Thursday, June 26, 2008

In Perpetual Motion...

What a week! Seems like I haven’t stopped moving over the past several days. Aside from my regular duties at work, fate has conspired to fill up almost every minute of my day, with a few evenings of sheer boredom.

Last Monday I went to chorus and to my delight, one of my favorite clients from work took my suggestion and came as well! He was a bit self-conscious, being more an amazing keyboard player than a singer, but he did manage a few bars here and there. After rehearsal, he and I, along with my friend and quartetmate Lou, went to Four Green Fields and had a great time swapping stories about gigs, women, life and such over a couple beers. I hope he comes back. Not only did I have a blast, but it’d be great to get another real musician in the chorus. He’s got a great bass sound.

The following Wednesday, my quartet got together for the first time in almost 2 months to rehearse for a couple upcoming gigs we lined up for the weekend. We ran down a list of songs we knew well, ones we sorta knew but needed to brush up, and ones we need to learn. I was pleasantly surprised at how many we actually knew well. We had a disappointing gig several months ago for a birthday party. We generally charge $260/hr with a 1-hour minimum, and we were hired for an hour. Now, that usually (especially at birthday parties) involves about 30-40 minutes of actual stage time with some banter included. THESE people put us on a stage and expected us to sing for the full hour. I hadn’t expected that and we weren’t terribly prepared. About 40 minutes in, we ran out of material (we sang a bit fast and banter was rushed). We managed to eek out a couple shakier songs to fill the time, but it wasn’t pretty. Lesson learned.

NOW we had AT LEAST an hour’s worth of music. We went to our first gig (a birthday party) and did wonderfully. Only glitch was that it was an outdoor party and there were some passing thunderstorms. They had canopies, so we stayed mostly dry, but one lightning bolt hit what must have been about 3 houses down and nearly gave me a heart attack! Still, we sang on and everyone was pleased with us.

From there, we went to the Relay For Life at Ferndale High – a benefit for cancer research. We were supposed to be ambient entertainment on the track, but due to the weather, we were moved to the gym. After singing at the entrance for a few of the high school kids there (who, not surprisingly, were extremely impressed with our choice of footwear), we moved inside the gym. At first, we figured our sound would be completely sucked up by the ambient noise and echo, and we’d be barely heard. Acoustics are a funny thing. We started out with “Zippidy Doo-dah”, one of our better songs and has a great barbershop 7th just before the tag and a big cut-off. We’ve gotten REALLY good at ringing chords lately and LOVE holding that one at full volume because we do it so well. We get to that chord and as we sang it, we heard the wavelengths reinforcing each other in the echo. It got louder and louder as we held it. We cut off and it just RANG FOREVER! We look at each other with the biggest shit-eatin’ grins you ever saw, finished the song, and never had another worry about being heard in there.

Sunday was Liam’s belated birthday party for his friends. Planning Liam’s party is always tricky, as his birthday lies almost always around Memorial Day weekend, so we usually put it off a week or 2 so more kids can attend. This year, the planned weekend for his party coincided with one of his classmates who had invited his entire class. Rather than try and compete for guests, Liam went to his friend’s party and had fun with his friends while collecting a few phone numbers for his own guest list. After several calls, it turned out that only one of his friend from Cub Scouts, Lucas, and our friend Jenn’s 4-year-old daughter could attend. Being a small party, we decided to have it at Civic Park in Madison Heights; a WONDERFUL park with lots of room, facilities, and even a skate park. That was the clincher for Liam, as he’s been having a blast tooling around on his new Heelies and roller blades lately. The teens that usually hang out there are absolutely great, making room for him, encouraging him, and giving him tips along the way. He brought his unicycle along and impressed the teens there with that as well. We were there for over 4 hours, talking with Leigh, Jenn, and Sonya’s parents, eating pizza, and watching the kids play. Sonya made cupcakes in wafer cones and airbrushed Transformer logos on top, as well as using the same stencils for food coloring tattoos for the boys. Despite the low turn-out for Liam’s friends, he said it was the best birthday party ever. Mission accomplished, largely thanks to Sonya.

All this week, Liam has been spending his entire day at day camps, starting at the Cub Scout day camp from 8am till 4, then heading to Flint with Grandma to catch their church's Vacation Bible School. It's been very long week for Sonya as well, as she's been getting up at the crack of dawn to help the Cub Scouts set up and helping with the very high-energy kids and activities. They're both exhausted. Thankfully, the Cub Scout camp only ran through Thursday, so they get to sleep in today and relax a bit before heading to Flint for the final session of Vacation Bible School.

Monday night was the annual Detroit Target Fireworks along the Detroit River. Sonya, the kids and I will often join Sonya's parents for the event by parking at Sonya's parents' place in Corktown and walking to the embankment by the Lodge Freeway to watch them. The view is a bit obscured there and we catch maybe 1/3 of the show through trees and between buildings. This year, I took my sister up on her offer to join her on the 40th floor of the Comerica Building to watch them from one of her law firm's offices. I was hoping to take Sonya and the kids with me, but the kids didn't get back from Flint in time to leave and Sonya was to exhausted to get moving quickly, so I left solo. It was a small gathering including myself, Valerie, my friend Paul Bastian, and a couple of Valerie's friends. The view was AMAZING and I had a blast.

The rest of the evenings this week have been rather dull. The kids have been in Flint for all or much of the evening and Sonya has been tired and sore, so most evenings have been spent coming home, doing a few chores, making or buying dinner and vegging in front of the TV. This is rare for me, as most of my nights are filled with errands, rehearsals or work. It's been a bit boring, but a welcome change of pace.

On the docket for the next few weeks are trips to the cottage, quartet gigs, more camps for the kids, and of course work, work, work. It's going to be a BUSY summer.

Coming up next: "It must be Thursday. I could never get the hang of Thursdays"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Father's Day Weekend.

In Perpetual Motion. More than my favorite internet radio program, it's the mantra of my life.

Friday, the usual: work the day job, work Blockbuster, go home to a house full of people and dogs, have a couple beers, and go to sleep.

Saturday, Sonya runs off to do some errands and check out a new garden plot she reserved with the city and I take Liam to one of his school friends' birthday party. I spent the majority of the afternoon there, watching the kids play in the pool, slip-n-slide, play games and eat, while occasionally staving off one of Liam's tantrums spawned by some minor incident. It wasn't a chore, exactly, but there were plenty of things I'd rather do. Then I went to work at Blockbuster.

Father's Day, I got to sleep in till 10:30. That was nice. Then I woke up to help Sonya and Liam gather to be in the Frankenmuth Bavarian festival Parade with the Redford Unicycle Club. I got a nice card and some artwork from Liam & Courtney for my office, then commence to get them dressed and prepped. The parade started at 1, so I figured if we left by 11:30, we'd be fine. Silly me. Apparently, we needed to stop by Wal*Mart for white shoes for Liam and white pants for Sonya for the parade uniform. Okay, that sets us about 30 minutes behind. No problem, we'll still just barely make it. THEN we have to stop by her parents, because her mom may have a pair of pants that fit so we can return the pair just bought and pick up her brother. That turns into the better part of 1/2 hour as her mom makes French toast for everyone. Finally, we leave her parents' about 12:55. I barrel down the highway at breakneck speeds to get them to the parade site. We get there at about 1:25 and all run to catch up with the group, who is near the tail end of the parade, barely catching them. I pick up Courtney and run/speed-walk - while carrying her - the mile or so to a point in the parade to watch, getting there just in time. I snap a few pics of the group and meet up with my drum corps buddy, Caroline, and a few other corps alumni to watch the remainder of the parade. Courtney is thirsty, so Caroline points to her house and allows me to invade her kitchen for some water for the girl. By the time I got back, the parade was about done.

From there, I walk with Courtney to about the end of the parade (another mile or so) to meet up with them. Sonya's parents drove up to see the parade, missing it entirely, of course, as we almost did, and gather us to drive back to my car. Sonya, me, her parents, her brother, and both kids, crammed into a Toyota Corolla (cue the circus music). We spend about 40 minutes finding a place for lunch, and after a pleasantly quiet and uneventful meal, I decide to head home to finish up a learning track project that's a couple weeks overdue.

Ahh. Finally, some calm and quiet, and I can do some stuff I need to do....

...then I hit the traffic. 2 mile backup on I-75, taking an extra 1/2 hour from my day. The rest of the day was spent in the bedroom working on the learning tracks for my chorus, sweating like a pig, as I have to turn off the fan to avoid ambient noise on the track.

Don't get me wrong, the day wasn't entirely unpleasant, but not the relaxing Father's Day I was hoping for. Instead of enjoying a nice parade with friends, it turned into a mad dash to be everywhere 20 minutes ago.

Oh well. I'll me mellow when I'm dead.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Secret to Blogging: Location, Location, Location…

Ah… Familiar territory. Liam’s finally out of school and on summer vacation. This means I don’t have to cart him to school in the mornings anymore. With my new job starting an hour earlier than my old job and being 20 minutes more commute, this means my 2 hour morning constitutional at the Caribou Coffee in Royal Oak has shifted to about 30 minutes at the Burger King ½ mile from work – if I time it just right.

Aside from the GREATLY diminished time available and my laptop being on the Disabled List for the better part of the last month, my environment has changed. I can still get wireless at my new morning home, but the atmosphere is just less than ideal. Caribou has a cozy, but not crowded atmosphere, occasional friends dropping in, and some great jazz playing at a very soft level in the background. It’s perfect for thinking (aside from the occasional noise of the coffee grinder and milk frother).

Burger King is Spartan, austere, a bit corporate-crass, and has MSNBC playing on TVs in every corner. It’s hard to concentrate on peaceful thoughts when you have talking heads and pundits arguing the latest canned talking points in your ears. Plus, the coffee just isn’t good.

So now that Liam’s out of school, I took the first day of his vacation to get up a bit earlier and hit my favorite thinking spot again. It was like walking into Cheers and having everyone shout, “NORM!” I chatted up my favorite barista, Leanna, ordered “the usual” (mug of dark roast and a lemon-poppy seed bread), and opened the laptop to catch up on the mountain of blogs I subscribe to that had accumulated over the last month. I got through maybe 20% of it. Now, I have 35 minutes left to write a bit and get to work – which means about 10 minutes for actual writing.

I can’t do this terribly often, as the $3.50 or so for my “usual” can add up, and it’ll be nice to spend a few mornings with my family (even though Sonya & Courtney tend not to wake up before 9 voluntarily). I anticipate a couple mornings of eggs, coffee and toast around the kitchen table (if we ever get it cleared), and some nice shared morning breakfast time.

Still, I truly cherish this time and place. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, my mornings at Caribou are some of the few times I can sit, undistracted, and think clearly. I would love to spend a day here just writing, arranging, and catching up on …well…everything.

My time’s about up. You have no IDEA how tempted I am to skip work today and just enjoy the peace and nice weather, but responsibility beckons and I must heed the call. Well, off I go; from the comfy, peaceful atmosphere of a neighborhood coffee shop, to the gray…VERY gray, professional office.

I gotta get me a plant or something for that place…

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Forgive me, bloggers, for I have sinned. It's been over 4 weeks since my last blog.

And a whirlwind four weeks it's been too! An extremely fun and understated birthday, full-on geek immersion, successful adjustment to the new job, a couple days of semi-bachelorhood, and the resurrection of my beloved laptop (hence my return to blogging).

My birthday party on the 10th went very well. Maybe a dozen or so folks came by to help me celebrate. We sat around the fire bowl in the back yard, sang some songs, drank some beer, had cake, and caught each other up on life in general. It was a nice, relaxed, understated evening with friends. I like a big party, but given the late announcement and other peoples' prior commitments, this was just right. Not too big, not too small. I'd like to thank everyone who came by and made my birthday fun: Paulie, Sarah, Nyma, Todd, Jenn, Kirk, Leigh, Lou, Linda, and of course, my lovely wife Sonya. I know I'm forgetting one or two people. Forgive me. The last hour or two are a bit of a blur 3 weeks after the fact.

On the 17th, I went to my first Motor City ComiCon. I have never felt SOOOOO in my element...sadly, pathetically, embarrassingly in my element. I decided to go in my Greatest American Hero t-shirt rather than the full costume (first ComiCon and all, I wanted to tone down the geektitude a bit), figuring that was the ONE place it would be appreciated more than anywhere else (and it was). I ran into several friends I expected to see, and a few that surprised me. I was on the lookout for my friend Chris Brown, knowing he was closing his comic store to attend ("All my customers will be there anyway"). After maybe a half hour there, I spotted him. He was kinda hard to miss, being a 6'2" beanpole of a guy with a Mohawk and what can only be described as an entourage. I followed him for a while, and then got bored with the pace as he stopped to talk to virtually EVERBODY there like they're long lost cousins at a family reunion.

Later I spotted a former co-worker of mine, Jamin Fite, who runs a website, After seeing the large representation of "Warsies" there, my surprise faded a bit, but as I walked up to say hi, I noticed he had his own entourage...of Slave Girl Leias. Resisting the urge to get my picture taken with hot girls in bikinis who will likely have to spend the day surrounded by enough overweight geeks as it is, I wandered off to check out the celebs. Not many of note, but I did manage to shake hands with Mickey Dolenz, Walter Koenig, and Anthony Montgomery (Ensign Travis Mayweather on Enterprise), as well as stand close enough to breath the same air as Chase Masterson (Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Erik Estrada, Avery Brooks, and the ever-cool Billy Dee Williams. I also sat in on a talk with Anthony Montgomery later with several folks in Star Trek regalia, a Klingon or two and several others who looked like they haven't seen the sun since the Reagan administration.

Last Thursday was Courtney’s pre-school graduation. I took my lunch a bit late that day so I could attend. While I think the idea of a graduation ceremony for pre-school a bit much, it was nice to see my somewhat shy baby girl get up and perform some songs with her class so enthusiastically. They’re growing up so fast.

The past 2 weekends, I’ve had a brief taste of the bachelor life. On Memorial Day weekend, I stopped by Valerie’s place to borrow her mower again, and paid my usual price: free mowing for her double lot. It was nice, though, getting a bit of exercise on a nice day and being able to chat with my little sis. Memorial Day, Sonya, Courtney and I accompanied Liam and his Cub Scout troop in the parade, picking up Valerie and Rufus along the route. Liam decorated his bike and rode it along the route, Courtney had a ball being pulled in the wagon and throwing mini Tootsie Rolls at the kids, and we all enjoyed a nice 2-mile walk on a gorgeous day. Later, Sonya and the kids headed to the family cottage in Canada and I had the run of the house…to wash dishes, fold laundry, vacuum, mow the lawn… Not exactly exciting, but I was able to take some pride in my productivity and managed to spare a few moments to sit, relax, and enjoy the wonderful weather. After being productive, I decided to call up Paulie B., and he and Sarah Bradley came over to watch the Pistons game. A good time was had by all.

Last weekend, Sonya & Liam went to a Cub Scout “Mom & Me” campout, while Courtney went with grandma so I could do my shifts at Blockbuster. Once again, I did a few chores in my all-too-brief free time before work, fix a bug in the desktop computer, and tidied up the place. I did manage to fit in hitting the comic store and have my annual Monte Cristo sandwich at Bennigan’s. I usually have one of these heart-attack-on-a-plate sandwiches a year, usually around my birthday. Turkey & ham with Swiss and American cheeses, battered, deep-fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with a side of raspberry preserves to dip it in. Sarah Bradley calls ‘em “Turkey Paczkis” - an apt moniker. I called up my best friend, Lou, and he and his girlfriend Linda joined me for some company at Bennigan’s. After my shift at Blockbuster that night, I stopped by my friend Bob Perye’s place for his weekly IPM (In Perpetual Motion – internet radio program/party and had a lot of fun chatting, playing Wii bowling, and trying pizza-flavored beer (I know, sounds gross, but it’s actually pretty damned good).

The new job is going VERY well. I had been a bit nervous about fitting in and “clicking” with the folks at my new place of business, but a couple weeks ago, one of the other salesmen actually made a point of stopping in my office to mention how well I had acclimated myself to the flow of the place. That really meant a lot to me, as I had still felt a bit awkward around everyone, being the new guy and having brought a plague of some upper respiratory infection to the entire staff my first week. The job has its periods of dull, slow times, filled with motivating myself to make cold calls to prospects and clients who haven’t heard from us in up to a year, but there are also days where I can’t seem to detach the phone from my ear as I’m punching in order after order. It makes me a bit nervous to work on commission and have my paychecks ebb and flow with the sales trends and economy, but on the whole (with some tenacity in sales and financial planning and budgeting), I know I’ll do better here than my former job.

We have a new guy starting today to take over the extra territory I had been covering in the interim. He has tons of experience in the field and I know he’ll do well. While I’m a bit sorry to see some of the clients I’ve been serving for the past month go to someone else, I knew it was coming. It’ll be nice not to be the “new guy” for a while and I look forward to meeting him. He’s stepping into a good territory and I’ve tried to “warm it up” a bit for him.

My laptop: I dropped it with my computer guru and old friend, Chris DeLaney on Thursday. It seemed to have a relapse of the problem I had before: staring up, quick flash of BlueScreen, citing a problem with the last shutdown, prompting for safe mode, lather, rinse, repeat. I feared another wipedown was in order – ugh. After not hearing anything over the weekend, I feared the worst, then Monday, Chris called me. Apparently, it was just a static shock to the computer initiated a restore to the default BIOS settings. As my computer doesn’t seem to like the default settings to read my hard drive, it was just a matter of disabling the SATA driver. VIOLA! Back to work!

He offered to refund me the cash I offered him, saying it was a simple fix and was probably the original problem when he re-installed Windows last time, but I made him keep half, if for nothing g else, being willing to deal with my needy self whilst I suffer laptop DTs.

Last night Sonya and I, through the gracious babysitting abilities of our good friend Leigh, were able to take a night to go on an anniversary date. We went to Bahama Breeze for a wonderful dinner and caught the new Indiana Jones flick. Star has apparently started a great weekday deal with $4.75 tickets and $5 pop/popcorn combos, so we even managed to save some money. We had a GREAT time and both loved the movie. Go see it!

That’s all I can recall for now. God willing, I’ll have the time to do a bit more blogging, now that my laptop is back. TTFN!