1/27/2009

Reflections on Charlottesville Nightlife Part 2

Okay, it's really not that bad. It's simply life at night in a town that's had a pretty good track record of making such a thing enjoyable. I wasn't expecting this sudden transformation of my life back to having time to go out and do things after work, but here I am.

And, it's okay. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I went out to Fellini's and then Miller's tonight, and I had a good time. There was a duo doing a very jazzy drums and bass. I didn't have much to drink. I had a good time being out.

I've always had an ambivalent relationship to going out at night. For one thing, in high school I spent most evenings in front of a computer learning how to work BBS software. In college, I spent most evenings either working for Backstreets Pizza, or at the offices of the Tech Independent trying to put our paper to bed. I've always felt like I should be working. Even now, I've committed all my Friday's to working at Court Square Tavern. But, of course I'll go out after that.

I was a bit pessimistic in that last post. Selective editing. What I didn't say was that I had a great time at the bar I was at, watching a live band and remarking on how talented people can be. I had such a good time listening to music and being out and feeling part of a community. So what if I didn't have the courage to talk to anyone? I was out experiencing something new.

I was pessimistic on Thursday, but on Friday I was optimistic. I had an incredible night waiting tables, and then went out with friends for a while. For the first time in a long time, I felt okay being alone. I didn't expect to ever be alone again, but here I am.

And you know? It's really not so bad.

1/23/2009

Reflections on Charlottesville nightlife

Frankly, I'm an alien these days even though I've lived here for over six years. I don't get this town at all in terms of how it works at night. Now that I am newly single, I am having to learn it.

But, really, I will report that I just watched two women get into a cab with an elderly man. When the pair walked into the bar where I was, they spotted him and about an hour later, they all got into a cab together. Two very attractive young women in their early twenties got into a cab with a man in his sixties. He was very intoxicated. Where did they go? Where are they now? This happened. What kind of town do I live in?

I'm a family man suddenly transported into what I knew before I was such. Night life in Charlottesville is a lot more rough then we really write about here in the world of the blogs. I'm relearning now that I'm back to basics.

I never thought I'd be here again. I thought I was going to be a family man. Now, I have my kids part-time and now what? How am I going to change?

I hope not much. But, I'm sure the contents of this blog will change as I find more interesting things to write about. There is this incredibly dark underbelly in this town that I have a feeling I'm going to know more about all of this in the weeks, months and years to come.

I don't want to be here. I hope readers know that. The life I am about to have is not the life I expected. I was preparing for something very different.

1/22/2009

Court Square Tavern Fridays: What was one-time is now regular

Well, that didn't take long.

Beginning last week, I'm now the regular waiter at Court Square Tavern on Friday nights. I had not expected this, but waitress who usually does it was ready to give up the shift. So, there we are.

Last week's shift was fairly jarring. Everything was the same, yet everything was different. I seem to have lost my articulation hat, but the basics that I truly enjoyed about the job in the past were still there. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people relax and by making their evenings go a little bit better.

I don't know how long I'll be able to do this. My other work comes first, though there aren't likely to be many public meetings on Friday nights. Instead, maybe the Tavern can become known again as a public house where people can come in for a refreshing beverage and some enlightening conversation. That's certainly what I'd be striving for, as I plan on continuing to wait tables in my usual way.

The best thing about the new place is that the food looks great. I don't eat meat, so I can't comment on the taste of most of the dishes. But, I can definitely say the current kitchen is a definite improvement over what the two microwaves and a toaster I had to work with in the past.

So, if you're looking for a place to stop in for a couple of drinks and maybe something to eat, drop in and see me. Any Friday will do. The Tavern is hospitable to large groups, couples and those who like hockey. If you've never been, come on in and give it a shot. If you've never met me, come on in and say hello. Help me pass the time by packing the place! I need a challenge.

1/21/2009

Test of new Yahoo player: And a bone for Joe Sites



I met with music blogger Shaun Harvey who tipped me off to the Yahoo music player which I'm hoping I can experiment with here. I've been looking for an easy embeddable mp3 player for donkey's years, and this could be the ticket.

Also, Joe Sites requested I post another Hodads song, so here we are. Two stones with one bird.

Listen: Monsignor Travaille (1999): This was an improv done in Brendan's basement in April of 1999. I had never picked up a saxophone before, and had no business doing an improv. Still, this comes together for about 30 seconds or so.

UPDATE: Is it donkey's years, or donkeys' years?

1/20/2009

Songs have a shelf life: A running story

My iPod Touch is terminally ill, so I borrowed my roommate's iPod this morning for my run at the gym. I was determined to run 6 miles in under an hour. That was my goal for the day.

My routine is taking shape. I run three days a week, lift weights three days a week, and rest on the Saturday. I may be overdoing it, but if I don't go to the gym, I feel incredibly sluggish and unhappy with myself. I can't afford right now to be unhappy with myself.

The television screens were filled with glimpses of the Mall in Washington. I feel so disconnected from this historic moment because the recent unpleasantness in my own life in part dates back to Election Night. That's when I first had a glimpse of what I was about to lose.

Now, the loss has happened and it will always have happened. There's no turning back. There's just me at the gym six days a week working hard to find the meaning of it all. On the treadmill I have the chance to decide how I'm going to deal with it. Do I go easy to let myself have the simple path? Or, do I push myself harder in order to expand my body and mind?

I was feeling sluggish this morning. I had actually gotten more than seven hours of sleep in a row, something that hasn't happened for quite a while. I'd taken an hour to wake up and have my cup of tea. The cold didn't seem worth wading through. I took my sweet time unraveling the headphones.

But, once my legs started moving, I sped up quickly. I warmed up for two minutes and kept increasing the pace slowly. I listened to new songs from the iPod on random. My roommate's tastes in music are a little more mainstream than my own, and I enjoyed listening to the new variety. After all, at some point I'm going to need to start dancing!

However, I prefer listening to podcasts and by about 30 minutes in, I was getting pretty bored. FOX, CBS and NBC all showed the same image of Blair House as we all waited for Obama to drive somewhere. I seriously considering just stopping and maybe actually getting to work on time for a change.

Yet, I did not. I had a goal I was going to stick to it. I concentrated on the songs that streamed at me randomly. I ran hard when a song I liked came on. I skipped over the ones I didn't care for. And, I kept going, and I beat Sunday's goal of running 5 miles in 50 minutes. I kept going, running towards my new life, running towards whatever it is that hopefully is coming my way. Running towards a glimpse of possible happiness. Running towards hope that maybe I'm not the awful person I can sometimes feel like.

At 55 minutes I slowed down as 6 miles was within site and I thought it was a good time to begin cooling down.

But then, the song came on. On an iPod with only 340 songs, Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on. When I was falling in love the last time around, I used this song to woo her. I put it on a mix CD, and somehow it summed up what I was feeling at that time. I'd never been in love so passionately before, to the point where I did very awful things in order to satisfy a craving I didn't fully deserve.

Now, I'm on the other side of that life experience, looking back and wondering how to go forward. Of course, I've answered that wonder in part by seeking the answers within. But, there are so many uncertainties swirling around in front of me.

I wasn't ready to hear the song, but there it was in my ears. It starts with the sound of a vulnerable string trembling, a solitary note that pierces through to my heart. I heard it, and wondered for a second what I should do. If I wasn't careful I would end up hurting myself. I'm prone to sudden collapses these days, sudden emotional shifts triggered by a memory here or a memory there.

I could have clicked off and moved on to the next song. Instead, I pumped up the speed to a level I've not hit yet. Even though I had been running for an hour by this point, I kicked it up and ran as fast as I could. The drums began pounding, followed by the rhythm guitar, and when the sultry voice hit, I was in this fugue-like state of madness and anger and pain and sorrow and grief and I just kept running faster.

The lyrics have a very different meaning now, and as my legs moved faster and faster I fought back the tears. It's a very simple track, and the lyrics aren't exactly poetry. But, hearing it conjured up a picture of the last four years. I ran and ran and ran, imagining myself as an engine. If I could just move fast through the song, faster than ever before, maybe I would generate some vision of how I was going to make it through all of this.

But before the song ended, my body kicked in, and told me I really should stop. I got the urge to throw up, and immediately slowed the speed back down to something manageable. My body sent my mind a telegram that it is time to move on, that I couldn't kill myself for the sake of a song. It's just a song. It's no more magical then my last relationship was. I was deluded then, and I'm not deluded now.

Love is a delusion, a magical one that has the power to create beauty in the wake of its destruction. My life has been ripped apart twice now because of this love, and I'm older and wiser as a result. I had wished the love could have been sustained, but it turns out it had been gone for a very long time. A house built on a fragmented foundation is destined to fall apart, no matter how many Herculean the repair effort.

Life is not a delusion. Life is this amazing gift from the universe that is challenging, puzzling, and not always fair. Inside of ourselves there is much strength, much power, much beauty. I'm now opening my eyes to a whole new world, and I'm training my body and mind to respond to the challenges in a different way.

The pain fades a little more every day. The sadness earthquakes are receding in power and duration. I'm finding joy in small things, such as the magnificent beauty of the night sky and the feeling of the sun on my face every morning as I walk out of the gym. I am going to write up new maps to guide me through the rest of my life, and may I be fortunate enough that I have many more footfalls ahead of me.

1/15/2009

Back in the tavern again

This time tomorrow my toes will be trotting the floor at Court Square Tavern, returning to the place where they tapped around the last time my life went through the re-imagining process. The regular waitress is taking a night off so there is an opening. It's been such a long time since I waited tables for a living, and now I find myself in need of a little extra money.

It's been three years now since the fire, and the place is radically different. The Tavern reopened about a year and a half ago, and it's just now beginning to find its groove. Service is more consistent. The food menu is more consistent, and there's always a good beer special. The smoke is gone. There's wi-fi in the joint. I'm in good shape.

It's going to be weird to be back in the place, clearing tables, taking orders, telling people about beer. I'll talk to dozens of people, so many more than I do in my current job. I don't meet many new people in real life. I'm looking forward to the conversations.

I'm looking forward to the occasional shift there. I miss the place, and I'm looking forward to whatever reflections come my way during the shift. Come on in if you want a nice warm place to hang out on a cold wintry night. We've got warm food and good beer and if you've been wanting an excuse to go, this is the one!

1/12/2009

Overcoming the gym fear

It has been a month since Gold's Gym here in Charlottesville has become a new set upon which this life of mine plays out. As I enter this new stage of life, I'm learning new lines in an effort to become a better performer in this play we're all rehearsing.

My entire life I've had an amazing fear of exercising in public. Many of my social fears are wrapped up in my inadequate sense of image, and my sense of being inferior and small. My school years were not filled with positive examples of physical fitness. The Campbell County school system didn't really do a good job of introducing me to the importance of staying fit.

Last month, it became time to stop making excuses for everything. I had to step up and make something happen or else the show would have gotten very, very dark.

Since then, the benefits of exercising nearly every day have transformed the way I feel about myself. I'm down a number of pounds, and my clothes don't really fit anymore. I also have this absolute craving to be moving my body, to be improving it, sculpting it.

Of course, my body is not an it. My body is a me.

For years, I've treated myself like an it, like an inanimate object that was just moving across the chess board. For most of last year, I've been on autopilot. As a result, I got larger and larger. My mind grew slower at the very same time that it took me longer and longer to walk the dog.

Yet, a month ago I had a sudden emptiness to fill. I had a need to challenge myself to become better. To improve. To snap out of the malaise that was destroying everyone around me. The energy had to be harnessed somehow.

The fears were suddenly irrelevant. I needed to do something positive, and quick. The need was too overpowering to give in to phantom fears that didn't really hold up to any real scrutiny.

So, I signed up, committed to two years, and gave myself a break for not actually doing anything that first day. The next day I was going to go, but couldn't get up the courage. I drove up and that was it. I told myself that I'd just wait until my orientation, which was scheduled for the next day.

And so I showed up, and had all the measurements done. I talked with a trainer, learned a little about how things worked, and then was made to walk on a treadmill. Just walk. That's all. It seemed pretty silly, but I learned to put the incline on so that it actually began to feel like work.
When I got off, my legs kept moving and it was one of the coolest feelings I've ever felt. This dizzifying sensation of perpetual movement. I could get used to this, I thought to myself.

Of course, I didn't go the next day. The week had been pretty awful up to that point, and I just needed to relax. I went for a long around the Venable neighborhood instead.

Since then, though, I've been 23 out of the last 32 days. I've been learning different things, and my body is responding well. I've lost weight, I'm developing muscle tone, and I'm learning what I wish I had learned 20 years ago. I wish I hadn't felt so intimidated by the gym. I wish the instructors at school had been more interested in helping all the students rather than giving the athletes more practice time.

Of course, you can't do anything with wishes except try to shape the world you have in front of you. The past can't be changed. Yet, I am going to encourage my kids to become fit, and to develop confidence in their bodies as well as their minds. I've been laboring under the misunderstanding that the two were separate. How very wrong I was.

Will this just be a fad? That's not a question that can be answered today. All I know is, tomorrow will be 24 out of 33.

1/10/2009

Why I like rain


When it rains, Charlottesville becomes England. The sound of the air changes. Everything feels moist. The light is magnificently gray, forcing the greens to pick up the slack. My mind is suddenly transported to the place where my parents grew up and where so much of my interest lies.

When it rains, feelings of happiness sustain themselves for a quick moment, my need to travel there is somewhat eased. Happiness shines through right where the universe wants me.

The rain is pleasing. Everything could actually be okay. A replenished Earth permeates through the built environment. The cycle of life overpowers the man-made for a few moments at least.

The rain drops and consciousness fade aways. The rush of a million drops falling towards the earth and then landing takes precedence over everything else. Every other sound must transform itself or be lost amidst the softness.

(photo by Juni)

Wired: Reflecting on hyperactivity and creativity

I'm wired to move fast, both through my chemical make-up as well as my life experience to date. At 35, I have to re-evaluate if that's how I want to be.

I made my way through college by working in restaurants, and got myself addicted to the madness of having to balance so many different variables at once. I got addicted to having a busy life, and only felt "happy" by juggling several full plates. at a time. I felt a rush of accomplishment by being able to achieve so much.

During my last semester at Virginia Tech, I had five classes, a three-day-a-week internship at WVTF Public Radio, and a job at Backstreets Pizza. Of course, the energy took its toll on the relationship I was in at the time. A year later, I was in New Hampshire with a similar set-up, except I was all alone and could just layer on the projects like a drunk brick mason.

However, by 1997 I was back in my hometown of Lynchburg doing one thing and one thing only, working in a factory. I was working 40 hours a week, and had no creative outlet. No where to put my energy. Hence, I plunged into a ridiculous depression. None of the projects I tried to start took root, but I was able to "find myself" again.

I did so by writing. And writing. And writing. And writing. Somewhere I have piles of notebooks filled with whatever it was I was thinking at the time. I began to find a new identity as I was able to calm myself down long enough to try to take on the task of describing the world. With an onslaught of thoughts spinning around in my brain, I felt a certain amount of relief.

All of that writing formed a context in my brain that allowed me to build a new device to sate my need for hyperactivity - improvisational punk rock! I moved to Arlington in part to be near my best friend, the one who helped shape my tastes in music. We'd made weird noises since we were 8, and when I'm with him, I can make up lyrics that sound almost passable. The noise, to me, is joyful and describes exactly who I am - a mad bundle of nerves that is unpredictable, witty, and somewhat dangerous.

But, is that who I am, really?

I've always thought my hyperactive brain was a core element of my personality. I've always thought that my ability to do several things at once was something to be celebrated, something that others would find interesting about myself. Of course, the reality is, I can't do three things at once. That's a delusion and a dangerous one at that.

For instance, I never gained the ability to go back and edit myself. I praised my hyperactivity so much that I enshrined it in hours and hours of songs that never really had a chance to find an audience. Turns out, I never really thought about the audience. I was simply indulging myself and didn't make any lasting connections. We played two live shows, and each one was a different version of a nightmare. Why? Because the energy could not be recreated in a predictable way.

So, upon reflection, I see that I've been way too energized for most people and that it is high time I learn to slow myself down so that I can become a better person. I'm not predictable. I'm not sustainable. All of my relationships have broken down because of this, causing pain for many people. I have to figure that part out.

Does this mean I will do less? That I will reduce my presence in the world? I don't think so. What I mean is that it is imperative that I become more mindful about the thoughts that are going through my mind. Should I blurt out whatever I say? Is it possible to say what I really think as opposed to what the other person wants to hear? Is there something I can do to burn all this energy so I can make more balanced connections to people?

I think the key is going to be finding an outlet for performance. I've realized that my need to be energetic and histrionic and "larger than life" introduces negative factors into my relationships. I've not realized this until now, and I apologize to everyone I've ever hurt by being inconsistent. The sadness and pain I feel is a direct result of my inability to figure this out prior to this moment.

Now, as a small treat and a small way to begin overcoming my fear of letting other people see and hear what I do. This is one of the very first songs I ever sang improv, when I was 18 or 19. My friend Jeff was at the University of Virginia, and I was at Virginia Tech, and we met one day in Bedford at the foot of the Peaks of Otter to play and see what happened.

I don't have a good Flash player set up on this account, so you'll have to download. It's called Wired, Jeff is actually on guitar, and there's a kid named Micah playing drums. I'm sad that we lost touch with Micah. He was pretty cool. It's fun nonsense.

Download: "Wired" by the Hodads, circa 1991

1/08/2009

Laid bare like the Downtown Mall

This morning I had to drop something by the New Dominion Bookshop for a recording that Elizabeth McCullough was making for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network (follow on twitter!). I had rushed together a kit for her to record a woman named Donna Authers talking about her book A Sacred Walk: Dispelling the Fear of Death and Caring for the Dying. We'll post it later on this week.

But tonight's entry deals with trying to fix those that will live, at least for the foreseeable future.

The bookstore is just down the hill from my office in Court Square. I had planned to stop off at the Blue Ridge Country Store to get a salad. Usually I just retreat back to my desk as quick as I can, but today I became intrigued by the large green walls that have cropped all over on the mall.

Yes, the rebricking of the Downtown Mall is under way, but I was surprised by how big of a footprint the project has in these initial days. East Main Street went from normal to construction zone in a matter of days, and the shock took me out of my routine. The Mall has been the stage on which I've been a player for several years now, but the backstory threads somewhat through my adult life.

The first time I was on the Mall was sometime in the early 90's with my friend Jeffry, who was a student at the University of Virginia. There wasn't much to see, but those goofy shadow people were there already. At the time, I was neither impressed nor disappointed in the Mall. It was just a place that was, and there didn't seem to be too much going on.

In 1996, I got to visit Burlington, Vermont and its pedestrian area. At the time, I was reminded of England because of the prevalence of department stores and book stores in a small urban setting. It seemed like a thriving place, and I particularly liked the restaurants with cafes. To me, the height of civilization is being able to sit outside on a nice summer day while having a nice meal with friends.

I rediscovered Charlottesville's downtown mall while working for WVTF Public Radio. In 2001, I began to occasionally travel here because the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities funded two documentary projects that I got to work on. On one of them, I traveled to the Mall for the first time in several years in order to interview the late Mitch Van Yahres for a story I did on the eugenics movement in Virginia. By then, the place looked a bit more interesting than it did several years before. I filed it away as a location I wanted to revisit. I didn't have much time to walk around because I had driven up in the WVTF van with a colleague.

Another time I came back was to do some person-on-the-street interviews for an episode of the arts show Studio Virginia called "Ask the Poet Laureate" when George Garrett held that position. I recorded several questions and then played them back for him to record his answers.

(As a personal memory: When I got to this house, he let me idle his car in his driveway because the alternator was busted and if we turned it off, we couldn't start it up again without a jump. H e was a very nice man)

I moved here in 2002 to take a public radio job, but never really visited the Mall until I moved into the city limits a year later, aside from the occasional event I worked for the VFH. After I moved, though, I was within walking distance. After my first marriage ended, I found myself hanging out downtown a lot more. I ended up working at Court Square Tavern, which meant I suddenly was on the Mall almost every day for some reason or another.

I've never really left for five years, and even continue to work in Court Square. I seem like I belong and frankly, being downtown never seems to get boring for me. It's home.

As I've mentioned, this is a rough time for me. But, who isn't having a rough time? There is seemingly a kernel of worry embedded in everything particle of our collective existence at the moment. Things are not the same as they once were, and odd things are happening. I'm seeing that everywhere as we deal with the economic slowdown. The word "depression" hangs over our heads in so many different ways.

And now, the Downtown Mall is a total shambles. My backdrop for the past five years is never going to be the same. The banged-up yet majestic yet cracked yet but lived-in but authentic and poetic and magnificent mosaic of bricks has been torn up, and it hurts to see yet another major change in my life at this time.

It was a shock, even though I have frequently written in my professional life about the details of the project. I knew this was coming and knew how they would get to work right away. I had seen the plans, had attended the ground-breaking, and knew what the scope would be.

Yet, walking today in the beautiful winter sun at noon, I was struck by how the execution has altered the canvas of my daily life, during a time when my own life of the last four years has been ripped up and altered as well.

I was amazed at how naked and sick the concrete slab looked like when the bricks that we've all walked upon had been removed. The air was not as clear because trucks were idling while their occupants ate lunch. A squirrel had trouble negotiating the metal grates that have been installed around the trees. The Mall looks like a sick patient that is receiving a transplant for totally everything. It all seemed so uncertain and vulnerable.

And just the other day, it was as magnificent as ever.

Of course, I know when this is all done, it will look even better than it did before. I know I am going to be a better person now that I am on my own rebricking project. In both cases, the underlying infrastructure is being taken care of in order to make sure things don't fall apart again for many years.

And frankly, what's the point in looking back? What was is over. Something else will take its place. A new backdrop. Maybe it will be better. Maybe it will be worse. Nothing is ever the same. Change never stops, never gets old. By now no one should be surpised that the topsy becomes the turvy.

Things get better. The pain of sudden transformation fades away. At least, I have faith that in time, all construction projects are completed.

1/03/2009

Positive aspects: Saturdays with children in Charlottesville

One of the things I enjoy best in the world is putting both kids in our double stroller and walking the mile and a half to Charlottesville's downtown mall. My three-year-old daughter loves to go so much.

"Downtown, Daddy! I want to go downtown!"

You hear that a lot at the house. There is so much to do and see downtown! And, looking outside the window it appears that today will be a great day to make a tremendous circuit. I reckon we'll head down about 1:30 PM or so. It will take us about 30 minutes to get there.

We'll first stop at the Ice Park and watch everyone going around and around. I'll tell my daughter about how she'll be going ice-skating when she's bigger and she'll look up at me with wonder. I'll tell her how she'll start off leaning on a bucket, but that eventually she'll drive the Zamboni. She'll look at up me with a quizzical look and will repeat "Zamboni" with an uplift on the last two syllables to indicate she's not sure about the pronunciation.

Then today I'll take one last look at the current downtown mall, before all the rebricking begins. I'll have Jo run down the runnels one more time. She's been doing that since she was little. She just takes off and runs down them. I'm so proud of her when she goes off on her flights of fancy.

We'll stop at that statue place next to Miller's and she'll jump off the plinths, giggling the whole way. Her 11-month-old brother will look up at her in wonder, no doubt taking mental notes for when he's old enough to jump around.


We might then swing up to the library to get a refill on books. I'll likely take back the two books on koala bears that I got last time. Jo likes koala bears, but I think we've exhausted that meme for a bit. I'm not sure what we'll get out of the library. I will try my best not to get anything out, though I'll of course walk past the comic section to see if there's anything I've not read. I love that my library has comics.

It should be noted that I am hoping my daughter will appreciate the comic arts. She's going to inherit my comics. Sam will as well, but she's already reading them. At this point, he's more prone to tearing them to shreds. Josephine likes the pictures, and she's already asking me questions about Superman. I gave her a copy of an old Marvel handbook that lists all of the characters, and she perked up every time she saw a picture of Spiderman.

Anyway, after that we'll go to the Discovery Museum for at least an hour. I'll need to renew our membership. For $60, we'll be able to drop by all year, something that will pay for itself after the sometime in March or so. We go there a lot, and I'd like to get more involved with the museum somehow. It's a great little space and Josephine loves the toddler room. We'll also go back and play in the fake doctor's office. We'll play with the skeleton puzzle. We'll do some exercises. It will be grand.

Of course, there will be time on the carousel. Maybe I'll put the boy on if no one is there. If the chalkboard is clean and we still have time, we'll write some things. Jo is drawing faces now.


Then we'll begin our trek back home, which includes a stop at Vita Nova. We prefer Vita Nova to Christians because it won't be as crowded. The selection won't be as great, but I think the pizza tastes better. And I should know. I have worked as a pizza cook at no less than five establishments during my life time.

Then we'll head home just as it gets dark. I'll tell Josephine about how it is getting lighter and lighter every day, and I'll point out the planets as they begin to appear on the horizon. She knows about Mars, but tonight I'll tell her about Venus. I'll begin pushing the stroller faster and faster to get home before it gets too dark, and too cold.

Then we'll have bath-time, followed by book-time, followed by song-time, followed by requests to leave the light on. That part is new, as our routine is changing as she gets a little older. Somewhere in this time I'll put some hot water in Grommet, the hot-water bottle. Our gas bill hit $300 last month, so the addition of a little thermal energy might help me keep the thermostat down a little.

I've written all this out to show that even though things aren't optimal in my life at the moment, I know what is of chief importance to me - raising my children. I will have a tremendous day in Charlottesville.

And tomorrow? I'll have one then, too.

1/02/2009

Positive thoughts: Rediscovering old skills

Today I am going to channel positive thoughts. I find it easier to do this on days when the sky is overcast and gray. I take joy from wintry gloom. This is the last day of work before work gets crazy and I get right back into the swing of covering government meetings. I am going to work on some fun experiments. I am going to try to rediscover some of the talents that I've let lie fallow for a couple of years.

Yesterday, I spent two hours recording songs with my kids. Later on this month I'll be posting the results in a podcast on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I'm not going to be afraid to experiment and to innovate in the coming year. I miss working with sound. I miss working to make excellent radio.

Another thing I'd like to do this year is to get on stage somehow. I'd like to perform in some capacity, either as a singer or as an actor or something. I've always had the bug to do this sort of thing, but I've always convinced myself it wasn't important enough to actually explore. Excuses solidify into mental obstacles that must be smashed through. There is no other possibility.

I'm really not trying to set my expectations too high. I am not making demands of myself, other than the demand that I get in shape and get fit for the future. I am trying to go easy on myself while also working to eliminate negative thoughts. I also want to stop using the word "I" so much, but it's hard to get away from that on a personal blog, I suppose.

I am now going to brave the elements to walk to the bank and to drop my DVDs in the mail to Netflix. I've finished the first season of the Wire, and very much enjoyed it. Next up is to rewatch all of Battlestar Galactica in the two remaining weeks before the new season begins. One day I will write up what I like about the show.

For now, back to sifting through meeting agendas!

1/01/2009

Marking 10 years as a vegetarian

It's been ten years since I deliberately ate a piece of meat. It was an appetizer laced with chicken at a pool bar somewhere in Northern Virginia. When 1999 began, I did not quit eating meat in order to satisfy a New Year's resolution. I just simply stopped eating it, and the transition was pretty simple and easy. I've never had a craving that lasted for more than a minute or so.

People often ask why I'm a vegetarian. I mostly keep my responses to myself, as I don't really feel the need to justify my choice to myself. I could say that not eating red meat lowers my risk of colon cancer. I could say I find it hard to disassociate the animal from the flesh that it grew. I could tell them about the time I was visiting friends in Maryland and watching them eat crabs repulsed me. I could tell them about my vegetarian roommate Chandran who cooked delicious feasts that opened me to worlds of possibility. I could tell them that I just don't like the taste of dead things.

I don't do that, for the most part. I don't want to change anyone else's mind about it.
Vegetarianism is incredibly important to me, but I don't find the need to advertise my choice to everyone at every moment of every day. However, I did want to mark the occasion and now I have.

Thoughts on 2009

So this is 2009, and what have you done? Last night I braved the outside to go to a downtown bar in order to spend the passage of 11:59 with strangers. I had fallen asleep at 7:30 PM and didn't really feel up to braving the elements. However, I did not want to spend the first minute of 2009 alone in my apartment so I went out with my friends.

2009 is going to be a challenging year. I'm basically starting my life over and trying to examine every single way that I do things. I'm trying to pressure myself to not be afraid of tasks that other people find routine. At the heart of all of my problems is a network of fears that has become embedded in every aspect of my behavior. I'm living the results of that personality.

So, in 2009 I am going to try to think of everything a little differently. I am reading up on all kinds of things about how people behave in an effort to understand why I am so petrified unless I'm playing the role of journalist. I find it hard to connect to people in a meaningful way, mostly because I'm so trained to be a passive observer of life.

And that's what I need to change. I'm halfway through my life, and there is much going on that is positive and meaningful. I have to hold on to that as I begin this year and as I continue to adjust to my new life.

I was glad last night to be in the presence of other people having fun. The place was packed with happy and beautiful adults who were enjoying themselves, and not thinking too hard about it. I tried to join them by just opening myself up to the vibe. I wanted to feel their emotions and soak in them for a few minutes. And, until 11:59 I was able to shut out all thoughts of myself.

Unfortunately, that was not able to last. Other things then happened which caused me to go back to my wallowing pit, and that's where I am this morning. Trying to hold on to the positive while constantly being reminded of the negative. I need to think about what this means. I need to research strategies to overcome that which is beyond my control.

I'm okay, though. I'll be okay. Thankfully the universe is a warm and comfortable place if you can find ways to open up to its majesty. That's the challenge of 2009, I think. It is time to fully realize this life of mine and to stop hiding behind excuses and fears.

Now, I'm not sure I can codify that into a resolution, so I won't even try. I feel I am on a new path now, one that leads to a healthier and saner version of myself. I've not been well and now it is time to get better.