Friday, September 26, 2008

Garage Sale Soreness & Feliz Cumpleanos!!

Last weekend we tried to have that garage sale we'd been talking about all year. It didn't really fit our schedule, as we has a lot of other things that needed attention (cleaning up the yard for the Wicked With of the Park, heading to Canada to rescue Sonya's car, etc.). This, however likely being the last weekend with good weather and a flexible schedule, I managed to head to my sister's, grab a bunch of stuff and our old coffee table, mow the lawn, set everything up, and sell...5 items. We made all of $75 for all my efforts and sore muscles, but at least we got rid of a bulky piece of play equipment the kids had outgrown, an old student violin I no longer needed, and a couple DVDs.

Some highlights included selling my violin to a kid in a band who wanted to add a new sound to the band's eclectic trance/folk/rock sound. I let it go for $42 - worth every penny. Go check them out at their MySpace page Wave Eats The Walrus.

I had a nibble at my trombone. I have a Benge 165F I got off eBay a few years back because it was a huge deal and I always wanted an F rotor tenor trombone. It served me well in my college ensembles, but I prefer my Yamaha straight tenor and don't need it anymore. A high-school kid and his dad pulled up and started looking at it. As I was describing it to them, I noticed the Glassmen logo on the kid's jacket. I immediately started talking drum corps, complimenting their show this year, and immediately dropped my asking price by $50. The father took my card and said they'll "mull it over". Haven't heard back from them yet, but when I dropped by Hazel Park High's band rehearsal to say hi to the director - a friend of mine - I saw the kid in the trombone section. He's damn good. After reeling from my Marching Band DTs, I decided I may drop my price a bit more...We'll see.

Anyway, the set-up, tear-down, weed-pulling, lawn-mowing, and crazy nature of the weekend left me more sore than I've been since I started going to the gym regularly for the first time (11 years ago). It was that good, productive kind of sore, but sitting in an office chair all day made getting up to go home a bit tough for a few days. We still have a TON of crap to get rid of, though. Some I'll CraigsList, some I'll eBay, but most will find its way to the Salvation Army.

Yesterday was Courtney's 5th birthday. It was a crazy whirlwind of a party (as if we have any other kind). I came home to find Sonya had taken the kids off to pick up Jeremy, so that left me to tidy up the house a bit and get some water boiling for the tortellini. As Sonya, Jeremy and the kids didn't get home till a little after 7, it left the rest of the party a bit crunched so that we could get the kids to bed at a decent hour. We ate outside till the mosquitoes - no doubt angered at the disruption of their home when I pulled the weeds - began to wreak their vengence upon us. We moved inside for cake and presents. Leigh got courtney a Tinkerbell costume she absolutely adored. Liam got her a Webkins unicorn she went ga-ga for. Sonya picked up a couple books for her, and I - I was still recovering from putting up the new playset in the backyard from a few weeks ago.

She had a great birthday, but it's not over. With my dad visiting from Kansas, we're having a Keiser-Orton birthday gathering on Sunday. Next weekend, we're having the "REAL" party, with decorations and her friends. When Sonya's parents come back from Eurpoe, we'll have yet another party with them. This one day is turning into a downright festival.

Okay, time to get to work again. This weekend's gonna be a bit crazy. If I survive it, and they have internet access at the nuthouse, I'll write more soon.

Held at Applewood Estates, right next to Mott College in Historic Flint, MI!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Schedule Tighter Than A Gnat's Ass...

I actually updated my Google Calendar yesterday - and it kinda scared the piss outa me. Not because I can't do it, but I got to see laid out in front of me how overbooked I can get. Pretty much any gaps in my schedule are commute time between obligations. This week's not exactly typical, but not off by much. Tonight is (unexpectedly) a bit free, but the later evening is filled with learning track stuff. I have to try and get the last 2 or 3 songs done for this quartet so I can now do another one for a fellow chorus member.

I was supposed to have quartet rehearsal with our substitue bass tonight to prep for our surprise gig this weekend at the Flint Applewood Fall Festival. This is our longest-standing regular gig. We've done this for the past 3 years running, along with occasional other gigs there for the Ruth Mott Foundation. We adore this gig. It's basically 3 hours of strolling around the beautiful grounds, singing what we want for small crowds of very appreciative patrons and volunteers. It's low pressure, gorgeous surroundings, friendly people...and a good paycheck.

This year, I started e-mailing our key contacts at Applewood about June, saying that we were booking up fast (a slight exaggeration, perhaps), and they should drop us an e-mail with the details soon so we can plan it in (yea - between opening for the Rolling Stones and our whirlwind sold-out European Tour). Anyway, 3 monthly e-mails went by with nary a peep from our favorite clients. I figured we'd been dumped due to budget issues. They usually start asking for us by July at the latest.

Last week, I get an e-mail from one of our contacts asking for names to put on the checks! ACK! With our regular bass out of town and a week to try and figure out how to cram this into my schedule (which is already packed in tighter than sausage meat in a casing), I sent out a flurry of e-mails and texts to the guys to see if we can do it. Luckily, we were all just free enough to fit it in. Being our best clients, an excellent opportunity to pass out business cards, a truly fun gig, and some much needed dough, I didn't want to pass this up.

I found out yesterday that our ringer bass can't make the only night I was available for a rehearsal this week, so we're going to do this one dry. I'm not worried. Our set list is mostly chorus songs we know backward and forward and we're so much tighter - even with a ringer bass - than we were a couple years ago, we'll still sound great. The trick is, this gig comes right in the middle of an extremely rare, semi-impromptu visit from my dad, and I want to try and fit in time to visit.

So I'm laying it all our in my Google Calendar yesterday and it goes like this:

Wed - 7:30: kids to school
9am: work
6:30: home, make dinner
8:30: kids to bed
9pm: Blitz-clean house
10pm: learning tracks
Midnight: bed

Thurs - 7:30: kids to school
9am: work
6:30: Home, dinner, family 5th birthday celebration for my baby girl
8:30: Kids to bed
9pm: Blitz-clean house
10pm: Learning Tracks
Midnight: bed

Fri - 7:30 kids to school
9am: work
6:30: work at Blockbuster
10pm: stop by AJ Coffee House to catch a friend's performance
11pm: home
Midnight: bed

Sat: - 8am: get kids up and dressed while Sonya head to a Garden Club breakfast
9am: MAJOR blitz-clean of house
10:30am: Meet with dad and head to gig (nice convo on drive)
11:30am: Meet with the quartet to warm up
Noon: Gig at Applewood Estates, Flint
3:30pm: Lunch with dad and quartet
4:30pm: Drive home
6pm: Work Blockbuster
10pm: Home

Sun: - 8am: get everyone up and moving, clean up, set up birthday party (Keiser Edition)
Noon: Courtney's birthday party for my side of the family

The rest of Sunday will be visiting with family and subsequent clean-up. Gonna be a FULL weekend.

Outa time. Gotta head to work. (deep breath)

Okay...let's DO this thing!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gawd, I love this show...

If you haven't seen the season premier of Heros yet, you may want to skip this particular blog entry. I won't include any details on plot points (no promises on the comments), just a thing or two about geek minutia (which is 90% of the apeal of the show, IMHO).

What a freaking awesome show! My favorite parts about this series are the gentle nods to their core audience - the geeks.

2 items stuck out: Online, they have episodes and clips. One of the preview scenes online was entitled "Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration". If you don't know where that's from, flee thee from my blog, infidel!

The biggest one, though, was a WONDERFUL choice of a cameo. William Katt has seemed to crawl out from under the rock of obscurity in the past couple years since the debut of the Greatest American Hero DVDs. If you need an idea of how much I love that show, just look to your right at my profile picture - 'nuf said. Between a smattering of small parts and some unfortunately little-known films (go see "The Man From Earth," BTW), his own comic book series, the impending debut of a Greatest American Hero comic series, and the production of a movie adaptation of that shhow in which he is most certainly slated for a bit part or cameo, the guy in the red jammies is making a comeback!

He had a very brief, 2-scene cameo in last night's Heroes season premier. I caught his voice immediately and once I saw that longish curly mop of his, my jaw dropped. It was a similar reaction to seeing the license plate on Kaito Nakamura's limo read NCC1701. Nothing that the casual viewer would catch, but the UberGeeks out there eat it up. I sat there in stunned silence for a second, then as the commercial came on, I flailed wildly and shouted "FUCK, YEA!" as my wife and brother-in-law smiled and shook their heads incredulously. if they didn't expect exactly that reaction...

My only problem - they killed him. Now, this IS Heroes, so that doesn't necessarily mean we won't see him again. Between time travel and spontaneous healing abilities he could be back as a regualar, but it's not terribly likely and it was a dissapointment nonetheless.

Still, it was a freaking awesome show and I'm once again hooked. From plot twists in the first 3 minutes of the episode, to new powers, to political intrigue, to convoluted bloodlines - this show never stops. I'll be glued to my tv/computer all season. Yes, it rips all all KINDS of Marvel characters and plotlines, but I believe it does so lovingly and as an homage to the comics, not simply as a way to not work so hard or rip off ideas. They're carefully chosen, woven carefully together - and at least they avoid spandex.

Geeks of the world, REJOICE! HEROES has returned!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Out of Frustration Comes Fun...

Our next door neighbors are lovely people. A mother and daughter who, unfortunately, have a bit more house than they can handle. These ladies have been wonderful neighbors for the entire 11 years we have been at our current residence. Blunt and no-nonsense, to be sure, but friendly, helpful, and easy to get along with.

In the city of Hazel Park, we have one particular code enforcement witch that is on a power trip. She routinely harasses these poor ladies for minor violations. Yes, their yard gets a bit unkempt at times, but with big trees in their yard and a fence around the periphery, it's hardly an eyesore. This code enforcement witch has often asked for access to our yard to take pictures of their yard to use against them. We, of course, tell her no. Aside from being good neighbors, we figure if it's not an eyesore from the street or a breeding ground for vermin, it's not a problem.

Now our neighbors are going into foreclosure for various reasons...and the witch has trained her flying monkeys square on us next. She stopped by last week, complaining of "improper storage" on our front porch and backyard (from what she was able to see across 3 yards from the side street), and handed us a warning to have it cleaned up in a week or get a citation. The warning quotes a snippet of the city code that says anything other than "patio furniture" must be stored indoor or in a shed.

Now, I'm NO fan of clutter, but having 2 kids it's often unavoidable. Our front porch usually has Liam's roller blades, a gardening tool or two from weed-digging, and a tub of sidewalk chalk. The past 4 months or so, it's also had a pile of stuff from Sonya's trunk from when she had to clear some room for other things. Our backyard has been in transition all summer. Between the gazebo, the new swing set, the 12' inflatable pool, and preparing for a garage sale this week, I can barely turn around in our backyard.

So yesterday after work at 6:30, I stop by the grocery store for charcoal and a couple other necessities, I come home, make dinner, and proceed to clean up the yard while Sonya talks on the phone. I clean up the stray garbage, pile up the remaining wood for the firebowl, put the toys away, put some garage sale items back in our overcrowded shed, and place the firebowl in the only remaining spot in the yard with space enough for a few chairs around it.

As I'm setting up the firebowl, my best friend Lou stops by unexpectedly. At first I'm a bit frustrated at the interruption in my momentum, but figuring I had accomplished enough and it was getting dark, I grab each of us a beer and start a fire. A few minutes later, our friend Leigh comes by, followd a short time thereafter by my brother-in-law, Jeremy. We spent the evening by the fire laughing, swaping stories, discussing life, love, politics and generally having an impromptu party. It was a perfect night for it.

I'm sure Wicked Witch of the Park will still find something to cite us on, as we're clerly on her shit-list and her newest favorite target, but at the very least, the clean-up spawned a wonderful late-summer evening with friends and atmosphere.

More detail on the Wicked Witch of the Park to come, along with Garage Sale Prep, Rescuing sonya's Car, and anticipating a very special visit!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sharing my Fortress of Solitude...

I'm mostly just writing this one because I have the time (all of about 20 minutes) before work.

Kids are doing well in school. Courtney loves Kindergarten. Liam's getting a much better handle on his behavior so far this year in 3rd grade. Let's hope he can keep it up.

Sonya saw her parents off on their European vacation yesterday, meaning that we get to borrow their car while they're gone. Since Sonya's car is still stranded in Rondeau Park in Canada, the extra vehicle will be nice. I'm very picky about my car and lending it out. It's my Fortress of Solitude, where I can listen to MY music, think MY thoughts, keep MY stuff, and just be ME. Lending it out to anyone is difficult for me, no matter what pile of rusted-out junk I drive. Conversely, I don't like borrowing other people's cars, either. I hate imposing and get fidgity about making sure everything is EXACTLY as it was when I got it - from the pennies in the ashtray, to the seat and mirror positions, to the gas level in the tank (to be fair, I'm not as careful about the minutea when I'm forced to drive Sonya's car). That's how I am when I have to impose myself on anyone. I believe in imposing as little as possible and leaving as little a footprint as possible.

The past few days, I've had to share my car with Sonya. Not fun. Sonya's car is usually a flurry of stuff of varying degrees of importance, from dishes left behind from a hurried rush out the door with food in hand, to toys and changes of clothes left from visits to Grandma & Grandpa's house, to supplies and important forms for the Cub Scouts and school. Her trunk is...I don't even want to get into that...

I let her borrow my car for 2 days to run errands and get the kids from school while I was at work, and my car quickly became similarly cluttered. Not as bad, but noticable. After one day I came home from work to find it scattered with some of the kids stuff (I usually clear it out after every trip), 3 umbrellas (none of them mine), and 2 baby gates Sonya picked up for her brother to coral his dogs. Now, I'm no Mr. Belvedere. Being my portable locker and home-away-from-home, it gets its fair share of clutter, but it's usually minimal, garbage is contained to a single garbage bag, and non-essentials are kept to a minimum in the "wayback" of my station wagon. There's rarely more back there than an emergency tool kit, blanket, bag of barbershop music, empty deposit cans from my journeys (excised once a week), and some reading material. Mind you, I don't feel she was inconsiderate or disrespectful. It's not like the car was suddenly a garbage dump. She was just being herself. I don't fault her for it, but I'll just say I'm glad to have my car to myself again. I'm just that picky about my Fortress of Solitude.

The quartet was supposed to have another gig this Sunday with our fill-in bass, Jack Day. I got an e-mail from the organizer yesterday canceling our participation. I'm dissapointed, and yet relieved, because we're going to try and have a garage sale this weekend and prepping for that with a quartet rehearsal in there somewhere to prep for the gig was going to be a real hassle. On the other hand, I like the idea of getting $65/hr to do something I truly enjoy. I should develop a cancelation fee policy. Oh well...

Work's getting better. Ups and downs, but I'm slowly building my client base by "resurrecting the dead" and contacting a bunch of former customers who haven't ordered in years. Still a very gray...gray office and a bit isolating, but not bad. At least it's climate-controlled, clean, and there's no one there I dislike. Even made a friend in one of the warehouse workers - a fellow 30something geek who happens to live real close by. He was gracious enough to play chaufeur for me the past couple days so Sonya wouldn't have to load the kids up in the car to get me.

Well, 10 minutes to get to work. Better skee-daddle.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mr. Mom...

Okay, so at this point I'm home with the kids, not sure if Sonya will be back for the morning melee of getting the kids off to school and me to work. The first few days of school this year went fairly smoothly. Sonya got up and made breakfast while I showered, we both assembled my & the kids' lunches while they get dressed and eat, I pile the kids in the car and we get there right on time. This time would be different.

Getting such a late start from the cottage in Canada, Sonya decided to just stay there the night and return the following day in time enough to get the kids from school. So I woke up a couple minutes earlier than usual (which means when my alarm actually goes off, instead of after one hit of the snooze bar) and get everyone assembled and out the door (mostly) on time. I was pretty proud of myself! No arguments, no excessive tardiness (only 2 minutes late), just a relatively smooth morning. After stopping by the district court to pay a traffic ticket, I pop home to grab one last thing before work, notice Courtney's sandwich sitting on the stove, and drop it to her classroom and still get to work 15 minutes early.

Something in my gut said I would be picking up the kids from school...

Sure enough, just after I get back from lunch, I get a call from a flustered Sonya. She was having car trouble and was still at the cottage. I talk to my office controller and take 1/2 of a personal day. I stop at my buddy Chris's comic shop on the way to the school to chat, and arrive in plenty of time to get the kids. We had fun hanging on the playground playing for about 1/2 hour, then went home to play on the new swing set and have dinner.

Shortly after the kids are in bed, I get a call from Sonya. She's had a tire with a steady leak for months, if not years, now. Unfortunately, there are no gas stations near the cottage to fill it up. It was completely flat, so they tried to change to the donut, busting off 3 of the 4 lug nuts in the process - not good for an hour and a half drive. They had a lead on a local guy who could fix it, but not till tomorrow, so once again, I'd be left to do the morning shuffle solo. No biggie, I figure. I handled today fine, tomorrow should be just as good.

Then I heard a heavy, wet coughing in the kids' room, followed by a heartwrenching cry for daddy. When the weather changes as it did yeaterday, it's not uncommon for the kids to get a bit congested, but this crescendoed to a constant hacking cough. My baby girl was sick.

I escorted her to my room and the bigger, more comfy bed and let her sleep there. About 4 am, I got up to get her some cough medecine. At this point, I knew I was going to be taking another personal day from work.

Today, Liam got up and moving, showered, fed, and dressed with nary a complaint. We got him off to school in plenty of time. His baby sister is still sleeping in my bed. I've been popping in to give her snuggles and reassurance. She feels miserable, but smiles when I lie down next to her and give her a hug.

Now's not a great time for me to not be at work, to be honest. I need to start re-building my client list - a LOT! But, being here, taking care of my sick child, I know I'm where I need to be right now.

MDOT is the Debil, Mr. Mom, and other disasters...

Another week of chaos (but not entirely unpleasant) , for yours truly...

The quartet hasn't had a lot of business this summer. We've had the opportunity to get out and sing, but PAYING gigs have been few and far between. This week I managed to book us 2 gigs: a birthday pary for a 94-year-old and a business event at the Henry Ford. No sooner had I confirmed the gigs, than I get a text from our bass, Big Dave. He landed a job! Great news! The caveat is that it's doing disaster relief for the hurricane-hit regions and he's on call to leave for up to a month. Great...

Thankfully, I had an ace up mysleve. Our baritone and I have filled in on occasion for one of our other chapter quartets, and their bass is retired and flexible. I call him up and he's happy to help (whew!). We rehearsed on Thursday and, after working out some interp differences between his quartet and ours, we managed to come up with an impressive list of songs we can do well. That's the nice thing about having 4 guys from the same chorus. Our "sub" isn't as precise as our "regular", but we were fairly decent. I'm gonna miss the way we could ring with Big Dave as the foundation. I hope he gets back soon!

The weekend started out with mom-in-law picking up the kids on Friday night to spend the weekend with them. Then, Sonya decided to head to the cottage in Canada to help her brother paint it for her parents, leaving lil' ol' bachelor me home to run amok. My drum corps' alumni picnic was this weekend in Freeland, so I figured without the family to be concerned about, I'd drive the 1 1/2 hours north and have some fun with my old corps buddies.


I hit the road about 12:30, after picking up some burgers, pop, and a veggie tray to contribute. I knew there would be some construction - there always is - but figured that on a post-summer weekend, it shouldn't be too bad.

Never underestimate the stupidity of the Michigan Department of Transportation...

They start squeezing 3 lanes of traffic down to one lane over the course of about 5 miles for about 20 feet of active construction. Then they open it up to 4 lanes agin...for all of a mile and a half. Then, back down to one lane again for some bridge work...and so the whole drive went. I passed through 4 sections of my route that were condensed down from up to four lanes down to a single lane. What should have been about an hour and a half commute turned into 3 1/3 hours.

I was just pulling up to the appropriate exit when I looked at my watch. If I was to make it to the quartet gig on time, I had to turn around immediately and put on my Captain Leadfoot cape. I hit the exit, get right back on and head back south (via I-69 & M-53 this time - I'm no dummy), arriving 15 minutes late for the gig. 5 1/2 hours of a gorgeous Saturday of free time shot to hell. Thakfully, they were still eating and hadn't presented the cake yet, so we were good.

The birthday girl was 94 with a bit of dementia, but when we sang she simply glowed. I was nice to see our efforts so richly rewarded. It's amazing, the power that music has. We finshed up, had some cake and coffee and basked in the glow of our warm reception (and the nice tip the gal who booked us gave us).

From there I head to work at the video store. Near the end of my shift, my good friend Paulie pops in and suggests we hang. I grab Fletch and we spent the evening watching a classic Chevy Chase flick over pizza and beer, just catching up. A shiny end to a frustrating waste of a day.

Sunday morning, with the kids still with their grandparents and Sonya still painting the cottage, I hook up with my friend Paulie again and we hit Slow's BBQ in Detroit near the old stadium. We caught up more over the meat and ambiance and had a great time. I spent the rest of the day doing dishes, laundry, mopping, tidying, and (almost) finishing the assembly of the kids' swingset, before driving up to north Auburn Hills to meet up with my father-in-law to pick up the kids.

So endeth my weekend...

...but not the chaos. More to come...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

LABOR Day...

Ah, Labor Day. The official end of summer. One last chance to relive the fun and frivolity of youth by spending some time playing in the sun before the stress and obligations of the day-to-day catch up to you after a well deserved holiday...

...or so it SHOULD be.

Friday was my typical day of working both jobs. I managed to get let go a bit early, but it was still a 12 hour work day. Saturday I managed to take Courtney to the comic book store and grab a few "necessities", before spending the entire afternoon disassembling the final piece of a HUGE playscape Sonya found on Craig's List. I hiked out to Clinton Twp., took it apart, loaded it up, brought it home, went to Home Depot for a few replacement screws and bolts, put it back together, and headed for work at the video store again. On the upside, it was great weather for it.

Sunday, Sonya and the kids were to head up to the cottage so I could have some time to work on my backlog of learning tracks for my adopted quartet in Nevada. I was going to knock out the tracks that evening and follow them up later that evening or the following morning. I planned to bring the laptop with me to the cottage to do some tweaking between dips in Lake Erie and a beer or two. They didn't manage to leave until about 5:30, leaving me little time to work in the evening, other than learning the parts a bit. This left me working on them on Labor Day...ALL DAY Labor Day.

Sonya borrowed my bank card to get some gas for her car on the way to the cottage, leaving me with $10 and a couple bags of deposit bottles. Just enough to pay the toll for the bridge or tunnel on my way up. What I didn't consider was that *I* didn't have enough gas to make it to there, myself. No problem, I'll just carpool with her brother, Jeremy, and save on gas and tolls. Well, he decided to be in the Hamtramck parade with the unicycle club, then spent the remainder of the day hunting down his cat to bring with him. Needless to say, I didn't manage to get to the cottage for my last dose of summer "maxin' an' relaxin'" (not that I've had a single dose of such all summer).

So while waiting to get in touch with Jeremy (who NEVER answers his phone, apparently), I worked on my learning tracks. I started at 10am and before I knew it, it was 7:30pm. I spent the entire GORGEOUS day, cooped inside infront of my computer. No e-mail, no chatting, no TV, no video games - just work. The buggar of it all was that the piece wasn't even that difficult! I should have been able to crank this one out in a few hours, but between my perfectionist nature and a computer crash or two (figurative AND literal) it ended up taking the whole friggin' day! Much of that was likely due to my lack of distraction and tendency to nit-pick my work to death, but still, it would have been nice to enjoy a BIT of the holiday weekend!

About 7:30, I realized I hadn't eaten all day, so I did manage to duck out to return some videos and stop by my friend Jack's place for a barbecue. I spent about an hour there munching on the remains of the now mostly deserted soire and chatting with Jack. That was nice. Then I headed home to finish my final mixdowns. I forced myself to watch some Comedy Central while I did the final steps on the job, just so I could pretend to have done some fun stuff on the weekend.

Only 11, 238 day until retirement!! Woo-hoo!

Oh wait, I'm a GenX'er. We don't HAVE retirement...