The Rest of the Best of 2016

Favorite Moments of 2016

1. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Being in Wrigleyville during the series. Being at the parade. Pure emotion. Being with Jordan when they won. Eamus Catuli switching to all zeroes. Not quite giving up hope when it seemed all but over MULTIPLE times. Continuing to ride that wave.

Katie Nixon and I near the seventh largest gathering in human history.

2. Meeting Bruce Springsteen the day before my birthday. Also, his show at United Center on August 28. Magic in the night.

3. The Hold Steady: Reunite with Franz Nicolay, play a bunch of really awesome shows behind my favorite album of all time. The Frenchkiss reissues of AKM and Sep Sunday. Lifter Puller twice in one year, including the opportunity to stand on stage at Red Rocks. Denver meh, Chicago good and New York was wonderful but I could have done without the concussion. Great openers: Titus Andronicus, Laura Stevenson (so nice!) and Lifter Puller. Nights go on forever and guitars are cool.

4. Nashville visits, March-August (Just a few: recording in the Third Man Booth, all the food, Infinity Cat House, Doom, Tim buys a guitar, City Winery, meeting Daddy Issues and Diarrhea Planet, and pretty much everyone that made my time there awesome.)

Hanging with Emmett and Evan from Diarrhea Planet.

5. More travel: Austin, TX trip with my Mom. Hanging in Boston and candlepin bowling with some of my best people and Vineyard Youth in Pawtucket, RI. Additionally, anyone who came to visit me and had a good time.

6. Health and wellness: PRing my third 5K on the October 30 Hot Chocolate Run. Exercising regularly for the first time in my life. Reading the most books this year than I’ve read in a decade.

7. Personal: Getting the opportunity to write for Men’s Journal and interviewing Dolph Ziggler, Chad Gable, Hot Doug and Andrew Wyslotsky.

My team beat his in the World Series. I ain’t sorry.


8. Wrestling: American Alpha winning the NXT and WWE Smackdown Tag Team titles in the same year (all of the great wrestling this year, seriously.) Owens and Zayn at Payback in a total mindblower. Zayn and Nakamura at Takeover Dallas. DIY and Revival at Takeover Toronto. Meeting Jerry Lawler randomly in Memphis inside his restaurant and being able to tell him we shared a birthday.

9. Food: Qui, Parachute, Rolf and Daughters, Husk, Mitchell’s Delicatessen, Maketto, Pinewood Social, Row 34, Mission Chinese and a ton I’m missing.

10. Trash Pandas releases two EP’s and having involvement in them. They make me laugh and proud I did a thing that’s out in the world.

Shows

I saw 37 shows this year. Take a look.

Everything I Listened To

I made a playlist for every month this year of everything I listened to individually (excluding albums). Check it out.

Perspiration

This daily ritual the past month-and-a-half has done wonders for my well being and engineers a lot of positive energy for the rest of the day. I’m a slow starter, but a little bike and treadmill goes a long way.

Here’s my playlist:

Thoughts on “Eating Animals”

I just finished Eating Animals. I’m not entirely sure how to feel. Jonathan Safran Foer doesn’t compel you to become a vegetarian as much as he urges the reader to consider what they’re actually eating before they eat it. I get that. I appreciate that.

Admittedly, I’m the worst of the worst. I’ll eat any two-bit meat product I see from a fast food joint. If not that, it’s something frozen. I don’t care. It tastes good, it’s cheap and it’s convenient for the nights where I don’t feel like cooking something at home. (When I say ‘the nights when I don’t feel like cooking, I mean ‘pretty much every night’.)

In my mid-twenties, I’ve noticed a change in my digestive system. I’m constantly getting ill from the foods I eat, both with immediate symptoms or flu-like viruses that occur every three to four months. More often than not, these are meat dishes. Maybe it’s stress, or maybe it’s the shit-covered, drug-pumped products I’m eating. After reading that book, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Listen. I’m not going to stop eating meat. I like the taste. I’ve tried alternative vegetarian and vegan meat products, and although they taste pretty good, I don’t think I could sustain an entire diet on them. It’s just not the right decision for me.

Here’s what I hope to do. It’s not in any way a guarantee. I’d like to make smarter choices at meal time, especially when I’m out. There are plenty meatless options in the city (noodle dishes, pizza, so on and so forth) that are completely acceptable and filling. When it comes to meat, I’d like to do some research on some of the farms in the book that allegedly practice more humane treatment and not package food that’s clearly unsafe for consumption. Maybe I can eat some of that.

The problem is that’s not entirely practical, and can get expensive very quickly. That’s something I cannot afford to do.

So, we’ll see. Maybe this book was the wake up call or the push in a healthier direction. I’d like to get sick less often. Honestly, convenience almost always wins over what’s ‘better’ for me. That’s sad, and that’s something the book argues over and over. I’m glad I read it, but when it comes to some concrete change, it will come much smaller than what I’d consider ideal.

Portrait of the Author as a 10-year-old

After years of searching, I’ve found the Holy Grail of my personal writings.

Picture 6

It’s the ‘Goosebumps’ Journal I wrote in from 1996-1997.

I initially thought it was lost to the sands of time. I know I hadn’t thrown it away, but I didn’t know where I put it either. Walking on to the loft where we keep most of our books today, it just stared me right down in the face.

I didn’t write very long – there’s probably about ten entries total, and most of the time it was about what I ate, or Beanie Babies.

Anyways, I thought I’d share some select, unedited lines from the journal today, and maybe some more at a later date.

Until then, experience the bowlcut and the mid-nineties stench of Alanis.

March 5, 1996

Dear Journal,

Today at school I felt lousy, when I got home I had a fever of 100.8. I was “suffering” at school today. I was at the office 4 times today. But man, I really feel sick.

I probably wasn’t sick. This was during my compulsive ‘go down to the office cause they’ll send you home’ phase. I think I was lying to the journal in case anyone else read it.

March 10, 1996

…We are just to about to have lunch. We are going to have chicken nuggets. Sometimes when I’m writing I will stop and wait. Then I will keep going. Well as I always write, “I gotta go, bye!

First documented signs of my still-undiagnosed ADHD. Stop and keep going. Like a car. Honk Honk!

March 11, 1996

…Tomorrow I have a Pizza Lunchable. They are awsome. They come in Extra Cheesy and Pepperoni. I am going to go to bed now.

I think what’s more awsome is my spelling of awesome.

Pizza Lunchables, for reference:

lunchablespizza

WTF is a “Pepperoni Flavored Sausage Pizza?” You ate these COLD. Gross. Papa Murphy’s now makes a business out of this shit and calls it “Take and Bake”.
Back in those heady days, we just TOOK, and WE LIKED IT.

April 10, 1996

…I feel kind of dizzy. I am going to wear shorts tomorrow. Some of my friends are too. Hopefully!

I have no idea. And this was the year after I got heat stroke.

As Seen On…

Watching Stereogum’s sneak peek of The Hold Steady’s ‘A Positive Rage’ DVD/CD Live Album, I spotted someone near the play arrow of these two screencaps.

picture-12

picture-13

Look for obviate contributor Evan Thorne in the bottom left hand corner of that second one, too.

That was October 26, 2006, my very first Hold Steady show. Coincidentally, it’s the only one I was in the second row for. Good hair choice, me. I’m interested to see if my friends and I have made it in any of the subsequent clips.

Very excited for this to drop on April 7.

My Technology Is Making Me Anxious

The alarm goes off. Eyes open. Time to connect. Turn left. Grab iPhone. Check e-mail. There’s a lot. Better go to computer. Turn on computer. Open iChat. Go to e-mail. Respond to e-mail. News sites carry a breaking story. Turn on TV. Log on to Facebook. Approve friend requests. Three new photos tagged. Deny. Message in Inbox? Nothing important. Skim over. Check wall. Two links posted. Wait till later. Go to Twitter. Three @replies. Phone buzzes. Two text messages. Phone rings. Take the call. Hang up. Check message board. Respond to direct messages and posts in threads. Repeat all of this over again, all day long.

This is my life, every day of the week, all year round. No breaks. Ever.

My connectivity is making me paranoid.

The strange thing about this way of life is how it took over my being in the first place. Although the memories are a bit fuzzy and distant now, I can still remember the time before cell phones and internet access was so available. Now, I wonder what I’d do without it.

I have an interesting relationship with my cell phone. I never knew that it could make me so anxious. It’s a simple metal box that completely dominates my thoughts – the personification of my fears, teasing me with it’s display and keypad. Waiting for a phone call or text message is critical. If I don’t hear back instantaneously, I get very angry. Why do I have such a short fuse? Has it really come to the point that my brain can’t process normal human waiting time?

It doesn’t end. It’s a constant stream of multimedia and text that’s not really serving me any real purpose. It’s poisoning my thoughts and rewiring my brain.

Since I’ve signed up for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve noticed that I’m finding it more difficult to think linearly. Writing pieces like this are a little bit harder than they were say when I was in high school or the beginning of college. My brain is telling me I need to break things down simpler. Chop my sentences. Make it easier for public consumption.

…And I just did it right there.

The thoughts going my head are positively ludicrous. What are these sites? Why do they want my information and photos? Is it a government conspiracy? Who gets to see this information – more important, what are they doing for it? Am I part of a major advertising campaign in a third world country and not getting paid for it? I want to know!

Despite some early follies as most people have, I’ve committed to not sharing too much personal details information on those megasites. They don’t need to know that much about me – and quite frankly, nor does anyone else. I don’t care about you having to get up early, and I certainly don’t care about this:

example

Seriously? Give me a fucking break. What’s next? Tweeting your bowel movements? Just watch – someone will find a creative way to do it. I can’t wait for the #poop hash tag.

If I want to share anything overly detailed, I’ll do it here. I purchased this space. It’s mine. I control what I do with the information. Not someone else.

Regardless, It’s all exhausting. Since I’ve been out of school and not working on a regular basis, I’ve had an extraordinary amount of free time. This is the worst possible thing because I’ll spend all day repeating the cycle . The hours melt away like new snow when the ground is too warm, and I don’t even notice.

I decided that I have to allocate time each day to completely disconnect. I turn the screen saver on the computer, turn off the TV and put the cell phone somewhere out of my view. Sometimes I’ll just lay there, but even that’s that’s difficult. Silence feels unnatural now. I’ve had periods where I haven’t been able to go to bed without music playing I’ve been going to the local library to get books to read. I figure, if I need something to keep my mind busy, it better not be vapid junk like gossip blogs or petulant hipster music criticism.

I don’t think there’s really a way to escape this way of life completely. I think it’s going to get worse, and culture as a whole is going to become a lot less intelligent. We’re setting dangerous standards for future generations. Something like what Mike Judge envisioned for the future in Idiocracy may someday become a reality. The movie is a brilliant satire, but the result of humanity being dumbed down over decades isn’t. It’s fucking terrifying.

If I were to close down all of my accounts, I’d feel like I’d be missing out on the greater conversation. There’s a small silver lining in the middle of all of the garbage. Also, there are great tools available to promote sites like these. That’s important to me, because I want people to see the content we all showcase here.

It’s also important for me not to get swallowed by all of this. I admit, I’m probably somewhere on the losing spectrum of this battle right now, but at least I’m able to identify the problem. I don’t think that a good part of the general public can even do that.

Now, if you’d excuse me, someone just Tweeted about eating Doritos.

I better get back to that.