carbon leaf

Exit 189. Even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade, what she said stuck with me.

I had a rough day at work on Thursday.  Many of the students are at a point where they just don’t care.  They don’t yet have the maturity to understand that they need to do some work in order to be successful in school or in life.  So, as a consequence of that, they are completely lost in class, and they can’t tell me the main idea of what we’ve been learning all week even though they literally should have been writing it in their notebook at least once a day and using it on their homework.  (You know, the homework they didn’t do.)

I was sitting in my classroom, looking at the music on my phone, trying to figure out what to listen to while I graded papers during my prep period.  My prep is the second to last period of the day, so I had one more class to go after that.   I came across a playlist with a noteworthy title: “Listening To A Hug.”

I made this playlist, but I didn’t coin this title.  Someone who I used to know from Carbon Leaf‘s online fandom did.  In 2004, when Carbon Leaf was first touring nationwide and I was very active in their online fan community, they recorded and released a song called “Let Your Troubles Roll By.”  The song has regularly been on their live set lists ever since, usually played toward the end of the show.  Another regular on their fan message boards, we’ll call her “Naos,” wrote something about how she loved this song.  “It’s like listening to a hug,” she said.

For a few years in the middle of the last decade, I made a lot of friends through Carbon Leaf’s online fan sites, and I met some of those people in person during my 2005 travels.  Some of them I am still friends with today.  Naos, however, is not one of them.  One time I was bored online as I often am, I messaged Naos on AIM to say hi, and she replied something like, “Don’t you ever have anything better to do than message people online?”  We never spoke again.  Thanks for showing me your true colors.

But, even though I haven’t talked to her in a decade and have no desire to, what she said about listening to a hug stuck with me for many years.  Several years later, I was listening to Let Your Troubles Roll By, and I thought about this, and I thought about other songs that have felt that way to me.  So I made a playlist of such songs, and I called it “Listening To A Hug.”  I hadn’t listened to it all the way through in a long time, but I rediscovered it a few days ago when I was having a rough day at work, as I described above.  And I listened to it, at least as much as I could until the period was over and the students came back.  And I was much more calm for the last class of the day.

Some of the songs on my Listening To A Hug playlist are well-known classics by some of the greatest artists in the history of music.  But some are by lesser-known artists.  Some are down-album tracks by well-known artists.  Some were big hits for a brief time that have mostly been forgotten.  (Interesting side note: I was curious exactly when I first put this playlist together, because a few of the songs were by artists well known at the time I made the playlist but haven’t really followed since then.  The original file on my computer says it was created February 18, 2013.  Exactly five years ago today.  Weird.)  Also, normally when I make playlists like this, I try not to use the same artist too many times, and with a playlist of this length I would normally not use the same artist more than once.  I kind of violated that with two songs with Michael Jackson on vocals, but one of them was from early in his career with the Jackson 5, and the other was the last song he completed in his lifetime, so they really don’t sound all that similar at all.

I should also point out that I left Christian music off of this playlist.  I was really into Christian music from the mid-90s until the mid-2000s, and I still listen to Christian music occasionally.  But I already had a lot of comforting playlists with Christian music.  I wanted to try to do one with secular music just to see what it would turn out like.

Here’s my playlist.  I know I have a very eclectic taste in music, I don’t expect all of you to like all of my songs, but maybe you’ll find something here that is like listening to a hug for you too.  (I tried to use legal official videos and songs wherever possible.  If any of the links don’t work someday, let me know.)

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Exit 168. Just part of being an introvert.

I took a week off from this blog… I had a lot going on, and I wasn’t feeling well for a few days.

The stuff I had going on involved seeing Carbon Leaf in San Francisco.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen this band many times, including just about every time they’ve toured nationwide.  Usually, their tour only takes them as close as San Francisco, and more often than not it happens to be on a weeknight.  I got home from San Francisco at 2am and got four hours of sleep that night, among the reasons I’ve been so exhausted lately.

I left for the concert right after work, with plans to stop in Concord or Pleasant Hill or Walnut Creek for dinner.  It would be around 5pm when I got there, and I know my way around that area because I lived there briefly.  At around 4:30, I decided on a whim to pull over and post on Facebook and Instagram exactly where I would be stopping for dinner.  I said if any of my friends in that area saw this post and were free, please come say hi sometime between 5 and 6.  I’ve done this kind of thing a few times before, but this one ended up being different, because someone actually showed up and joined me for dinner.  (Not just some-ONE, it was actually a whole family of four.)  It was nice to know that someone actually took the time to join me.

Yesterday, just nine days after the Carbon Leaf trip, I found myself in the Bay Area again, although not specifically in the same place.  This time, I didn’t post that I would be passing through anyone else’s area, and I didn’t invite anyone to join me.  Part of the difference here was just logistical.  The plan for this trip was to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen in a while over lunch, so I wasn’t stopping to eat anywhere.  I also wasn’t passing directly through anywhere I used to live, or anywhere with a high concentration of people I hadn’t seen in a while.  I didn’t want my friend to think that she wasn’t a priority.  And I had plans back home that evening, so while I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, I knew that any additional stops I made might mean less time with my friends back home.

But sometimes when I’m passing through places where friends live, it isn’t that I don’t have time to see them.  Sometimes it’s just part of being an introvert.  Sometimes I’m really looking forward to a long drive by myself, getting lost in the music and the scenery.  Sometimes I feel anxious about trying to make plans with people, for no good reason other than that I’m an introvert.

I just hope that, when this happens, my friends who I didn’t try to stop and visit don’t feel slighted or left out.  I promise that isn’t it.  I have friends spread out all over California, and all over the world for that matter.  Someone asked me once what I would wish for if I could have one wish, and the best answer I thought of was a private jet with an unlimited fuel supply, or some other form of fast and cheap transportation, so I could visit distant friends and family more often.

But sometimes I just feel like being alone.

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook, or who follow me on Instagram, know that I like to take pictures of scenery or landmarks when I’m not home.  If you see me taking a picture of something that is near you, and you’re available to hang out, please speak up.  Let me know if you want me to stop and see you.  And keep inviting me to things.  Similarly, let me know if you’re ever in my area and you feel like hanging out.  But please accept the fact that I might not be able to, and I might not be in the mood for it for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with you.  I really hope that this doesn’t come across as arrogant or selfish, because that’s not what I mean at all.  When this happens, let’s talk about another time that might work out to get together.  Advance notice works better with my schedule.

Thank you, friends.

Exit 157. Mystery blogger award.

Hi, friends.  Alli over at Hey Worms tagged me in something called the “Mystery Blogger Award.”  I’m not sure what’s so mysterious about it, but it gives me a topic for this week’s post, and this was a busy week, away from my usual routine, so an award like this with the topic all spelled out for me is just what I need.  By the way, go check out Alli’s page; you’ll be glad you did.

So I have to do all of this stuff:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog.
    (Done, see first paragraph)
  • Mention the creator of the award
    (The creator is someone called Okoto.  I don’t follow Okoto’s site; maybe I should go check it out one of these days.)
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Ask nominees any 5 questions of your choice
  • Share the link to your best/favorite post of yours.

I guess I’m on the step where I have to tell three things about myself. I did another one of these blog award things a few months ago where I had to tell things about myself, so I’m not going to repeat any of those things.

  1. I’ve been to 112 different In-N-Out Burgers.  In-N-Out Burger is a drive-thru burger place that started in the 1940s near Los Angeles.  Their menu has stayed pretty simple over the years: burgers, fries, shakes, drinks, that’s it.  No chicken nuggets or salads or kale and broccoli wraps with pine nuts or anything.  They were exclusively located in southern California until the early 1990s; since then, they have expanded to over 300 locations in six states in the western and southwestern US.  I had my first In-N-Out Burger in late 1997 and was instantly hooked.  Two friends from college (one of whom was Jeff from 80isenough, a frequent commenter on this site) were talking about taking a road trip in the summer of 1998 to go to every single In-N-Out Burger in existence (there were 130 of them at the time).  They never did it, but that inspired me to go to as many different ones as I could, just for fun.  So if I’m on a road trip through a part of the country with In-N-Out Burger restaurants, I’ll take a little side trip to check one off my list, or sometimes I’ll go to two or three of them and only get one item at each one so I can check off more than one.
  2. I’ve never had kale, as far as I know.  I make fun of kale all the time, but I don’t really have an opinion on it; it’s just easy to make fun of.  Kale is basically the Nickelback of vegetables.
  3. Let’s see, how about one that isn’t about food… My first gray hair and my first kiss on the lips came in the same year, in that order.  That could mean that I started getting gray hair unusually young, or that could mean I didn’t kiss anyone until I was older than most.  I’ll let you decide which one you think is true.

I’m also supposed to answer questions that Alli asked to the people she nominated.  For some reason, that isn’t on the list of things to do that I got.  Hmm.

  1. What is one big decision you made in your life that could have changed everything?  I’m not entirely sure about the wording of this question, but I’ll say that I quit my job in 2005, spent four months traveling trying to find myself, and eventually moved to where I am now.  Had I not done that, I probably would have stayed in the same job where I was, as I gradually became more and more cynical and felt more and more out of place, and more and more disillusioned with Christianity since one of the major reasons I moved was because I couldn’t find a church.  I probably would have reached my breaking point of being tired of life a few years later, when California was in a budget crisis and not hiring teachers.  Maybe I would have moved out of state.  Would that have been better or worse than the life I have now in the long run?  I don’t know.
  2. Would you rather be poor and in love or rich without a partner?  I can’t decide, because either one is an improvement over being poor without a partner.  I should point out, though, that I’m really not poor from the perspective of how most people on planet Earth live.  This is also a tough question because I don’t really don’t know what it feels like to be in love in a healthy way.  I’ve experienced all of the pain of relationships with little to none of the good times.  Even my five months in my late 20s with Vega the Nice Ex weren’t really representative of what it’s like to be in love, because that was a medium-distance relationship and we only saw each other in person a couple times a month.  My gut instinct is to say I’d rather be poor and in love, but sometimes I wonder if maybe being in love isn’t right for me.  I’d have someone around all the time.  Would that be difficult for me as an introvert?  I still tend to think that if I were really with the right person, we’d find a way to work it out.  So I’ll go with poor and in love.
  3. What’s a fun fact you know that most might not?  Are you kidding?  Just one?  I’m full of fun facts that most people might not know.  I’ll go with this one that most of my real life friends have heard me say: “Business Route 80” in Sacramento (an old routing of Interstate 80 that has since been bypassed) is actually state highway 51 on paper.  Caltrans doesn’t want to put 51 on signs, because apparently they think that this would be too confusing having highways 50 and 51 in the same city.  Apparently having two different highway 80s in the same city is less confusing, but this kind of nonsense is typical of California’s state government.
  4. What is one of your favorite lyrics?  My screen name on this and several other sites is literally one of my favorite lyrics, so I should probably go with that one.
    Live a life less ordinary
    Live a life extraordinary with me
    — Carbon Leaf, “Life Less Ordinary” (2004)
  5. Why did the chicken cross the road?  Because the chicken was moving with a velocity vector that intersected the line of the road, for enough time that the absolute value of the coordinate of this intersection point minus the coordinate of the chicken continued to decrease until it became negative.

Next, I have to nominate 10-20 people.  I don’t like this step, because some people like doing these and some don’t.  So I’ll nominate anyone reading this.  If you want to do this post in your blog, or other social media site, go for it.  And if you are, these are your five questions:

  1. What is one of your favorite bands that most people have not heard of?
  2. What was a time when something that happened in a way that you didn’t want ended up being better in the long run?
  3. If someone made a movie about your life, who should play you?
  4. Have you ever met someone in a really unusual, noteworthy, or humorous way, and ended up becoming really close with the other person?  Tell me about it.
  5. Are we there yet?

And finally, I have to link to my favorite of my own posts.  This is a hard one… but I’m probably going to go with #86, in which I discussed the correct pronunciation of the term “.gif.”  People get so worked up over this, and it says some interesting things about us and language.

 

Exit 122. Everything is more interesting when you focus on the positive.

Last night, a friend from high school did one of those viral Facebook posts where you answer questions about yourself.  In this one, you were given a year in the past, and you answered questions comparing what you and your life were like in that year and what the same things are like now.  She gave me 2003.  It wasn’t a very long survey, and most of my answers to the questions weren’t very exciting.  “Relationship status?”  “Number of kids?”  My answer was “none,” both in 2003 and now.  I usually only share these kinds of posts when I have answers that are specifically interesting or funny, but I had no such answers, and I noted on my post that my answers for this one were kind of boring, wondering out loud why I was wasting my time with this post.

After I posted that, I went for a 25-mile bike ride… yay me.  I checked my phone during a water break, and I saw that I had two replies, one from another unmarried and childless friend my age agreeing with me, and one from my friend who originally posted it, apologizing and offering to think of some more interesting questions to ask me.

No apology was necessary.  I was not truly upset.  If anything, I was just being overly negative about being unmarried and childless, something I tend to do too often that really only makes the situation worse.  I felt bad at this point for my response… it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

But I had a thought as I continued my bike ride.  Instead of dwelling on something that makes me far more upset than it should, I’m going to turn this around and make it positive.  So when I got home, I thought of some positive changes that I have made and/or that have happened to me since 2003, and I added those to my post.  At the start of 2003, I had only been to 14 states; now I’ve been to 48, plus the District of Columbia.  (If you don’t include airport stops or driving into a state and then right back out just to say I’d been there, it would be 7 then and 38 now).  In 2003, I lived in an apartment in which my mailbox got broken into once a month, presumably by people looking for welfare checks, with neighbors who I could never tell if they were fighting or having sex or both.  Today I own a house (by which I mean I pay a mortgage) on a quiet street.  In 2003, I had never ridden my bike more than 20 miles in one day; today, I have broken 50 miles three times.  I had been to two NBA basketball games in my life up until 2003; now that number is around 80.  I discovered the music of Carbon Leaf in 2002 but had not yet seen them live as of 2003; now, I have seen them 19 times.

Everything is more interesting when you focus on the positive.  It’s not always easy, though.

Exit 59. An ace that I could keep.

I’ve had a lot going on in the last couple weeks, and of all the things I’ve had on my mind, none of them are really coagulating into a Highway Pi post yet.  So I was looking through some things I wrote in the past, and I found one I wrote five years ago, almost to the day that feels true given all that has been going on.  So you get a rerun this week.  I wrote this in June of 2010 and made some minor changes to it right now so it still makes sense.  The title of this post, of course, is a quote from Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.”


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn481KcjvMo

I didn’t really pay much attention to country music before 2005, but this song (Kenny’s version was originally released in 1978) was always well-known enough that I vaguely knew of its existence before then. But I remember paying more attention to this song before 2005… I guess it was in the early 2000s when I discovered Carbon Leaf*. Although they never recorded a version of The Gambler, they often played it at live shows in their early days, and it briefly made a return to their setlist in 2005, including at a show I attended.

* [When I wrote this on Facebook in 2010, I had a note here reminding my friends that Carbon Leaf would be in Sacramento in July and that they should all come with me.  That show, of course, was five years ago.  But they will be in San Francisco in September 2015, and I am still of the firm belief that all my friends should come with me.  If you aren’t local, check their Web site for tour dates near you.  http://www.carbonleaf.com/shows]

Anyway, I’m all for works of art being open to interpretation, but I’m pretty sure the writer of this song didn’t intend just to write a song about an old man passing on advice for how to win at poker. The song is meant to be taken metaphorically.  Let’s look at the the gambler’s advice. Know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em… some things are worth fighting for, and some things are better let go. Never count your money while you’re sitting at the table… take life as it comes, and don’t worry about the future. Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser… the outcome of life isn’t determined by what happens, so much as one’s reaction to it, and how one uses what he or she has. And, at the end of the song: In his final words, I found an ace that I could keep. The two men are just talking, they aren’t even playing cards, and if the gambler somehow gave the narrator a literal ace, that would be cheating. The gambler, who has just passed away, has passed on to the narrator useful advice (the metaphorical ace) that will help him succeed in life, with that advice being everything else he just said.

I feel like I haven’t been playing my cards well lately. I’m off work for two months. I should be using this time for, well, pretty much anything other than that the sad amount of time I’ve spent the last few days moping around being bored. I have creative projects to produce, boxes to organize, people to hang out with, places to go, books to read, old video games I’ve never beaten to finish… and I shouldn’t be worried about whether there is a right decision or a wrong decision. This is my time to enjoy, not to be sad. And more important, I shouldn’t be letting little things get to me, as I have repeatedly the last few days. Sometimes I just need to fold, to let things go and focus on what’s more important.

Furthermore, while every hand may be a winner, and every hand may be a loser, I have to say that some hands are easier to win with than others. And I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand. While the last few days may have felt like every little thing has gone wrong, I have to admit that it could be a lot worse.  A lot of people I know have some very big things going wrong in their lives. That all puts things in perspective… I really don’t have it that badly right now. I have a lot of things to be thankful for… so it’s time to start playing my cards right.


Now, in 2015, not much has changed.  A lot of little things have gone wrong, and I still haven’t been very productive with my time off.  So, once again, it’s time to start playing my cards right.