I kind of needed my hands to function. Music, and three particular songs, pumped extremely loud into my earbuds on an endless loop was my only outlet that seemed to work or I was willing to do and not incur damage fees or get kicked out of the hotel and loose my job. I completely scared my parents, and they drove down the next day to see me. I still like those three songs, however they now always remind me of that place and time in my life. I'm not haunted by it and it doesn't shut me down. In fact, I look back on it with pride. I survived. I came out of that experience a stronger and wiser person.

Chester Bennington's death. After Chester died, which I also wrote about HERE, I watched every single LPTV episode (that's Linkin Park TV for those not in the know), music videos, and making of videos they had ever produced, interviews, and performances. The sudden death of Chester was a wake up call that I hadn’t realized I needed, and how far down into the hole of depression I had fallen. I would listen to their music, every album, on a loop for weeks. I needed to understand, absorb, and mourn. His death and my obsession of everything LP helped me dig out (not completely) to a much safer state of mind.

Finding Killjoys. This I haven't written about. Killjoys is a Science Fiction TV show made and filmed in Canada that airs on SyFy here in the U.S. I discovered the show when the third season was about to air. So I immediately binged the first two seasons. Then I bought the first two seasons on itunes. After the third season aired, I then bought it as well. Then I started to collect the music from the show. I had downloaded so much Killjoys stuff from itunes in the span of a few weeks that my credit union thought my card was stolen and put a hold on it. Whoops. No, just me obsessing over something again. I need access back please. I don't know why, but watching the show and listening to the music just makes me happy. I made a Killjoys playlist. The music is all over the place. Pop, rock, techno, dance, folk, instrumental, indie galore. I found some really interesting and amazing artists through the experience. Season four is airing now (Summer 2018). Season five will be the last, which has been already planned and set in stone. So hopefully it won't end on an excruciating cliff hanger like so many SciFi shows have ended before.

Lastly, Thirty Seconds to Mars. I've known about them since their inception, but like many of their early critics, I sort of wrote them off. I only had one of their songs in my itunes. However, I have since come to my senses. The last three weeks have been nothing but Thirty Seconds to Mars being pumped happily into my ear holes. I've been watching Jared Leto movies, interviews, videos, and documentaries. Whatever your thoughts are, that guy is freakishly talented. And all things Church of Mars. If you're a fan (or should I say Echelon), you get it. If not, it sort of looks like a cult from the outside. Anyway what has the current obsession with 30STM done? It’s realizing that if I want to realize my dreams, ambitions, and aspirations I have to make the effort and get up off my ass and do something about them. Whether that’s loosing all this weight I gained, or doing good work at work, or putting effort into my creative work. The only thing stopping me is me. I put these limitations on myself and I have to remove them. That it's okay to be obsessive. It's okay to dream. It's okay to dream big. And it's okay to just go for it. Complete Liberation. So get up off your ass, work hard, and turn those dreams into reality.

Sidenote: I find it interesting that I tend to like bands that have very strong critics. People either love them or hate them. It was true for Linkin Park, and still is for Thirty Seconds to Mars. To me, both had/have interesting and positive things to say and were/are innovators and not scared to explore new things and experiment. The critics and nay-sayers be damned.

So all that is to say, a little obsession is good for the mind, body, and soul. So let your freak flag fly. Take pride and ownership of your obsessions. Just don't get arrested.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Last Road Trip of Mom's Car Part III: The Final Chapter?

Day 9
Engine Mileage: 222065
Trip Mileage: 2410.3
Gallatin, Tennessee to Raleigh, North Carolina

This ended up being the second longest day of driving, but thankfully, also our last. We left the cold and frozen Tennessee early. The Hotards tried to feed us breakfast and pack us full of beverages. We should have said yes. But, after many polite refusals, they finally relented and reluctantly sent us on our way.
By now we had finished both seasons of Revisionist History podcast, and we moved on to Ridiculous History. Are you sensing a theme? We moved between quite and the podcast. We stopped a lot to stretch our legs.
Dad drove us over The Great Smokey Mountains, and I took a lot of pictures.
Of course I missed the trail head sign for the Appalachian Trail. We came around a bend, and again totally missed getting a picture of the North Carolina sign. I did get some of Maggie Valley, which is where an Aunt of mine lived for about 7 years.
I sent her this picture when we passed and told her where we were. A lengthy text conversation ensued about this and that, as one does with this said Aunt.
Texted the Flying Squirrel Nephew, that we had finally crossed the last state line. Also texted Big Sis, that we were not going to get to the airport in time to pick her up. She was flying in for the weekend! Once into North Carolina, we noticed lots of road work, traffic, and accidents. North Carolina drivers are horrendous! Big Sis landed at 4:30, and Uber-ed to the hotel from the airport. Dad and I finally got to the hotel at 6:45. We were beat, and not looking forward to even more driving to pick up Flying Squirrel Nephew. We met up with Big Sis, who had already checked us in, in her (and I) room. She informed us that Flying Squirrel Nephew could not wait any longer and had hitched a ride with a friend who was coming up to Raleigh to take his girlfriend on a date. A great sigh of relief was heard across the entire state. We had just decided to go eat at the restaurant in the hotel when Flying Squirrel Nephew texted that he had arrived, not 10 minutes later.
We all ate downstairs in the hotel restaurant. I ate some leafy greens to try and get my system back on track (I don't think it worked, but I tried). Everyone was tired, and so we all crashed for the night.

Engine Mileage: 222571
Final Trip Mileage: 2916.9
We all slept in. I wandered downstairs to get coffee. We gathered in Big Sis and I's room and putz a bit and googled where to get the oil changed in the Infinity. Flying Squirrel Nephew just HAD to drive us to get the oil changed. He had pinched a nerve in his neck and couldn't really rotate his head, so it was a bit scary for the rest of us.
Dad asked the guys at the oil place about where to get chains for the car and they just laughed. They said that it hardly ever snows there and when it does, even just a tiny bit, the Governor declares a State of Emergency and the entire state shuts down. Flying Squirrel Nephew confirmed this, and the shop guys all nodded their heads in agreement. So after all the fussing about chains the entire length of the country, the Infinity never did get any. We then went to CVS for Doans and Lidocane patches for Flying Squirrel Nephew. The Girl Scouts were stationed outside the CVS, and Flying Squirrel Nephew told them we'd hit them up on our way out. We certainly did. He bought 10 boxes, 5 each of thin mints and peanut butter patties. I bought one box of Peanut butter patties, because I didn't want to share. And Sis bought a box each of thin mints and peanut butter patties. I think we made their day. Certainly worth standing out there in the cold, freezing their little butts off. On the way out at a stop light, I saw this at the Marathon Gas Station. "Fried Gizzards/Lizards".
Yup. Then we went to lunch, but not at the Marathon Gas Station. We went to a place called Two Guys Grille, that had a Hawaii surf theme and fish tacos. Okay.
Their dipping sauce for the sweet potato fries was very sweet and cinnamon heavy. Big Sis loved it, I ate mine plain. I hit up their bathroom, and then we were off to Flying Squirrels favorite place ever, Wish Upon a Quilt. He stayed in the car. Lame.
Big Sis got her License Plate and Row by Row. Back in the Infinity, Dad and I in the back (we were done with driving), decided to check out Historic Yates Mill Historic Park. No entrance fees. Score!
Big Sis and I took butt loads of pictures, marveled at the construction, and read all the plaques and signage.

They still had their display up for Groundhog Day, and they were pretty snarky about it. Flying Squirrel Nephew looked cold and bored and so we asked the park docent where she thought we should go next. We decided on Mordecai Historic Park. Again, free admission.
We got there and forced Flying Squirrel Nephew to take his picture with the Infinity.
Walked over to the gift shop/museum/information center for them to tell us they were closing. Boo.
We walked around the museum section for about 5 minutes and then we were asked to leave. So we were able to walk around all the buildings and such, but couldn't go inside any of them. Oh Well.
This is Andrew Johnson's house, not it's original location however

Mordecai Plantation
But by now Flying Squirrel Nephew was over getting educated. And so we left and did exciting things like run some errands for him at Best Buy and Target. So exciting. Had dinner at Brixx Pizza. He was feeling pretty good and drove us back to the hotel, and we played cards in the boys room.

Day 11
We all slept in again. It rained for most of the day. We found a Massage Envy for Flying Squirrel Nephew, who's appointment was at 1pm. So we went across the parking lot for lunch at Bob Evan's (we all had breakfast), apparently the place to be. It was quite tasty. I wanted to keep eating, but my stomach couldn't hold anymore. Those biscuits were super yummy. While Flying Squirrel Nephew was getting elbowed in the back, we went to another Target (to find him a space heater) and filled up the Infinity...  for the last time (sniff sniff). Flying Squirrel Nephew came out of Massage Envy with the largest grin on his face. He said it hurt like hell, but that he felt great! We then went to Apex North Carolina to visit with friends of Big Sis whom she hadn't seen in 20 years! They told us we had to eat at Smithfields Chicken N' Bar-B-Q, and so after our visit we went off to find one. Good fried chicken. Hush puppies aren't worth writing home about though. After dinner, we came back to the hotel (double checked that we got everything out of the car that was ours) and played cards and watched the super bowl... commercials.
The game ended up being pretty good, so we often got distracted by football during our card game. Too soon it was time for Flying Squirrel Nephew to head back to base. We walked him down to the lobby and gave him hugs to last till the next time we get to see him. And told him to text his mommy when he gets back to base. It was hard to say goodbye, but surprisingly it was hard to say goodbye to the Infinity too. Dad, Big Sis, and I asked for a late check-out, and walked back up to our rooms and Big Sis and I watched the Puppy Bowl. It was silly. And cheesy. So much so, that we had to turn it off.

Day 12
We slept in once again. And today, we fly home. But first, lunch... at the hotel restaurant. We then took the airport shuttle to the airport. It's tiny. The airport, not the shuttle. There was no line at security. I got stopped of course. Got a pat down because I have  patch on my pants that covers a hole. And I forgot to take my ipad out of the bag. But whatever. We have time to kill, because our plane doesn't leave till 5pm. So we walk the terminal a few times, and then sit down in the food court and eat onion rings and play cards.

We fly 800 miles to Chicago (Midway), and circle for 20 minutes while they plow the runways. It's snowing. We land just fine, and pull up to the gate.

Once inside we look at the departures and see that we are delayed 2 hours plus our initial 1 hour layover. Ugh... And so we walk the terminals and the food court. Big Sis and I decide on the Irish pub and Dad gets a sub sandwich. We eat in the pub, and then walk some more. I texted Artist Nephew, who had been taking care of the cats, that he needed to let them inside, one last time. We need chocolate, so into the sweets shop and out with candy and chocolate. We sit in the food court and play more cards. Because we have hours to kill.
We walk back down the terminal to our gate and settle in, to hear we've been moved to a gate on the other side of the terminal. Yay. We walk back down to the other side. Our plane finally arrives and we get to board. We watch our luggage get loaded. It has snow it.
So I think, wouldn't it be funny (not really) if the ginormous bath bomb I got from the Hotards gets so wet that it explodes? It didn't, by the way. We then sat there for another 15 minutes while we got de-iced. That was a new one.

We were finally in the air by 11pm. And so the last 2,166 miles back to San Jose was underway. That last flight was the longest four and a half hours of my life. The only saving grace was that the plane was only half full so everyone got to spread out and got extra snacks from the flight crew. I started to go a bit stir crazy, and made what I thought was a hilarious video.

But my god, my legs hurt. We landed around 1:30am. We were the last flight in. Interesting to see an empty airport. They were waxing the floors. Big Sis' Big Man came and picked us up. We got home around 2:30am. Artist Nephew left the cats in the house, and they promptly ignored me. I unpacked. Bath bomb mostly intact. I had asked Artist Nephew to wash my sheets, since he had been sleeping in my bed, and I put them in the dryer. I showered because I felt gross. I made my bed. The cats finally came out of their hiding places. I noticed that Quirk's eye was swollen. So Dad pinned him down, and I tried to put goop in his eye. He didn't like it, of course.  I crawled into bed at 4am. Trip over.

end note: A week later Dad got a call from Flying Squirrel Nephew. He asked, "what does the maintenance required light mean"? He figured out that a sensor went bad, and needed to be replaced. So, luckily it wasn't anything major. And then just a few days ago, this happened.
A private didn't know how to back out of a parking spot and ripped the Infinitiy's back bumper off. How he didn't realize he hit the car next to him is beyond me. I guess he just committed and went for it. So is this the end of its life? We don't think so. Flying Squirrel Nephew for the time being, drives it with the bumper in the back seats. The insurance will pay to get it fixed (or salvaged), and a new bumper will get put on. The infinity will live on to drive Flying Squirrel Nephew to where he needs to go for a little bit longer.

Other end note: Quirk ended up having an abscess on his head that had drained into his eye. So he got a reverse mohawk haircut, his abscess flushed, and two shots. He didn't like me that day. But he's better now, and his fur has grown back.

And so I will leave and finally end this story with this: Mom certainly knew how to pick a good road trip car. Her last pick, this Infinity, was probably her best. It was hard to say goodbye. It was worth spending the money and time driving it across the country, one last time. We rest assured that it is with family, being used, and cared for. That bumper will get fixed! And leave you with a place my mom had a great adventure with the Infinity. Out on the prairie with the greasewood and rabbits. The birth place and homestead where my Grandma lived in a tiny speck of a town called Bill, Wyoming.