All posts by ReasonablySober

An Ode To My Favorite Genre Of Music

Yesterday UPROXX briefly set the internet on fire when they posted this, a NCAA style tournament to determine the Most 90’s music:

This isn’t a terrible effort! It definitely captures the music that comes to mind when you think of the 90s, with one key exception:

WHERE IN THE HELL IS GARTH FREAKING BROOKS?

Or Alan Jackson or Reba McEntire or Dwight Yoakam or Confederate Railroad?

Where is the 90’s COUNTRY?


I grew on country music because, frankly, it’s the stuff my folks listened to and I didn’t have much of a choice. Keith Whitley, George, Patty, Vince, Garth. I remember saving up chore money so I could buy my mom CDs by The Judds on mother’s day. Every summer before my teenage years we’d make our way to Eau Claire, Wisconsin for Country Jam and Cadot, Wisconsin for Country Fest. One year I met Hal Ketchum as I was leaving our hotel; my mom and I lost our collective minds when he spotted us in the crowd later that evening, tipping his hat to us during a song. I remember having dinner with Nicki Nelson of Highway 101 because my mom won a radio call in contest. My sister became something of a sensation in the family because she could identify songs on the radio only a note or two into a song. I can still remember her blurting out, “JOE DIFFIE PROP ME UP BESIDE THE JUKEBOX!” from the backseat of the car.

She was, like, three years old at the time.

When I hit my teenage years I stopped seeking out country music to listen to. Out was Little Texas, in was 2pac and Naughty by Nature and Westside Connection and DMX. Later came punk and Fat Wreck and Nitro, a phase that lasted a solid decade.

But despite not owning any country albums or keeping the radio dialed to country stations for a solid seven years, I still know all the hits because of my folks. I still generally liked it.

But it wasn’t until I hit my 30s when I really was able to appreciate the country music from my youth. Why? Two reasons.

The first was the rise of patriotism in main-stream media. After 9/11, letting everyone know just how much you love Jesus and the good ol’ U.S. of A. and your pickup became normal. Singing about how the Middle East was going to get their collective asses blown back to the stone age was officially a thing.

I blame Toby Keith.

And my commie pinko liberal tree hugging ass hated it. Patriotism…cool, whatever. It’s when you make it your brand I have a problem,  and it seemed like every country artist I grew up loving couldn’t wait to make a song about how much they loved this country and Jesus, i.e. The Dude Who Created It.

So I tuned out.

But there was another reason why I could suddenly appreciate the old Garth Brooks or Vince Gill or Trishia Yearwood or Tanya Tucker songs of my youth:

Bro Country.

From Wikipedia:

Bro-country is a term for a style of mainstream country music originating in the second decade of the 21st century. It is a general term for styles of country music taking influence from 21st-century hip hop, rock, and pop. Many “bro-country” songs are about partying, attractive young women, consumption of alcohol, and pickup trucks.

Look, the country music I grew up on was depressing as hell. You wouldn’t even have a difficult time convincing me that it had a negative effect on my emotional growth. The overwhelming majority of the songs I listened to were about the loss of love. How can you not be completely messed up listening to hundreds of sad songs in your formative years?

What I didn’t hear was rapping about who in the hell knows what and singing about red solo cups. I definitely didn’t get a distinctly rapey vibe in these tunes.

I mean, just look at these two awful motherfuckers.

But this is what the genre seems to be these days. Last summer I went to Country Jam for the first time in 20 years, and stuff like this was all I heard when I arrived. Then a drunk girl puked on my shoes and threw a wedding ring at her equally drunk as hell husband.

Yes, I’m old and out of touch and get off my damn lawn, but you can have all of it.

But enough about frat boys and their date-rape soundtracks, let’s celebrate a time when the music was about something great:

Being completely miserable!


First, your playlist. This may be my greatest contribution to mankind:

*this playlist was 300 songs. then i realized it only took 200 when you embed it. cutting 100 songs was not easy

Now, not all songs here are from the 90s. I included a band I loved quite a bit that didn’t arrive until 2006, The Wreckers. That they only made one album is a tragedy. 

I also included 80s hits from The Judds and Keith Whitley. 

A notable omission is Garth Brooks, because he won’t let his catalog appear on Spotify or Youtube. This is a terrible move. THERE ARE MILLENNIALS WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD “WHAT SHE’S DOING NOW”, GARTH.

OBSERVATIONS

Holy Shit Did These Folks Crank Out The Hits

Like, you knew back then that Vince Gill and George Straight and Reba McEntire were monstrously successful. But then you look at their lists of songs and holy hell Reba had 93 singlesShe had 24 that reached #1.

MJ is the GOAT and he only had 11.

But it isn’t even powerhouse artists like Reba that could say they were massively successful. A guy like Clay Walker (really good!) but never someone you’d consider a massive star cranked out enough singles that you could legitimately fill in a greatest hits album and leave a couple off because of time restraints.

It’s totally dumbfounding. You know who Joe Diffie is, but it isn’t until you fire up Spotify that you realize HOLY CRAP I KNOW EVERY WORD OF LIKE A DOZEN OF HIS SONGS AND I NEVER OWNED A SINGLE ALBUM OMGGGG

Toby Keith Wasn’t Always Terrible

I still remember when Toby Keith came out in ’93. I was 12 years old at the time. He was immediately huge with Should’ve Been a Cowboy, and followed it up with about seven years of really good ballads. Dude had an awesome voice and came out with killer sensitive tunes that were, like everything at the time, totally depressing. I LOVED THEM ALL.

To this day when I’m listening to country music he’s the guy I’m likely to sing along with in the car or in my apartment doing laundry or cleaning the dishes. I know my neighbor can hear my belting out Wish I Didn’t Know Now from time to time and I REGRET NOTHING.

Top Five Toby Keith Songs When You’re Terribly Depressed Because Your Love Life Is A Dumpster Fire:

5 – You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This
4 – He Ain’t Worth Missing
3 – Does That Blue Moon Ever Shine On You
2 – Who’s That Man

1 – Wish I Didn’t Know Now

Then the 2000s happened and he turned to shit.

Music Was Hella Punny

That may be my biggest takeaway, putting together this playlist. It wasn’t something I realized at the time (because I was 12) but oh man if you had a pun you could make it into a country song.

Patty Loveless: Timber I’m Falling in Love:

Travis Tritt – Here’s a Quarter (call someone who cares):

Joe Diffie – Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox If I Die

Joe Diffie made one or two of the decade’s most incredible songs, but he also made the punniest songs in music history.

Best Music Video To Feature Luke Perry As a Bull Rider

Underrated Artist That Still Holds Up Surprisingly Well

Mark Chestnut. Of everyone on this list, he’s the guy I’m least likely to hit skip on when he plays. Every damn thing he released is solid and still worth listening to today.

Top 5 Mark Chestnut Songs I’m Probably Going To Listen to Tonight:

5 – Goin’ Through the Big D
4 – Too Cold At Home
3 – I’ll Think of Something
2 – Ol’ Country

1 – Almost Goodbye

Song Tragically Ruined By An Ex-girlfriend

Clint Black – Like the Rain

NOT COOL, LEAH.

Artist Worth Being Super Happy For

Ty Herndon, who came out last year. Good for you, dude!

The Criminally Underrated

Hal Ketchum, no question.

You would think a guy who had 5 albums and 16 singles in the 90s could qualify, but this is someone with a legendary voice. I’d put it up against anyone other than the next person on this list. He was amazing.

The Voice You Would Kill Numerous People To Have

It’s Vince. Of course it is.

He didn’t have the volume of George Straight or the peak that Garth Brooks had (though still pretty dope with 14 albums, 49 singles) but absolutely no one will ever match his voice.

He’s the guy that I’m singing in the shower but only because the sound of the water masks how obviously inferior my sound is to his.

The Other Voice

…belongs to Alison Krauss.

Look, she’s almost got a voice that would make this heathen believe in angels. It’s perfection.

Speaking of that song, the original is responsible for the most depressing country music of all-time…

The Truly Sad

It’s Keith Whitley.

On the morning of May 9, 1989, after a weekend of drinking and partying, Whitley awoke and spoke with his mother briefly on the phone. He was then visited by his brother-in-law Lane Palmer, and the two had coffee and they were planning a day of golf and having lunch, after which Whitley had planned to start writing songs for Lorrie Morgan and himself to record when she returned from her concert tour. Palmer departed at approximately 8:30 a.m., informing Whitley to be ready to leave within an hour. Upon returning, Palmer found Whitley face down on his bed, fully clothed.

The official cause of death was determined to be acute ethanolism (alcohol poisoning),and Davidson CountyMedical Examiner Charles Harlan stated that his blood alcohol level was .47 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey[10] and almost five times the then Tennessee level of .10 legal intoxication limit, and nearly six times the current .08 legal limit to drive). Whitley was 34 years of age.

Fuck.

The Top 10 Favorite Country Songs That Are All Super Depressing (Non-Garth Division)

I know you’re super interested in finding out the songs that ruined me for a good decade. Here they are!

10 – Sawyer Brown – All These Years

9 – Keith Whitley – Don’t Close Your Eyes

8 – Dixie Chicks – You Were Mine

7 – Faith Hill – Let Me Let Go

6 – McBride & The Ride – Sacred Ground

5 – Travis Tritt – Tell Me I Was Dreaming

4 – Vince Gill – Pocket Full of Gold

3 – Joe Diffie – Ships That Don’t Come In

2 – George Straight – I Can Still Make Cheyenne

1 – Little Texas – What Might Have Been

My Favorite Chapter (probably)

Today on Gawker they have their 50 Best opening lines in literature. 

I don’t know if this is my favorite but it’s the first one that came to mind:

and it’s a story that might bore you but you don’t have to listen, she told me, because she always knew it was going to be like that, and it was, she thinks, her first year, or, actually weekend, really a Friday, in September, at Cam-den, and this was three or four years ago, and she got so drunk that she ended up in bed, lost her virginity (late, she was eighteen) in Lorna Slavin’s room, because she was a Freshman and had a roommate and Lorna was, she remembers, a Senior or a Junior and usually sometimes at her boyfriend’s place off-campus, to who she thought was a Sophomore Ceramics major but who was actually either some guy from N.Y.U., a film student, and up in New Hampshire just for The Dressed To Get Screwed party, or a townie.

It’s from “The Rules of Attraction” by Bret Easton Ellis. It’s one of my favorite books and I’ve read it a half dozen times. I read it, give it away, realize I want to read it again and give it away again. That’s the cycle that’s occurred a half dozen times since college.

Anyway, it’s good.

Here’s my favorite chapter, it contains no spoilers. It’s told from the perspective of Sean Bateman, younger brother of the infamous Patrick Bateman. He’s one of three main characters (all in college) in the story and the three of them switch perspective on a chapter to chapter basis. This is Bateman telling us about a girl:

Sitting in class, staring at the desk, someone’s carved ‘Whatever Happened To Hippie Love?’ I guess the first girl I kind of liked at Camden was this hippie I met my Freshman year. She was really stupid but so gorgeous and so insatiable in bed that I couldn’t help myself. I had met her once, before I fucked her, at a party off-campus my first term. The hippie had offered me some pot and I was drunk so I smoked it. I was so drunk in fact and the pot was so bad that I threw up in the backyard and passed out in some girl’s car who had brought me. I was embarrassed but not really, even though the girl who drove was pissed off since I lost it again all over the backseat of her Alfa Romeo on the way back to campus, and was jealous since she could tell that the hippie and I had been making eyes at each other all night, and had seen the hippie even kiss me before I left to throw up in back.

I really got to meet her the following term when another person I knew when I first came to Camden (and who had been a hippie but quit) introduced us at a party at my urging. I cringed, mortified, when to my shock I realized I had been in the hippie’s Intro to Poetry Workshop my first term and this girl on the first day of class, so high her head looked like it was on springs, like some doped-up jack-in-the-box, raised her hand and said slowly, ‘This class is a total mindfuck.’ I dropped the class, disconcerted, but still wanting to fuck the hippie.

This was the Eighties, I kept thinking. How could there be any hippies left? I knew no hippies when I was growing up in New York. But here was a hippie, from a small town in Pennsylvania, no less. A hippie who was not too tall, who had long blond hair, features sharp, not soft like one would expect a hippie’s features to resemble, yet distant, too. And the skin smooth as brown marble and as clean. She always seemed clean; in fact she seemed abnormally healthy. A hippie who would say things like, ‘None of your beeswax,’ or commenting on food, ‘This is really mellow chili.’ A hippie who would bring her own chopsticks to every meal. A hippie who had a cat named Tahini.

JIMI LIVES was painted in big purple letters on her door. She was constantly stoned. Her favorite question was ‘Are you high?’ She wore tie-dyed shirts. She had beautiful smallish firm tits. She wore bell-bottoms and tried to learn how to play the sitar but she was always too stoned. She tried to dress me up one night: bell-bottoms, tie-dyed shirt, headband. Didn’t work. It was extremely embarrassing. She said ‘beautiful’ constantly. She didn’t have any goals. I read the poetry she’d write and lied that I liked it. She had a BMW 2002. She carried a bong in a tie-dyed satchel that she had made herself.

Like all rich hippies (for this hippie was extremely wealthy; her father owned VISA or something) she spent a lot of time following The Dead around. She’d simply split school for a week with other rich hippies and they’d follow them around New England, stoned out of their minds, reserving rooms and suites at Holiday Inns and Howard Johnsons and Ramada Inns, making sure to always have enough Blue Dragon or MDA or MDMA or Ecstasy. She’d come back from these excursions ecstatic, claiming that she was indeed one of Jerry’s long lost children; that her mother had made some sort of mistake before she married the VISA guy, that she truly was one of ‘Jerry’s kids.’ I guess she was one of Jerry’s kids, though I wasn’t sure which kind.

There were problems.

The hippie kept telling me I was too stiff, too uptight. And because of this the hippie and I broke up before the end of term. (I don’t know if that’s the real reason, but looking back it seems weird that we even bothered since the sex was so good.) It came to an end one night when I told her, ‘I think this is not working.’ She was stoned. I left her at the party after we made out in her room upstairs at Dewey House. I went home with her best friend She never knew or realized it.

The hippie was always tripping, which bothered me too. The hippie was always trying to get me to trip with her. I remembered the one time I did trip with her I saw the devil: it was my mother. I was also sort of amazed that she even liked me in the first place. I would ask her if she’d ever read much Hemingway. (I don’t know why I asked her about him since I never had read that much.) She would tell me about Allen Ginsberg and Gertrude Stein and Joan Baez. I asked

her if she had read Howl (which I had only heard about through some crazy class called Poetry and the Fifties, which I failed) and she said, ‘No. Sounds harsh.’

The last time I saw the hippie I was reading an article on the postmodern condition (this was when I was a Lit major, before I became a Ceramics major, before I became a Social Science major) for some class I failed in some stupid magazine called The New Left, and she was sitting on the floor of the smoking section, stoned, looking at the pictures in the novelization of the movie Hair with some other girl. She looked up at me and giggled then slowly waved. ‘Beautiful,’ she said, turning a page, smiling.

Yeah. Beautiful,’ I said.

‘I can dig it,’ the hippie told me after I read some of her haiku and told her I didn’t get it. The hippie told me to read The Tale of Genji (all of her friends had read it) but You have to read it stoned,’ she warned. The hippie also had been to Europe. France was ‘cool’ and India was ‘groovy’ but Italy wasn’t cool. I didn’t ask why Italy wasn’t, but I was intrigued why India was ‘groovy.’

‘The people are beautiful,’ she said. ‘Physically?’ I asked.
‘Yeah.’
‘Spiritually?’ I asked.

‘Uh-huh.’

‘How spiritually?’

‘They were groovy.’

I started liking the word ‘groovy’ and the word ‘wow.’ Wow. Spoken low, with no exclamation, eyes half-closed, fucking, how the hippie said it.

The hippie cried when Reagan won (the only other time I’d seen her cry was when the school dropped the yoga classes and replaced them with aerobics), even though I had explained patiently, carefully, what the outcome of the election was going to be, weeks in advance. We were on my bed and we were listening to a Bob Dylan record I had bought in town a week earlier, and she just said, sadly, ‘Fuck me,’ and I fucked the hippie.

One day I asked the hippie why she liked me since I was so different from her. She was eating pita bread and bean sprouts and writing on a napkin with a purple pen, a request for the comment board in the dining hall: More Tofu Please. She said, ‘Because you’re beautiful.’

I got fed up with the hippie and pointed to a fat girl across the room who had written something nasty about me on the laundry room wall; who had come up to me at a Friday night party and said, ‘You’d be gorgeous if you were five inches taller .’

‘Is she beautiful?’ I asked.

She looked up, bean sprout stuck on lower lip, squinted and said, Yeah.’

‘That bitch over there?’ I asked, pointing, appalled. ‘Oh her. I thought you meant that sister over there,’ she said.

I looked around. ‘Sister? What sister? No, her,’ exasperated, I pointed at the girl; mean-looking, fat, black sunglasses, a bitch.

‘Her?’ the hippie asked.

‘Yeah. Her.’

‘She’s beautiful too,’ she said, drawing a daisy next to the message on the napkin.

‘What about him?’ I pointed to a guy who it was rumored had actually caused his girlfriend to kill herself and everyone knew. There was no way in hell the hippie could think that he, this fucking monster, was beautiful.

‘Him? He’s beautiful.’

‘Him? Beautiful? He killed his fucking girlfriend. Ran her over,’ I said.

‘No way,’ the hippie grinned.

Yes! It’s true. Ran her straight over with a car,’ I said, excited.

She just shook her lovely, empty head. ‘Oh man.’ ‘Can’t you make distinctions?’ I asked her. ‘I mean, our sex is great, but how can everything, everyone be beautiful? Don’t you understand that that means no one is beautiful?’

‘Listen, man,’ the hippie said. ‘What are you getting at?’
She looked at me, not grinning. The hippie could be sharp. What was I getting at? I didn’t know. All I know was that the sex was terrific.

And that the hippie was cute. She loved sweet pickles. She liked the name Willie. She even liked Apocalypse Now. She was not a vegetarian. These were all on the plus side. But, once I introduced her to my friends, at the time, and they were all stuck-up asshole Lit majors and they made fun of her and she understood what was going on and her eyes, usually blue, too blue, vacant, were sad. And I protected her. I took her away from them. (‘Spell Pynchon,’ they asked her, cracking up.) And she introduced me to her friends. And we ended up sitting on some Japanese pillows in her room and we all smoked some pot and this little hippie girl with a wreath on her head, looked at me as I held her and said, ‘The world blows my mind.’ And you know what?

I fucked her anyway.

Thing that is undisputedly better than sex.

It’s 10:50 am. I just got home after spending the night with family at my folks’ place. We were supposed to have the traditional Christmas eve dinner and gift opening and drinking and cards and such. Mostly it didn’t happen. My brother has the flu and didn’t travel, meaning the little baby wasn’t gonna be in attendance. That’s a blow too big to recover from so we’re delaying Christmas a week and trying again next Wednesday night.

No big deal.

But anyway, there was still a little traveling involved and spending the night on a coach and not my bed and since I was only gonna be gone about 20 hours I didn’t even pack a bag or change of clothes.

I got back to my apartment just now and like any normal person would do I put on my sweats and most comfortable tee and hopped on the couch and for some reason I was immediately reminded of a passage from the Chuck Palahniuk novel, Choke: 

The problem with sex is the same as with any addiction. You’re always recovering. You’re always backsliding. Acting out. Until you find something to fight for, you settle for something to fight against. All these people who say they want a life free from sexual compulsion, I mean forget it. I mean, what could ever be better than sex?

For sure, even the worst blow job is better than, say, sniffing the best rose . . . watching the greatest sunset. Hearing children laugh.

I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a hot-gushing, butt-cramping, gut-hosing orgasm.

Painting a picture, composing an opera, that’s just something you do until you find the next willing piece of ass.

The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me. Have me paged.

This. This is better than sex. Or an amazing meal. Or seeing the ocean for the first time after a long drive. Or anything, really.

Getting home after holiday traveling, almost regardless of distance or time away, putting on comfortable clothes and gearing up for a day of not dealing with anything holiday related is literally the best.

Playlist 101

So you’re a dude and you’re going to be picking your date up for the first time. What music are you gonna rock? You can’t rely on that shit you’ve been blasting in your little Toyota the last six months. This is SERIOUS and requires a certain amount attention and thought.

In fact, this isn’t just for dates. This is for those occasions when ANY reasonably attractive young female happens to get a ride in your ride. Giving her a lift across town? Picking a friend up for brunch? Roadtrip? In times like these there is music you play, and music you don’t. Think you’re gonna win her heart by having Kris Roe serenade her to some overly-emo acoustic rendition of Your Boyfriend Sucks? NO. She’s gonna be uncomfortable and you’re gonna look like an asshole.

Oh? You say you want to send out some kind of message with your choice in music? That’s perfectly fine! But it’s got to be subtle, my friend. You gotta have that gal thinking,

“Oh, this is nice. He’s got good taste in music. I’m gonna have to illegally pirate this when I get home…”

and when she least expects it, on the 15th time listening to that very song, BAM, that tune reminds her of YOU. It’s THAT EASY. But for god’s sake, man, be judicious in your choice of tunes. For your aid, here is a guide.

1 – No Barry White. No Isley Brothers. No mood music WHATSOEVER.

2 – Nothing that has the potential to induce a headache. You may like Fat Wreck beats, but it could sound like a machine gun to the lovely by your side.

3 – Skip the sensitive stuff. Like you some Ben Jelen, Straylight Run or that one country “artist” who sings about pickup trucks and slow dancing and his dead dog and Jesus? FORGET ABOUT IT.

4 – Nothing you should have stopped enjoying in high school or (ugh) junior high. Hey, I have no problem rocking out to 80s hair metal or rapping Westside Conection. But NOT in front of a date who’s sitting there wondering how I’m only going through that musical period now in my late 20s.

5 – No boy bands, no Kelly Clarkson, no Michelle Branch, no Avril Lavigne, no Hilary Duff. This one is particularly painful, as every CD I’ve ever made has had some of the above on it. But TIME and PLACE, people.

6 – No garage bands, no under-produced indie tunes. I can appreciate some Lucky 7, Mineral or Jawbreaker. Your girl may even like that kind of stuff. A first or second or third date is not the time to find out. More people than not just find that shit completely awful.

“But Matt! What the eff AM I allowed to soothe her ear-holes with?!”

Well, Matt, I’m glad you asked. Here are some tips:

• Be respectful of her musical tastes. This is a little tough if you have no idea what she likes, but if you have a general idea, try not to go too far outside her comfort zone.

• But stay true to what you like! What kind of music you listen to is at least a partial indicator of who you are (SHIT!). So represent.

• If you’re gonna introduce her to a new band or artist, do so with the mindset that it should probably be accessible. I love Thrice. I loved Identity Crisis and the Illusion of Safety. If I’m gonna introduce a gal to the musical genius that is Dustin Kensrue, I’m probably gonna chose something a little smoother and easier on the ears. Something chill but still illustrates serious musical talent. Pick a song that makes you think, “No way she couldn’t POSSIBLY love this”.

• Peaks and valley’s, my friend. Don’t follow Ryan Adams up with Pete Yorn. Take it up a notch, take it a little higher then bring it back down. This is Playlist 101.

• Give your CD a little variety. I’d stick to one song per artist if possible, and I’d use multiple genres. A little hip-hop, maybe some R&B, some pop tunes, definitely a good amount of rock. Don’t stick to one kind of music.

• Include some tracks you’re positive you’ll never even play. They’re just there as an excuse to hit Next on the CD player. Be careful with this song, though! Nothing too recognizable. Can’t have the first few bars from I Want it That Way come out of your speakers. Choose a rock song, something with some guts.

• Have not one, but TWO disks ready to go! Genius, RIGHT?

Don’t think I was gonna let you go at this cold. Here’s two sample playlists:

1 – Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
2 – Thrice – Come all you weary
3 – Orianthi – Drive away
4 – Atmosphere – Modern man’s hustle
5 – Blakroc – Tellin’ Me Things
6 – Lady Gaga – Paparzzi
7 – Ryan Adams – Wonderwall
8 – The Vines – Ride
9 – Lupe Fiasco – Never Lies
10 – Brand New – Jude Law and a semester abroad
11 – Damone – Now is the time
12 – The Transplants – Diamonds and Guns
13 – Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
14 – Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue
15 – Phantom Planet – Big Brat
16 – Surgarcult – Memory

1 – The Bravery – Believe
2 – Lily Allen – Smile
3 – Augustana – Stars and Boulevards
4 – Dustin Kensrue – Please come home
5 – Kings of Leon – Use somebody
6 – Weezer – No other one
7 – Rihanna – Rude boy
8 – Stereophonics – Minute Longer
9 – Pete Yorn – Just Another
10 – Metric – Black Sheep
11 – Bouncing Souls – True Believer
12 – Jack’s Mannequin – Dark Blue
13 – Thrice – The Whaler
14 – Zero 7 – In the Waiting Line
15 – The Veronicas – Untouched

BOOM.

And a wonderful life it is

Being a charter member of the Hopelessly Single club, the Holidays were supposed to be a reminder of what I don’t have. Holiday parties have to depress me. Spending hours alone in my car should be a conduit for thoughts of loneliness. I’m supposed to look out my window at the holiday decorations, look around my empty place and wish that I had someone there with me to celebrate the season.

Yet for a variety of reasons here I am, three days from Christmas and a little over a week from New Years, and I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I was ever happier.

The realization came Sunday after I’d returned home from a getaway weekend with a lot of family and friends. I was exhausted from the travel, the lack of sleep and the damage I’d done to my body with all the eating and drinking. But I started a fire in the living room, plopped myself down on a couch and thought about how lucky I was.

I love my job. It’s not perfect and maybe it’s not ideal in some ways, but for someone with my skills and background it’s an incredible situation. I went from a struggling agency to a successful international company that had real use for me. I’ll be working here for a very long time.

It took a couple years, but I’ve come to love Eau Claire. So much so I don’t know if I’d want to live anywhere else in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Recently voted one of the 100 best places to live in the US by CNN, I can’t really argue. At 66,000 people, it’s certainly not small. The local universities ensure there’s always going to be entertainment for the younger crowd. The golfing is amazing. There are lakes and rivers and bike trails all over the place. We’ve got a Northwoods team that brings in a great crowd during the summer. The music scene is remarkable. Phoenix Park on any given Thursday is a great place to catch a couple bands. The bars range from dive to chill to sports to classy to dance club to places you can catch a good band. What EC doesn’t have in fine dining it makes up for in mom and pop joints that make for ideal meet-ups after a night of drinking or during the week when you need a good meal with good people over lunch. The housing market is great and affordable. It’s about the perfect place to raise a family.

But mostly, what has endured me most to EC is what it doesn’t have. Crime. Traffic. Ridiculous prices. The feeling that no matter where you are you’re always invading someone else’s space. I love that if I have to take a cab home it’s a five minute ride instead of thirty. I like that after going to a bar or restaurant or grocery store or golf course a few times they remember your name, who you are and treat you like a friend.

I’ve known the above for the last few months. It is important. But what really drove home the realization that my life was so great came this weekend. I was sitting a table with my brother and his girlfriend, my sister, my cousin Adam and his wife. We were playing a drinking game, telling stories and making each other howl with laughter. Here I was, sitting with some of the people I’m closest to in the world, and it hit me that each of them is local.

The four people I grew up with are my brother and sister, and my cousins Bobby and Adam. I moved often but they were the constants in my life. Now they’re all living in the same area as me, available at the drop of a hat. Through them I’ve met other awesome people, too. My brother calls me he wants to go golfing. My sister stops by to watch the Packers. Bobby and Whitney like to get drinks on the weekends. The Katies insist I come along when they need a happy hour or a big breakfast at Chucks. Now we’re adding Adam and his wife to our clan.

I’ve known some amazing women and had a few very special relationships. But when I look back at the times I’ve been the most happy, they involve a great group of friends more than anything else. My senior year(s) in college with my housemates and neighbors. My second year at Footlocker with my coworkers. Back then I knew none of that would last for one reason or another. It couldn’t. This is the first time I can look around at the people I love spending time with and believe there’s some staying power. These are people like me who are looking to make a life, put down some roots and stick around for a long time.

The thought that I might have this kind of company for a long time does nothing but make me thankful for the kind of life I’ve got.

The more things change

I’m a digital pack-rat. I don’t delete anything unless it’s easily replaceable. Movies, mp3s, software…sure. Text documents, artwork, college projects, emails, work related items…that stuff I keep around.

There’s nothing sinister involved. I’m not doing it because I think I could use it against anyone at some point down the line. Most of the time I’m not even consciously saving these relics. Google and Apple do a great job ensuring that I’ll always have a copy of whatever I need whether I like it or not.

No, I have an email inbox of 22,000 because I love reflection. I have AOL instant messages and G-chat conversations from 2003 because I love looking back.

My mom has told me that if the house was ever on fire the first thing she would run to save (assuming her family was outside and safe) would be her extensive photo albums. I can relate. When I was a junior in college my house was broken into and my laptop was stolen. I didn’t give a shit about the computer itself. What broke my heart were the emails and IMs and blogs I’d written that I didn’t have anymore. My thoughts and reflections that I’d taken the time to make note of were gone. They dated back to my junior year in high school. Even worse, they were in the possession of someone who had no business reading them. What was stolen was my version of my mom’s photo albums.

I like photos as much as the next person, but nothing will bring you back as much as the written word will. I thought about that tonight when doing some work. I needed the log-in information for an application I was going to be training an intern on tomorrow. I searched my extensive e-mail inbox for what I needed and in the search results I came upon an email from an ex-girlfriend that was dated back in 2007. I read it and was immediately brought back to where I was when her and I were together. I read it and smiled. I liked the memory so much I found the rest of the emails from her and read on.

I started at the very beginning. I read the awkward tiptoeing around our first hook-up and planning our next scandalous meet. I read the emails in which we talked about our date nights. I even read the most boring and mundane relationshippy stuff you get from couples who have long forgotten how to be interesting.

I kept an eye on the dates. I’d long forgotten when we broke up and lot of the small details, but the words on the screen told the story. Even as awful as some of it is, reading what was going on brings me back like it was yesterday.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_5HFEtV5s]

God, I was such a fucking asshole.

I wasn’t a dick. Not really. I just didn’t handle the breakup that well. Hell, I was the one who broke up with her. But nothing that happened after the breakup was good and unfortunately I’ve got typed documentation that proves it. Tonight I couldn’t even read what I’d written. It’s brutal.

If I still had my old laptop that was ripped off I’d have some embarrassing discussions from bad breakups past. Is it a theme? Probably.

Putting your every thought in a document is great for reflection. I wouldn’t trade these conversations for anything. But when you look back and see yourself behaving like the antithesis of everything you consider yourself to be, it’s the text version of car-wreck.

And I sorta love it.

SI Author Takes Not So Subtle Jab At Blogger Who Says He’s Not Really A Blogger

Murray Chass, former New York Times baseball writer, hates bloggers, which is sorta ironic considering he himself is one.

I’ve never spent much time reading his stuff, particularly because he seems to represent the old school baseball line of thinking that is slowly being killed by advanced stats and young blood being interjected into the industry.

The only time he ever pops up on my radar is when he fucks up or annoys the blogosphere, which happened recently when he published a load of erroneous shit.

Verducci responded in a beautiful way.

Number of times he refers to Murray Chass as the dreaded “B-Word” in the brief piece? Seven. Seven times Verducci drives the knife in and gives it a good ol’ twist.

Well done.

Keep your feet on the ground while your head’s in the clouds

#fuckingWIN

1a – This has been one hell of a weekend. I have to think it’s rare to experience the range of emotion I went through in a span of 48 hours, the highs and lows, the inspiring and the debilitating, and come out of it all feeling like you got yourself a fucking win. I did.

This last week(s) has been dominated by thoughts of a pretty young lady I’ve recently been demolished by. There will probably be a blog about her at some point, I’m just not ready to write one up yet. Wounds are pretty fresh.

But whatever, forget the girl, this entry is about a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.

Anyone who golfs often has played out in their head the scenario that unfolded tonight. I’ve done it countless number of times. The situation is this:

You hit a beautiful drive on a par three or a par four. You know that you hit it well, and you know it was heading for the pin. Unfortunately you couldn’t quite see the landing zone so you have about a minute or two in-between the drive and when you make it to the green where you can imagine what would happen if the ball actually made it into the pin. You approach the green, you look around, you don’t see the ball and all of the sudden you stop and think,

“Check the cup”.

You slowly move toward the pin, look down and there it is. That little dimpled ball that you know you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Well, it happened tonight.

I had been driving the ball well. On number one I nearly drove the green on a par four despite missing most of the ball. On number three, a par five, I crushed the drive and had nothing but a seven iron to make it home in two.

Then came number four. What makes this situation special, besides the outcome, is that the shot was blind. I couldn’t see the green because there’s a bunker 50 yards in front, blocking the view. If you’re a big hitter you can carry the bunker, or you can pull an iron and hit your shot to the left and chip on. It’s not a long par four by any means, and there’s times I’ll pull the four iron and lay-up, leaving an easy pitch to the green. But I’d been hitting the ball well tonight so I grabbed the lumber and hit my drive.

Unlike my previous few drives, this one was more of a liner. Also unusual, I actually watched this drive through; when I hit a good drive I typically watch it for a second, turn and grab my clubs and start walking before the ball has even stopped. With this drive I watched it land, presumably on or just short of the green, take one bounce and disappear.

Now, here’s where the above scenario in your head plays out. I actually started thinking how amazing it would be if the shot actually went in. Walking up the fairway I made note of what song was playing in my ear-buds (Motley Crew – Home Sweet Home), what time it was (6:21 pm) and thought to myself how I didn’t see a second bounce. It was heading straight for the pin, bounced once and I didn’t see the ball again. So for those 60 seconds or so I allowed myself the fantasy that I might have just hit my first hole in one (on a par four none the less!).

Still, I never really believed it went in. It’s like any other fantasy; fun to think about, never actually anticipated.

When I got to the bunker and looked at the green, I didn’t see the ball. This wasn’t much of a big deal; I figured it bounced on the green and hopped somewhere off, maybe under a tree behind the green or in the rough.

I put my clubs down and walked over the green, trying to spy my ball. No dice. I gave a quick glance under a couple of pines, but they didn’t line up to where I thought my shot landed. I checked the nearby rough and didn’t see anything.

Then the thought hit me: “Check the cup”.

Like I had envisioned so many times in the past, I slowly approached the hole, still not really letting the thought of a hole in one enter my head.

Then I saw it, that little white Top Flight 3, and the air left the building (course).

You know how when you watch Wimbledon and the winner yells and drops to their knees? It isn’t a show. Their knees literally give out. I know this now. I let out a yell and was on my knees in less than a second.

I just stared at it for a couple moments. At first I was in shock. Then disbelief. I quickly questioned whether or not that could really be my ball. The notion was in and out of my head in a heartbeat.

That motherfucker was mine.

I didn’t dare touch it. My pulse was going a mile a minute and I was excited like I’d won the lottery, but my first thought was to take a picture. I fumbled for the iPhone and snapped one.

Next thought was to call my dad. I dialed home and my sister picked up. I could barely breathe the words, “Get dad”. She did, and I told him the story. He was excited and asked if anyone besides me saw it.

There’s the rub, folks.

I already talked about how much I love golfing alone in the evenings. Music playing, alone with my thoughts, working out any frustrations I’d have. Unfortunately you don’t consider the issue of hitting the best shot of your life, a shot so few experience in the entire world, and then not having anyone to witness it.

I didn’t care. I already knew the answer to his question. There were only a half dozen other golfers at Mill Run this evening, at least as far as I could see. The sun was on its way down, it was a holiday, there was a little chill in the air. I did a quick survey of the land but it was pointless: no one saw this shot but me.

I told the old man I didn’t give a shit, that I’d know and that’s all I cared about. He laughed, agreed, told me congratulations and I hung up.

Next call was to my brother and I got a similar reaction. He was golfing with me earlier in the day at a different course and judging how I’d played those nine holes at Princeton I’m sure he was more shocked than I was.

When I hung up I finally reached in to grab the ball. I put it in a pocket in the bag where it wouldn’t get mixed up with another and continued my round.

2 – The circumstances regarding this shot may not be of interest to most, but I had to consider them.

I’d already played two other rounds of golf this weekend, once in Neilsville yesterday and another time today, the aforementioned round with Ben at Princeton. Both times Ben and I were behind incredibly slow players that wouldn’t let us play though.

Ben doesn’t let that bother him; it pisses the motherfuck out of me.

I’m the guy who’ll get road-rage and tailgate or flip off old people who suck at driving. I’ll frustratingly drop four letter words in the middle of a meeting or in a silent Production area while people are working. I used to give up home runs and if I thought the batter was taking too much time jogging his ass around the bases I’d plunk the next batter in the back, on the rare occasion in the helmet.

When it comes to golf, I wear my emotions on my sleeve and nothing infuriates me more than when a group of fucksticks let their pride get in the way of golf etiquette. Both yesterday and today Ben and I were behind absolutely awful players. But while he’d play at a nice, easy pace and sit and wait while the people in front of us dribbled their way up the course, I stayed on their asses.

I’d meet up with their groups on the tee-box, stand fifteen feet from the box with my arms folded over my chest and stare. When these packs of fucking elephants hit their shots and drove away without offering to let us play through I’d sit on the front of the box, on the ground, and watch every one of their shots, knowing damn well it’s making their group uncomfortable. When they got a good 350 yards out I’d hit my drive as far and as hard as I could and watch with a combination of rage, arrogance and glee as it rolled up to their group.

Shove it up their asses, Ben and I’d say.

Unfortunately, it also kills my round. I’m not good when I’m pissed off. This afternoon I was feeling dejected, wanted to go alone but Ben tagged along. I didn’t even finish the round at Princeton. I was too pissed off and I waited while Ben completed his nine.

But golfing alone is different. I’m out there simply to be out there. Typically I’ll run into groups that let me play through when needed, but whether my round takes one our or three I don’t care. I like the idea of playing with a goal and some focus, but not for the sake of competing against anyone or anything. I just play to play and spend time out-doors.

3 – I almost didn’t go tonight. Like I said, I’d already played nine with Ben this afternoon and stunk up the course.

But I’d come back to my place, watched some BSG and the choice became:

a: waste an evening in-doors
b: go back out and work out the emotional shit bugging me

and I chose b.

4 – Megan is back and working another summer at WR/ML.

Dope.

5 – When I finished the nine holes I stopped in the clubhouse and bought the bar a round. The patrons were almost as happy as I was.

6 – The ball is sitting on a shelf in my room, I’ll figure out what to do with it later.

7 – It feels a little weird. Again, if you don’t do a lot of golfing you might not give it a lot of thought. But courses here have been open for two weeks and I’ve already been out golfing a dozen times. It’s my single favorite thing to do, and has been for as long as I can remember. Hitting a hole in one has always been my big goal. I didn’t imagine it happening on a par four, but it did and now it’s like a big check has been marked off on the bucket list or something.

A woman can have the same effect

My first round of golf yesterday started the same way it ended five months ago. With a mammoth drive and some guy behind me saying, “Holy shit…”.

I was playing alone so the twosome on the first tee-box let me start ahead of them. I hadn’t taken a swing since October. When I stepped up to hit I had to give the obligatory warning that the the drive could be pretty brutal.

“Hey man, we’re all in the same boat today,” one of them said. “It just means we get to laugh at you first”. Har-har-har…

After I hit a piss-rocket that sailed over the green on the 292 yard par four, they stood there, mouth agape, while I said, “Thanks fellas, have a good round”. Moments like that are just one of the many reasons I love playing the game.

There aren’t a lot of guys out there who can consistently hit the ball like I can. I’ve only played with two, my dad and my brother. Like most kids, I mimicked what my dad did when I was little. Well, my dad has one of the sweetest golf swings this side of the PGA. When he put clubs in my hand when I was three years old, his was the swing I copied and it’s largely remained unchanged since then. Combine 25 years of repetition and muscle-memory and you get a golfer who can hit the ball further than almost anyone else who steps on the course.

It’s such a mental game, maybe more so for me. I don’t focus on my shots. I don’t line up yardage or take wind into account. When I’m golfing I’m not focusing on golf. I’m thinking about everything peripheral. Like I described much earlier in the blog, I’m susceptible to some really shitty golf. If I’m in a crap mood or I’m stressed or I’ve been destroyed by my job it’s going to manifest itself into some abysmal shots. Physically everything looks the same with my swing; the ball just doesn’t obey. I don’t know how else to explain it.

Yesterday could have gone either way. For one, it was the first round of the year and not a lot is going to go right after a five month layoff. The second thing was my recent romantic interest. It had been the very definition of an up and down weekend with her and while if ended great, you never know the effect a woman is going to have on your golf swing. She’d been on my mind for days and it’s not like I can turn that off when I step up to hit a shot.

Hell, I wouldn’t want to.

Golfing alone, iPod playing tunes in my earbuds, walking eighteen holes might be my favorite thing in the world to do. It’s two and a half hours of just being alone with my thoughts, enjoying great weather outside, nothing else to worry about in the world. It works wonders if I want to blow off steam or get away from whatever’s burdening my mind. Pissed off at my job? Golf 18. By the fourth hole my game will be so shitty I’m no longer thinking about asshole clients or frustrating code. Instead I’m dwelling on how I could have possibly hit two straight in the pond and missed an easy four footer.

But like I said, a woman on your mind can be a positive or a negative. No way to predict it until you take that first swing with an iron.

I stuck it. Par three, 160 yards, I pulled the nine and dropped one six yards from the pin. My game didn’t let up the rest of the evening. I went par, par, birdie, par, par, birdie over the next six holes. I’m lucky to have a run like that in the middle of the summer on my 40th round of the year. What I did yesterday was Brandon Jennings going off for 55. When I got home in two on a long par five (with a six iron none the less) I giggled. Some of my shots yesterday were just stupid.

It’s a nice feeling when your mind is 100 miles away and you’re still able to roll a shitty course on your first round of the year.

It’s gotta be the woman.

Mill Run