Writers’ Block… we meet again.

March 15, 2010

Forgive this nonsensical rambling blog. I just felt the need to write for writings’ sake. Yes, I’m an avid music listener with hundreds of albums… yet I don’t feel like reviewing any right now. Sure, I could jot down some commentary or insight on some goings-on in the world or culture… but I just haven’t had the drive lately. I’ll blame it on Writers’ Block but I’m sure there are other factors involved.

I’ve been getting nearly-40 hour work weeks over the past month. When I was updating this blog more frequently, I wasn’t getting very many hours and was bored often. That, for me, leads to plenty more writing of blogs and reviews and lyrics and everything fun under the sun. If I were getting paid to write, and had endless time to do so, you would see my productivity quadruple. You hear that, potential employers?? I’m a powder keg of literacy with a short fuse. It’s up to you to light me, baby.

I’ve also been out and about, enjoying life with friends and family. I’m going to Tennessee with my grandfather for the 2nd year in a row this April. Last year’s trip was enjoyable and I look forward to seeing if I can last two weeks without most technology yet again. If I can do it without going insane, any of you can!! I’ll get tons of reading done during this trip I’m sure.. last year I mowed through nearly every Dan Brown book and The Count of Monte Cristo.

I’m certainly glad the weather’s warming up. I’ve played basketball, ran, and spent more time with friends than ever in the past couple weeks. I’m excited about spring and think I’ll be in exceptional shape by the end of the summer, considering I’m 30 pounds lighter right now than I was at this point last year!! I intend on running and playing ball and maybe even swimming more often than ever.

There’s much more going on in my life right now than just all this.. I don’t even have a point in this entry other than trying my hardest to get over writers’ block.

And in short:

Carl Edwards deserved more punishment than a mere 3 race probation for intentionally wrecking Brad Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Lady Gaga videos weird me out and make me uncomfortable. In a good way.

My friends are all oddballs and characters. But that’s why I love them so.

I want to collect coffee mugs, custom/retro sports jerseys, letters/journals, and a variety of quirky things you’d find on steakhouse walls when I’m old, rich, and bored.

So much about this world and this life fascinates me and fills my mind with endless thoughts. It can be a bother if I’m trying to work or drive or talk to people.  🙂

Nearly everybody deserves a second chance, a helping hand, a boost to success, and a shoulder to cry on. If I ever come across good fortune I’m certainly sharing it with family, friends, and people who need the help.

I work at a restaurant and daily I find myself pondering about the people who come in and out. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? What’s their story? What successes and dangers have they enjoyed or faced?

I love communication, history, learning, growing, experiencing, and getting to know the world and its people. I think every single person should share as much of their thoughts and ideas and stories as possible, because we never know when our last day may come and our minds will be gone from this mortal earth forever. I’ve touched on this before, but this is why I love writing, and why I’m constantly on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, and why I have multiple blogs.

Ekoostik Hookah is a remarkably underrated band with an insane live show and supremely talented musicians.

Them Crooked Vultures should be the most popular group in the nation.

…and that’s all.

100 Random Facts and Memories

January 26, 2010

1. My earliest memory is of my mom pushing me in a little yellow bucket swing on a bright spring day in my backyard, singing my “ABC”s with me and counting.

2. The first birthday I can remember is my 4th birthday. I received a monster truck board game.

3. I was obsessed with dinosaurs from birth, practically, until about the age of 10.

4. I owned literally every action figure from the first Jurassic Park movie.. I think I still do.

5. It thrilled me when my first band agreed to call themselves The Dennis Nedrys. Dennis Nedry is a character in Jurassic Park.

6. I take pride in being a team player, a role player, the person that does what nobody else wants to do; if it means getting the job done. I’m the guy who “takes one for the team.”

7. I HATE MUSHROOMS AND COCONUT

8. I remember being 4 and “cruising” with my dad in his car, jamming to Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and Van Halen’s “Panama,” and me responding to the latter by saying “Dad! That’s a country!”

9. I also recall jamming to a ZZ Top record with him.

10. The first three ROCK albums I ever bought were with my first ever paycheck, which I earned being the mascot for the Chillicothe Paints. The albums were greatest hits compilations from ZZ Top, The Doobie Brothers, and Van Halen.

11. I decided to check out The Doobie Brothers because of a Simpsons episode that had a funny reference to them.

12. Lisa Simpson inspired me to take up the saxophone.

13. I’ve been a NASCAR fan longer than I have anything else. Except maybe dinosaurs and reading.

14. My mom began teaching me how to read and write at the age of 2.

15. My mom and I have co-authored dozens of books. They were all created when I was between 4 and 8.

16. I had a slight Colorform obsession.

17. I first had iced coffee with Casey Wolfe and Ansel Benson. I had no clue what I wanted from McDonald’s one day so Casey told me to drink an iced coffee. He created a monster! Now coffee is my favorite beverage.

18. I didn’t have my first kiss until the age of 17.

19. My first car was a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix, green.

20. The first record I ever played while driving it was Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits.

21. Vince Tropea once said that he hears Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” in his head whenever I enter a room.

22. I’ve been on the front page of the Chillicothe Gazette at least three times, and have been within the pages many a time.

23. I accepted Jesus Christ on December 13th, 2004.

24. I’m a charter member of Lighthouse Baptist Church.

25. I played a year of football at Wilmington College, but I barely played.

26. We played against current Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, and I was a teammate of LeRoy Kelly Jr.

27. I bought an X-Box on 8/8/08.

28. I met my first love on Halo 3.

29. I used to be a mainstay on the Top 100 Wheelman list on HaloCharts.

30. I’ve wasted the most time playing Halo 3, Age of Empires II, SimCity 3000, and the Madden Football series in my life.

31. I believe I can do anything I want to in this life, I just need opportunity and money to get my dreams kickstarted.

32. As a kid, every payday I ‘d ask my mom to buy me a toy. She told me I didn’t need any more toys. I saw a loophole and I would say, “Mommy, can I have a book then?” That helped boost my love for reading.

33. My favorite fast food restaurant is Taco Bell.

34. My favorite sit-down restaurant is California Pizza Kitchen.

35. I have a constant fear of dying young and/or being forgotten, even though I have no fear whatsoever of the actual afterlife.

36. I don’t think I discovered who I was until after high school, and matured much later than many people my age.

37. I was a mailman for three months.

38. My favorite record is Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood.

39. My favorite color is teal.

40. I want to travel the world.

41. My first concert was Journey/Def Leppard in Cincinnati, Summer of 2006. I went with Derek Kuhner and Scott Miller.

42. On the way there we drag-raced a convertible filled with hot women down the highway as Van Halen’s “Panama” (that song is everywhere in my life) blared through my speakers. Kuhner proclaimed “We’re living in an damn music video!!”

43. One of my clearest memories is the entire Chillicothe Cavaliers Basketball 2008 State Championship Game.

44. Inspired by Ren and Stimpy, as a young child I kept a “magic nose goblin” collection.

45. My favorite TV show is The Simpsons.

46. My favorite movie changes constantly but if I had to pick, it would be Jurassic Park or The Land Before Time for sentimental reasons.

47. I take my iPod with me everywhere.

48. I think my best talents are creative and journalistic writing, traditional lyric writing, organizing events, and playing Texas hold ’em poker.

49. I used to be addicted to gambling. I’ve got that under control now.

50. I’ll never ever forget holding my two baby sisters for the first time.

51. My sister Hayley was born premature and needed extra medical attention. That scared me so much. She ended up being okay.

52. I’m sad that my sisters and I are a generation apart in age, that keeps us from being closer.

53. I wore the numbers 53, 70, 76, 79, and 84 in football. My favorite was 53, I wore it all four years of high school. I consider it my lucky number.

54. I’m interested in medieval culture, politics, history, and warfare.

55. I also want to learn as much as possible about Native Americans, World War II, and The Civil War.

56. I bought my first guitar from Pete Sabatini. The first song I learned, er segment rather, was the intro to Bob Seger’s “Mainstreet.”

57. When I bought my bass the first songs I tried to learn were by Rush. Big mistake for a beginner.

58. I want to learn how to play piano.

59. I love birdwatching, stargazing, hiking, and fishing.. but I don’t get to do these very much.

60. I have an obsession with Italian sub sandwiches.

61. I want to learn how to paint and draw cartoons/comics.

62. I used to be into powerlifting.

63. I believe in extraterrestrial life.

64. I vote not by party line, but by the situation.

65. I think the death of Officer Larry Cox was the worst thing to happen in Chillicothe in my lifetime.

66. My favorite sports team is the Cincinnati Bengals.

67. I want to become a high school teacher, then work my way to becoming a professor. The whole way I want to pursue side projects in novel writing and music making, and perhaps one day start my own studio or restaurant.

68. I decided to make a 16 hour round trip to go to a NASCAR race last year with Danny Russell, with only 36 hours notice.

69. I admit to enjoying the music of Lady GaGa.

70. My first celebrity crush was Shania Twain.

71. I’m a firm believer in The Golden Rule.

72. My favorite beer is Guinness; Extra Stout.

73. I want to own a motorcycle someday.

74. Why stop there? I want to own a NASCAR team.

75. I intend on being responsible with my money if I ever start making enough to save.. so that one day I could do the above, haha.

76. The best concert I ever attended was Porcupine Tree in Cleveland, 2007.

77. Most of my closest friends I didn’t get close to until late in high school, or after graduation.

78. I love epic science-fiction/fantasy sagas.

79. I’d love to be a pilot but my vision is absolutely horrible.

80. So is my sense of smell.

81. I won two Power of the Pen Regional competitions in middle school.

82. I want to take up photography.

83. My grandparents are awesome, I love them.

84. I’d love to be on Survivor, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Jeopardy, and The Amazing Race.

85. I’m a beast at Scrabble.

86. The physical feature I’m proudest of is my teeth.

87. I love roller coasters.

88. My favorite songs are “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “Shine” by Collective Soul, and “Africa” by Toto.

89. I’d love to own every DVD of The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, The Office, Scrubs, and several other series… because I never really watch TV.

90. I’d also love to watch more English Premier League Soccer.

91. I love clean guitar tones and meaty distorted riffs just the same.

92. If I ever become wealthy I intend on giving back. I believe all humans deserve the same opportunities, if they’ve worked hard for them and been good to others.

93. I don’t think I’ll ever get a tattoo.

94. I want children of my own, but only when I’m financially stable and mature.

95. I’m afraid of hospitals even though I know they’re there to help.

96. I’ve never flown other than a 30 minute small-plane tour of Ross County.

97. I want to drive in an auto race someday.

98. There’s going to be another 100 random facts and memories one day, don’t worry.

99. I’ll always take time out of my day to talk to anyone who wants to have a good conversation, no matter who they are.

100. I really, really like my last name and have a slight obsession with it.

This is so epic.

Radical.

I haven't tried wine yet; this shall be the first

Album Review- Marillion, “Misplaced Childhood”

January 20, 2010

Marillion's 1985 record, Misplaced Childhood.

“Two hundred Francs for sanctuary and she led me by the hand to a room of dancing shadows where all the heartache disappears, and from glowing tongues of candles I heard her whisper in my ear: J’entend ton coeur. I can hear your heart….” -Bitter Suite (III. Blue Angel)

41 minutes is all I need for sanctuary as Marillion takes me by the hand, leading me into a world of dancing melodies where all my heartache disappears. From the glowing lyrics, frontman Fish seems to hear my heart indeed. I’m going to warn my readers now, I’m extremely biased about this album. I don’t know if I can fairly grade it, considering this is far and away my favorite album of all time. This piece of music means a lot to me. Forgive me, but realize.. this IS a great album, a must-listen for anyone, especially those with emotional investments in the records they enjoy.

Marillion is one of those bands that have two distinct eras due to changes in frontmen, like Genesis or Van Halen or AC/DC. The first four albums the band released, all in the 1980s, were under the lead of a charismatic Scottish poet by the nickname of Fish (Born Derek Dick). The band and Fish parted ways in 1988 and changed style significantly while picking up Steve Hogarth as their new frontman. While I enjoy Hogarth-era Marillion, I have much more emotional connection to the work Fish produced with the band, especially the album I’m preparing to discuss.

I discovered Marillion a few years ago when I realized that I had an obsession with “Progressive” rock. The term is loosely applied to any band with concept albums, superb technical ability, longer compositions, ambitious lyrical content, and influences outside of traditional rock roots. I acquired some Marillion, eager to absorb the keyboard solos, psychedelic vibes, out-of-this-world grooves and trippy rhythms that other prog bands were known for. Marillion displays all of these traits and then some, HOWEVER; it wasn’t their “progressiveness” that hooked me. The band seemed to have a more gentle, realistic, and authentic touch to their music and lyrics than many other prog bands did. Much of this can be traced to Fish, a well-travelled and cultured poet with a bold way of speaking and wearing his heart on his sleeve. Fish is one of the best emoters in rock history, I dare to say, up there with greats like Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Steve Perry, Robert Plant, and Bono. Every word, melody, note, and afflection Fish sings has a meaning; no word is without a purpose, no lyric is superficial.

I don’t think this is an album that casual listeners can truly grasp after one listen; nor do I think it’s an album that can be played in the background. It’s a wholesome, full work that is best enjoyed in isolation, without distraction. There’s so much going on in Misplaced Childhood, so many layers of meaning and music, that it takes time to “get.” It took me time.

Now, on to the review….

Fish

“Pseudo Silk Komono” seeps into the listener’s ears, a haunting, creepy organ melody lurking in the shadows of conscience. When Fish sings the lyrics, I can imagine a tired, weary, sage old man speaking these words as he reflects, struggling with some past sin or memory that he wishes to forget. This sets up the album on a somber, heavy note. “The spirit of a misplaced childhood is rising to speak his mind to this orphan of heartbreak, disillusioned and scarred; A refugee.” Fear and regret soak Fish’s words. I am able to feel the sorrow and remorse. Even if I haven’t faced the same horrors the narrator has, I can relate due to the emotion that drips from these poetic lyrics.

Marillion’s guitarist, Steve Rothery, is well-regarded for his melodic and atmospheric, clean playing style. This style is best exemplified in the intro of the second song, “Kayleigh.” His ringing riff is accented by clever piano and bass harmonies, while Ian Mosley’s drumming is snappy and tasteful. Fish pours out his heart to an old lover, begging her to come back, sharing very personal memories in a catchy and melodic tune. Yes, this is a rather “poppy” song, and was a huge hit in the United Kingdom, but the music and vocals are quite authentic. The heavy, haunting build-up in “Kimono” contrasts the jangling melodies that came here, but it works to be very effective as Fish begins to recall happenings past.  Rothery’s guitar solo captures the essence of yearning and separation, complimenting the hearty Fish vocal. Having undergone a recent split, and having had to comfort myself with this album as I had done many a time before, something about this song struck me to the core.  “Kayleigh I’m still trying to write that love song, Kayleigh it’s more important to me now you’re gone. Maybe it will prove that we were right, or ever prove that I was wrong.”

“Lavender” begins on one of the sweetest, simple, pure piano lines that I’ve ever heard. Fish’s voice drips of longing and remembrance as he recalls the innocence of childhood. The lyrics in this song are a bit more straightforward than in the other two, as this is done on purpose to tie into a popular nursery rhyme and perfectly capture the mood of youth. While Fish begs for his love to return to him in “Kayleigh,” in “Lavender” he acknowledges that he owes her for her love in a powerful chorus that gives way to another delightful Rothery solo.

In “Bitter Suite,” the mood reverts back to what is felt in the beginning of the album. Thundering, chaotic drums and dark, desolate bass chords resonate as the guitar picks and prods at inner demons deep within the listener, summoning forth mistakes and regrets that cling to this very day. The first part of the song is definitely a “mood” piece. Fish recites the lyrics in the beginning of the song, rather than sings them. The poem he reads is very pessimistic and dark in nature. Fish launches into his singing once more with a gusto, recalling lost souls who struggle with their pasts. “She was a wallflower at sixteen, she’ll be a wallflower at thirty four. Her mother called her beautiful, her daddy said, “A whore”.”

From here the music begins to build a bit, Rothery taking over for Fish, the guitar’s passionate lines just as useful as any lyric or word could ever be. The song shifts a bit, recalling the same mood as “Lavender” and “Kayleigh,” as Fish ponders another lost lover. My favorite lyrics in the entire album are sung in a heart-wrenching fashion: Two hundred Francs for sanctuary and she led me by the hand to a room of dancing shadows where all the heartache disappears, and from glowing tongues of candles I heard her whisper in my ear: J’entend ton coeur. I can hear your heart…”

The heart is certainly a recurring theme in Misplaced Childhood. One can tell that Fish and company put their hearts and souls into this work. It’s a deep, moving piece so far that has touched a wide variety of emotions, and the album isn’t even halfway over at this point. Fish, overwhelmed by the pressures and personal tragedies he’s faced, finds himself lost and directionless. “ On the outskirts of nowhere, on the ring road to somewhere, on the verge of indecision, I’ll always take the roundabout way.”

“Heart of Lothian” is a rip-roaring, spectacular, powerful anthem. Pete Trewavas plays a rumbling, active bassline as Rothery grinds out a flying, nonstop guitar line that brings to mind banners, parades, color, and smiles. There’s more satisfaction and bravado in Fish’s voice as he spectacularly describes “rooting, tooting cowboys” and “lucky little ladies at the watering hole.” Whatever darkness that plagued the narrater is forgotten, or at least covered up, by this swaggering fist-pumping sing-along. Has Fish moved on from his troubles? Has he made some kind of revelation about his life? Has he discovered that misplaced meaning once again?

It doesn’t appear to be so, as in the latter half of the song Fish’s voice suddenly turns to lament and confusion, the music melting around his mournful vocal as he proclaims, “The man in the mirror has sad eyes.”

“Waterhole (Expresso Bongo),” is a rhythmic whirlwind, as the keyboards and drums prance around in circles around an arrogant and bitter-sounding Fish asserting that “the heroes never show.” This is a quick song, but its punch is well-felt as it immediately gives way to “Lords of the Backstage,” which functions as a companion tune. The victorious tone of “Lothian” returns, with the snappy rhythm accenting Fish’s confession that he “just wanted you to be the first one. Ashes are burning, burning. A lifestyle with no simplicities, but I’m not asking for your sympathy. Talk, we never could talk, distanced by all that was between us. A lord of the backstage, a creature of language, I’m so far out and I’m too far in.”

Last night you said I was cold, untouchable. A lonely piece of action from another town. I just want to be free, I’m happy to be lonely. Can’t you stay away? Just leave me alone with my thoughts. Just a runaway, I’m saving myself.” In “Blind Curve,” Fish suddenly becomes closed-off and isolated. His voice drips of the kind of self-depricating hate that only the most upset and lost people can feel. Nearly anyone can empathize with the brutal heartbreak he expresses, as the soul-searching narrator goes on a directionless journey, “still trying to write love songs for passing strangers.” Many due props are given to keyboardist Mark Kelly, whose lines throughout the album have been extremely tasteful and have added so much to the moods. Here his synthesizers waver and weep as Fish succumbs to yet another wave of tragedies; losing a friend, facing his own mortality, and descending into substance abuse. Fish “never felt so alone” as he travels to yet “another temporary home.” Fish asks if he’d gone insane, and the music reflects this depression, slow and sporadic, haunting and meloncholy.

The addictions and depression get the best of the narrator. Fish laments, “I’ve never been so wasted. I’ve never been this far out before.” Another moody spoken word passage follows as he detects a presence, the drums and synth working together to generate a very dark atmosphere. He cries out to anyone who will listen to give his childhood back to him. Fish challenges industry, religion, and politics, saying he can’t take anymore, calling out the world for the evil that it produces. “How can we justify,” he asks, “they call us civilized!” The atmosphere of the album climbs back out of the darkness, as it seems Fish is on the verge of an epiphany. He finds meaning in his quest for innocence and justice. The guitar lines revisit “Heart of Lothian,” if not a bit more melancholy and purposeful this time around.

I’ll never forget the time I first truly got “hit” by “Childhood’s End?” This song, simply put, is my life story, musically and lyrically. It’s a revelation, happy and forward-thinking, a butterfly breaking out its coccoon, the dawn after the night, the light after the rain. Fish has found the meaning of his life, and has discovered that he’s still the same child he was in the past. “The only thing misplaced was direction, and I found direction. There is no childhood’s end!!” The music is victorious, Fish sounds genuinely happy, and the synth solo in the end of the song is one of the most powerful passages in music I’ve ever listened to. I can’t sum up how much this song means to me, especially the bolded/italicized part below…

And it was morning
And I found myself mourning,
For a childhood that I thought had disappeared
I looked out the window
And I saw a magpie in the rainbow, the rain had gone
I’m not alone, I turned to the mirror
I saw you, the child, that once loved

The child before they broke his heart
Our heart, the heart that I believed was lost

Hey you, surprised? More than surprised
To find the answers to the questions
Were always in your own eyes

Do you realize that you could’ve back to her?
But that would only be retraced in all the problems that you ever knew
So untrue
For she’s got to carry on with her life
And you’ve got to carry on with yours

So I see it’s me, I can do anything
And I’m still the child
‘Cos the only thing misplaced was direction
And I found direction
There is no childhood’s end
You are my childhood friend, lead me on

Hey you, you’ve survived. Now you’ve arrived
To be reborn in the shadow of the magpie

Now you realise, that you’ve got to get out of here
You’ve found the leading light of destiny, burning in the ashes of your memory
You want to change the world
You’d resigned yourself to die a broken rebel
But that was looking backward
Now you’ve found the light

You, the child that once loved
The child before they broke his heart
Our heart, the heart that I believed was lost

So it’s me I see, I can do anything.
I’m still the child
‘Cos the only thing misplaced was direction
And I found direction
There is no childhood’s end
I am your childhood friend, lead me on

The album ends on “White Feather,” a marching and boistrous number where Fish asserts possession of his own heart and soul, that he belongs to no nation, but he is the owner of himself and a free spirit with free will. It’s not the most powerful song on the album, by far, but it is a happy conclusion to this journey of negative and reflective moods.

I can’t use words to describe what Misplaced Childhood means to me. It’s one of the albums with a nonstop “shiver factor” and depth unparalleled. It’s the kind of music that you hear, and you think to yourself, “Where have I heard this before? Why is this so familiar?” It’s familiar because Marillion has harnessed the fabric of the human spirit, of love and loss and everything in between, and channelled it into one of the greatest albums of all time.

I long to speak with more people that have been touched as deeply as I by this album, who have listened to it literally dozens of times and love it just as much as I. If you take my advice and listen to it, or already have, whether you like it or not… I’d love to read your thoughts in the comment section..

Point-blank, I recommend this album to every person who listens to music with emotional investments, who look for something “more” out of their listening.

Anybody who is a casual fan of progressive rock such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Camel can find a good bit to enjoy in Misplaced Childhood as well, so even if you’re not an emotional listener, the record’s still good for a couple spins.

Timeless classic, an epic of love and loss and rediscovery…

Final Grade: A+

BUY THIS ALBUM HERE!!

Marillion: An Underrated Band

Unveiling My Projects in Progress….

January 12, 2010

THE GREATEST BAND THAT NEVER WAS

Nate Bahre drinks hard, plays hard, and rocks hard. Aleksandr Balanov legitimately believes he’s the second coming of Jim Morrison and is out to prove it. Frederick Ryan Slash Bryan Thomas is a Lovecraft-obsessed hacker who also happens to play the meanest set of skins in town.

How the hell is Albert Shaw going to fit into this motley crew of musicians? The young, reserved bassist unsuspectedly plunges headlong into the seedy world of rock and roll, pulled after one fateful jam session with these seasoned players. They form a band that defies categorization and begin touring around town, facing usual AND unusual pitfalls that every small-town group encounters when starting out. As members wind up in and out of jail, passing around groupies, falling off buildings, stumbling upon evil spirits, and encountering the wrath of jilted family members; Albert realizes that rock and roll ain’t noise pollution. It’s a life-consuming monster that can’t be tamed.

Follow Albert in this rollicking small-town journey that lies somewhere between Spinal Tap, Almost Famous, Dazed and Confused, and the real-life experiences of debut author Tyler Woodbridge.

As we launched into the opening riff of “Wake Up Carl” and I viciously flipped my bass strings, I could feel my worries deafened by the gain and feedback. Standing there on stage, pounding away in what must have been our thousandth time playing the song, it still felt new. I felt new, too.

I looked around at my bandmates, not even trying to conceal my massive grin. Never mind the fact that one of them had tried to kill me. I almost forgot that one had stolen the love of my life in front of my very eyes, and that the other would be lucky to escape the night without getting arrested. These transgressions were trivial, our conflicts had faded. In this moment, as we shared our work and spirit in front of a capacity crowd of twenty five, we were more than just friends, or bandmates, or partners in crime. We were brothers. We were the greatest band that never was.

THE END OF GOOD AND EVIL

In the year 2014, two neighboring nations have been all but taken over by a wealthy family. Sandoval Enterprises have members in government office as their business runs literally everything. As a recession hits, money talks as the family fabricates a false war between the nations of Donia and Nhaliuk to boost a sagging economy. Endless soldiers’ lives are sacrificed in the name of the almighty dollar as sinister men laugh all the way to the bank.

Sooner than later, this maniacal plot is threatened to be exposed on multiple fronts by a special ops soldier codenamed Trigger, a drifting citizen called Jimmy Glencroft, and a devout Christian politican named Eli Radovich. From all reaches of the conflict, they are drawn into an underground multinational revolution that seeks to shake the foundations of politics and war as we know it. Every man and woman involved will be forced to make decisions outside their moral boundary, see life and death through different eyes, and weather the storm of human error. They will need to put an end to this conflict once and for all. An end to both good and evil.

A Foray into NASCAR Writing: 2010 Predictions for Driver/Team Changes

January 11, 2010

(I submitted this as part of my new blog on Racing Reference, called “Wide Open with Woodbridge.” I love NASCAR racing so I figured I’d take a shot at submitting something. I know many of my regular readers aren’t racing fans, so if you read this out of respect for me, bear with me here!! Haha.)

Wide Open with Woodbridge: 2010 Predictions for Driver/Team Changes

There hasn’t been nearly as much intrigue and change over this past Silly Season as there has been in recent years. Previous seasons have beheld major factors such as Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Mark Martin moving to new teams. When a Silly Season’s biggest move comes from Martin Truex Jr., that says it all.

However, I feel the changes made over the offseason will cause a ripple effect that will certainly shake up Sprint Cup’s standings, the progress of some young teams, and the downfall of some others. I will go through every driver change and new team, from the bottom to the top numerically, and share my thoughts on how the move will effect Sprint Cup.

#09 Aric Almirola- Phoenix Racing- Miccosukee Indian Gaming Dodge/Chevy.
Last season, the #09 team was about as bipolar as racing teams can come. With hotshot up-and-comer Brad Keselowski behind the wheel, Finch racked up a surprise win at Talladega in the spring, and followed that up with a couple Top Tens in limited starts. In nearly every race that Keselowski didn’t drive, the #09 was piloted by a gaggle of journeyman veterans and one race with Almirola. In these races, the Miccosukee machine was a consistent start-and-parker, only finishing five non-Keselowski events. With Finch running an entire season with just one driver I have to wonder if they will go the start-and-park route or actually try to compete in races. Almirola showed some promise in a limited schedule back in 2008 in which he drove the #8 subbing for Mark Martin, but in 2009 his aborted campaign featured dismal finishes and no interest from potential sponsors, leading to the shutting down of the iconic team. Almirola has a future in this sport and is a gifted racer. I just doubt that Phoenix Racing will give Almirola the equipment, consistency, and opportunity to become the good driver he could be.

Prediction: Between 28th and 35th in points with a couple Top Tens, much worse if they start-and-park much of the season

#1 Jamie McMurray- Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing- Bass Pro Shops Chevy

Jamie McMurray has been one of those drivers that has been “on the verge of being great” for most of his career. With the sensational way he won in his 2nd start as a substitute driver for the injured Sterling Marlin in 2002, many fans and analysts have been expecting much more from McMurray. He performs well every season, but never well enough to place in the Top Ten in points or challenge for multiple wins. When he drove for Ganassi the first time around, he was never worse than 13th in points and had 46 Top Tens in three seasons. Those statistics are good, and with McMurray going from being the number five driver at Roush to being one of only two drivers at EGR, he will get a better share of equipment and attention. EGR may be a team on their way back up, especially after Juan Pablo Montoya claimed a Chase berth and consistent finishes in the #42 last year. This move will benefit both McMurray and the man he replaced, Martin Truex Jr., in many ways.

Prediction: Top 20 in points, contending for a couple wins and having several Top Fives, a typical Jamie McMurray year but slightly better than his Roush seasons

#12 Brad Keselowski- Penske Racing- Verizon Dodge

Brad Keselowski’s been one of the best drivers in the Nationwide series for a couple years now. His hard-charging style has been compared to drivers from Earnhardt and Waltrip to the Busch brothers and his rival Denny Hamlin. He won a Cup race in an incredible finish at Talladega for an underfunded team, and was rumored to be linked to a variety of major teams from Hendrick to Stewart-Haas. Keselowski ends up at Penske, however, and will be an instant contributor to the top of Sprint Cup stat sheets. The #12 had always been a mainstay in Top 20 finishes, in races and standings, from the days of Jeremy Mayfield through Ryan Newman. That is, until last year, when David Stremme bungled his way through the season and selling the #12 completely short of what it can accomplish. Keselowski will have some struggles in his first full season, yes, but his Nationwide experience and racing instincts will carry him to several great finishes and contentions for wins. I don’t think he will make the Chase this year, but don’t rule him out for a trip in the next couple seasons.

Prediction: Top 20 in points, a win or two and over 10 Top Tens.

#34 Travis Kvapil- Front Row Motorsports- Long John Silver Ford

Travis Kvapil, I believe, is one of the most underrated drivers in any level of NASCAR racing. His consistent style and Wisconsin short track background make for a skillset Cup owners shouldn’t pass up. A Truck Series championship doesn’t hurt his resume, as well as over 100 Cup series starts under his belt. Front Row seems to be a team on their way up, at least compared to the teams below them in last year’s points. Bob Jenkins refused to start-and-park the #34 with John Andretti in 2009 as Andretti kept the car in the Top 35 by keeping the car in one piece. Kvapil, I feel, could be a Chase contender in the right equipment. Kvapil boosted the #28 Yates car when he stepped in and kept it relevant even without sponsorship, so I think he can do what Andretti did last year, if not more. Kvapil’s finishes typically don’t match his actual performances in races, especially in several fateful superspeedway events. I actually look for Kvapil to rack up Top Tens for Front Row, help the team gain acclaim, keep himself relevant and maybe even contend for a superspeedway win.

Prediction: Top 30 in points, several Top Tens

#36 Mike Bliss- Tommy Baldwin Racing- Toyota

Unless this team picks up a sponsor or finds a way into the Top 35 I sincerely doubt they will run many full races at all, and if they did, Bliss will be battling for hard-earned 33rd place finishes.

Prediction: Under the Top 35. Several missed races and many start-and-parks.

#37- Kevin Conway- Front Row Motorsports- Extenze Ford

Front Row Motorsports debuts a second full-time team this year with Kevin Conway. Conway’s not the most experienced driver in the world, and one has to figure that he getting the ride has more to do with his rookie status and the fact that he brings a sponsor, than his actual ability. While Front Row’s been doing much correctly lately and will be more prominent with Kvapil behind the wheel of their other car, I doubt Conway will be relevant this season. The team will make their way into the Top 35 and probably won’t start and park as much this year, however, it won’t be a very glorious 2009 campaign.

Prediction: Top 35, but barely. Lucky to get some Top 20 finishes.

#46- Terry Cook- Dusty Whitney- Dodge

Terry Cook’s a good driver. However, this is an unsponsored start-up team. I doubt we will see Cook drive very many full races. In the few races that they do run, they will jockey for 34th position with Mike Bliss and Kevin Conway. The addition of this team won’t be a very big splash in NASCAR at all.

Prediction: Many, many start and parks.

#56- Martin Truex Jr.- Michael Waltrip Racing- NAPA Toyota

This is a move that could help push Michael Waltrip Racing into superteam status. Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann contended often in 2009, with Reutimann picking up a win and Ambrose establishing himself as more than just a road course ringer. Michael Waltrip, despite being one of the sport’s better personalities and a smart owner, failed to accomplish much behind the wheel over the last few years. With the experienced and proven Truex taking over the team, expect Waltrip’s cars to launch an assault on Chase berths. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three teams were in contention for the Top 12 come August. Truex, especially with the guidance of Pat Tryson, will return to top form and may indeed make a visit or two to Victory Lane.

Prediction: Will challenge for the Top 12, make the Top 20 for sure and rack up Top Tens, maybe even pick up a win or two

#71- Bobby Labonte- TRG Motorsports- TaxSlayer Chevy/Dodge

Labonte, after being ousted from the #96 in favor of Erik Darnell, will take over the #71 full-time. Labonte drove several races with TRG late in 2009, racking up a Top Ten and several other promising finishes. Labonte is a great driver, he will find a way to make things happen for this up-and-coming team. With such a good driver and a sponsor on board, I won’t expect any start-and-parks out of TRG this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team creep into the Top 30 of the standings either. Expect stats similar to Bobby Labonte’s past few seasons: Nothing spectacular, but very solid and occasional Top Tens.

Prediction: Top 30 in points, a handful of Top Tens and a tremendous boost for TRG

#90- No Driver Announced- Keyed Up Motorsports- Chevy

Without a driver or sponsor announced at this point, I wouldn’t expect much out of this team in the near future.

Prediction: A few start-and-parks with a journeyman veteran driver here and there

I hope everyone enjoyed my first-ever blog for Racing Reference. If you enjoyed my insights, give me some feedback and I may write some more. Feel free to comment and discuss; I love to talk racing and look forward to hearing other viewpoints.

My Taboo of Over-Personal Blogging

January 2, 2010

I enjoy writing in this blog. I like how it’s helped me get into better writing habits, release thoughts and feelings, given me a sense of accomplishment, and learn and connect. I can see myself getting very involved with this someday, sooner if not later, given that I’ve recently had a ton of free time in my life open up.

I have one barrier that may stand in the way of me properly expressing certain thoughts or sharing some events in my life. I don’t think I can ever blog openly about my personal life, my family life, or relationships. I can’t bring myself to do it past a sentence here, an allusion there.

Let’s say, for example, that I hate my dad (I really don’t hate my dad, for the record). If I were to communicate on here my (imaginary) disdain for my father, and he were to run across this blog one way or another, there would be many complications in my life. He’d be upset at my feelings, and either become angry with me, or hold it in and become depressed, or grow apart from me. Our relationship would be strained. I wouldn’t want that at all. Therefore, even if it’s relevant to the blog, or if I’m itching to write a blog about family issues, I can’t discuss very personal issues like that. I just can’t.

I realize this blog pops up whenever one Googles my name. I’m okay with that. In fact, I like that. Hence, I have to be somewhat careful with what I write and share on here. I wouldn’t want friends, family members, employers, old teachers, co-workers, etc. to be offended or appalled at something I’ve written. It’s not that I’ve got anything offensive to share anyway, I’m a very easy-going and straightforward guy. BUT, in the off-chance that I’ve got a blog that’s borderline controversial or offensive to share, I realize that it wouldn’t be a very wise idea to publish it here. That’s why I’m going to shy away from overly religious/political/personal blogs.

I value my relationships. Anyone I’ve ever dated or been friends with will be spared from being picked apart on my blog. I could have a field day writing about and analyzing anything interesting, troubling, or unusual that’s ever happened between my friends, or between myself and a lover. I won’t do that. Even if I used “code names” for the people, they’d still know who they were just by reading, and others would be able to figure it out easily. I don’t want to upset anyone or compromise my trust and integrity by airing out dirty laundry or publicly criticizing those I’m close to. I don’t want to end up friends with someone or date a girl and have them think, “I don’t wanna end up close to this guy, I’ll just turn into a blog!” Nope, you won’t turn into a blog… no guarantees about you not turning into a song, though. 🙂

I know, faithful reader(s). This wasn’t much of an update. I just thought I’d clear up my stance on getting too personal on my blog, and thought that could explain any lack of depth. I don’t like being public about my business. I prefer to write about that stuff in lyrical form. It’s funner to do it that way, and I love reading when people pick apart my writing, trying to decipher the meaning. Double fun when they can’t figure it out!

Hope you all have a great day. Thanks for stoppin’ by.

Farewell to The Rev

December 29, 2009

Today, The Rev died.

James "The Rev" Sullivan

For those who don’t know, James “The Rev” Sullivan was the drummer for the metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Yes, people die all the time. Sure, I’ve never met the man. The impact of his passing is nowhere near what a family member or friend would give.

But still.. it sucks.

I have to imagine that how I feel right now, is how young rock and roll fans felt when they found out Keith Moon, John Bonham, Cliff Burton, or Randy Rhoads died. It’s a meloncholy, blah feeling. A talented artist I enjoy has passed away far before the time he should’ve, due to reasons unknown. The future of a band I enjoy immensely is up in the air.

Avenged Sevenfold has a special place in my life.

In the fall of 2008 I spent most of my time working at a factory in town called Menasha. I would wake up at 5 AM every morning, work until 2:30, come home, and split time between bumping around the internet and playing X-Box Live. I mainly played the game Halo 3 with a variety of friends.

It was on Halo that a good friend of mine introduced me to a girl we had went to school with, yet I never talked to. (We knew each other as kids, come to find out, but that’s a story for another day.) Her name was Ashley. We hit it off right away, it seemed. We would talk for hours on end, a couple nights a week, playing games with one another while talking about a variety of topics. There were times we’d play Halo, even though we didn’t want to, just to talk to one another.

One day Ashley left a bulletin on MySpace asking anyone interested if they would be interested in going to a concert with her in November. Of course, I said, I’d be more than interested. Being a rock music enthusiast and live show addict, I couldn’t turn her down! The bands playing were Saving Abel, Shinedown, Buckcherry, and Avenged Sevenfold.

I had heard a song or two by each band, and didn’t dislike anything by them. I had seen Saving Abel open for one of my favorite young rock groups, Airbourne, so knew what they had to offer. It seemed like it would be a fun show, and if nothing else, I could find a few new favorites. It was a huge bonus that I could get to spend some time with an attractive young lady that seemed interested in me.

The night of the show came around, Ashley and I had a connection, we enjoyed the concert and had a blast. The entire night was very memorable, and I could write for hours about the experience. However, today I will only focus on the impact of Avenged Sevenfold on me that night and beyond.

After Buckcherry’s set ended with a disgustingly interesting 13-minute progressive rendition of their hit single “Crazy Bitch,” I sat there with Ashley talking about the show we had witnessed so far. Shinedown certainly left a massive impression. I enjoyed their singer’s passion for rock and roll, the depth of their lyrics, and the tightness of their compositions. Plus, their bassist played his four-string with a pair of drumsticks, how sick is that? They were an instant favorite and I ended up buying their shirt and album that night. Buckcherry’s set couldn’t end fast enough for me, as I felt their ballads were tame and their rock songs were repetitive, derivative, emotionally bankrupt, and sleazy for the sake of sleaze. I didn’t enjoy them at all.

Queensryche blasted over the PA while they set up the stage for Avenged Sevenfold, randomly enough. I wasn’t expecting to hear a chunk of the Operation Mindcrime album that night, but it pleased me and got me pumped up for A7X (of whom I had only heard “Bat Country and parts of the “Waking the Fallen” album before). Ashley couldn’t stop talking about how huge the mosh pits were going to be, how hard she was going to bang her head, and how brutal riffs were about to pound me into the ground. Sure enough, I counted FORTY-FIVE Marshall amps stacked on top of eachother on the back of the stage. Damn. This was going to be intense.

Sure enough, it was. The lights dimmed down. The only light on stage was a green spotlight on a keyboard front and center. A built man with sleeve tattoos, sunglasses, and shaved head began playing a haunting organ melody. I had no clue what was about to happen, and I could feel myself tense up. Ashley grinned at me wide as the crowd cheered, the band members running onstage. Synyster Gates began playing a beautiful intro.

All of a sudden, the built man playing the keyboards (M. Shadows) ripped out a long, fierce scream. Typically not into screaming, I braced myself and winced. What was I in for?

One of the best damn shows I’d ever seen, that’s what I was in for.

It was all uphill from there.

The musicians (including the amazing Rev himself) launched into a series of delightful churning riffs. Apparently this was their song “Critical Acclaim.” I watched, slack-jawed, as M. Shadows and The Rev exchanged incredible vocals. The Rev sang as he pounded away, viciously keeping time with double-bass insanity. M. Shadows practically rapped, in pseudo-Rage fury while Synyster, Zacky Vengeance, Johnny Christ, and company blasted my eardrums with their sweet heavy metal. This was delightful. This was what I had been missing out on by not being a metal fan for most of my life. This was music I could get into.

The whole concert was amazing. I loved the yearning chorus of “Afterlife.” I dug the country/blues tinges of “Gunslinger” and “Dear God.” I nearly fell over at the majesty of dueling solos during “Bat Country.” The lusty “Scream” stirred the animal within me. My fist pumped during “Unholy Confessions” and I made a poor attempt at headbanging to “Almost Easy.” Ashley far out-classed me in that department, with her long dark locks whipping around her head as she cackled, rocking it out to her favorites.

All in all, it was a great show. Whenever I spoke of the concert, I’d always make note of how impressive The Rev was. The only other drummer I could think of that compared to his versatility was Deen Castronovo. The Rev not only banged and thundered, he could be tasteful when he needed to. There was a new drummer I could add to my list of favorites, alongside Peart, Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Chad Smith, and Steve Smith.

Ashley and I ended up bonding over Avenged Sevenfold several times after that concert. We would watch their videos on MTV’s website. I discovered Ashley’s amazing, soaring singing voice whenever she would cover “Afterlife” playing Rock Band 2. When I needed a laugh, she would provide with her “Duckie Dance,” flipping unseen foes off while snarling out the “Shh, be quiet, might p*ss somebody off…” parts of “Critical Acclaim.” She cackled at me one night, when I was exhausted and not in my right mind from a long day of driving, as I stated that “Scream” was a “modern heavy metal version of ‘Stone in Love’ on steroids.” When I spent a gift card from Christmas in a Target in another town, I purchased the self-titled Avenged Sevenfold album.

Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled

During long, cold days and treacherous nights I would grow exhausted and frustrated with my life. I’d vent by playing the game NHL 09 with a group of my friends. “Afterlife” was on the soundtrack, and would cycle as an ‘entrance song’ for our hockey team as we took the virtual ice. I have vivid memories of Woodbridge, Kuhner, Russell, Benson, Riding, and Chidester ripping onto the ice together as A7X blasted furiously, heralding the arrival of The Heartlanders. We also played “Afterlife” and “Critical Acclaim” while playing basketball at Russell’s private gym.

I needed to keep myself pumped up as I slogged my way to my humdrum factory job. What better way to do that than crank A7X while going to work? One of my favorite album sides to listen to on my trips to the Menasha plant was the first side of the self-titled record.

There’s video evidence of me playing Rock Band drums to “Afterlife,” my own awkward untalented tribute to The Rev. The video even includes me singing some incorrect lyrics badly. I remember the night clearly though, I had immersed myself in the song, became one with it and truly had “a moment” with it.

Early in our relationship, Ashley and I would take long drives for the hell of it, listening to music and talking about our hopes, dreams, and feelings. We would go back and forth between her favorites and mine. Somehow we could always agree with no fighting on listening to Avenged Sevenfold. My soundtrack of 2009, and for my relationship with Ashley is packed with the band’s work.

I vividly remember the day after Michael Jackson died. Ashley and I had a long conversation while parked on the side of high street about the effects of major celebrity deaths, or the deaths of any musician or athlete. Ironically we discussed how Ashley’s stepfather would need to be held if a Tennessee Titan were to die early. Steve McNair was shot and killed the next week. I thought about how I would feel if I lost a treasured Cincinnati Bengal…recently Chris Henry fell off a truck and perished. I recall all too well Ashley and I laughing about us being middle-aged and married, going through a midlife crisis and following the bands we loved in our youth, and travelling with Avenged Sevenfold on their 2035 Retirement Tour….

Revisiting the conversation we had after Michael Jackson died, I know Ashley said she would need extra cuddling if we ever lost a member of Pearl Jam, Shinedown, or Avenged Sevenfold before their time.

As always, I look forward to extra cuddles with Ashley tonight.

I just wish it wasn’t for this reason.

R.I.P. James “The Rev” Sullivan.

The Rev, a drummer extraordinaire and man lost too young.

This Is Your History! Blog, Write, Share, Read!

December 28, 2009

I feel as if sometimes we as humans don’t really take the time to think about the future, what it will be like, how the world will change, how we ourselves will change, and what we will leave behind after we die. Twenty years ago, my parents never dreamed there would be a computer in almost every home, life-like video games, 3D movies created digitally, internet, and a phone in nearly every pocket. I’m sure my grandfather is shocked as anyone that rap is mainstream and popular, and my grandmother is certainly thankful for the insane advances in healthcare and technology.

We’ve come a long way, and (somehow) we still have a long way to go. There is much happening in the world every day. The face of the human race is evolving with every minute. Every person in the world has a role to play in how the future will be for themselves, their family, their friends, their city, their country, their race, their planet. It’s up to us to make decisions that will positively impact those around and ahead of ourselves, to further the progress that has been rapidly increasing over the last millenium.

I know, I know. Get to the point, you say, o faithful reader. This isn’t a novel, it’s a blog entry, you say. Okay, okay. Here goes. This is a bit of a “Why I Blog” entry. I’ll explain the turn of events that led to me starting a blog, and what inspires me to try to do great things every day.

It was summer, the year 2009. In other words, it really wasn’t that long ago. I was working 2nd shift at a local truck part painting factory called Vitatoe. Of course, I didn’t like it all. I’ve had several jobs in manufacturing and I can’t stand that kind of work. Playing late night basketball with my friends, spending time with my wonderful girlfriend Ashley during the morning/afternoon, and listening to plenty of great music helped me get through it.

I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my friend Kaila Vest. As some of you may have read, she was born with a condition called Pectus Excavatum. She went into surgery on June 30th. I remember being extremely nervous that morning, even though I had no reason to be. I knew things would turn out okay for her, BUT, it was the first time I’ve had a close friend have a big surgery like this. Needless to say my mind was snowballing about random things and I couldn’t stay calm until I heard Kaila got out of her surgery safe.

Her mom texted me and let me know she was fine, so I was a bit more relieved. I got in the shower that morning to get ready and spend time with Ashley, then go to work. After I got out of the shower, I had a sudden rush of lightheadedness. I literally became dizzy and fell over in my bathroom. I had no clue what had happened, and panicked. I didn’t say anything to my mom, Ashley, or anyone at all. I just went about my business as usual after I got up, wondering what the hell that was about.

Later that same night at work, near the end of my shift, I had the exact same thing happen to me there that had happened in my bathroom. I couldn’t stand still, my heart and my head both rushing, as I paced around the factory floor aimlessly, just trying to keep myself calm and trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I blamed everything on having a pulled chest muscle; the previous day at work I lifted 100 pound truck rims by myself for fifteen minutes. Not the smartest move in the world, but it would explain my pain.

That night my buddy Danny Russell texted me and asked me if I wanted to randomly go to Pennsylvania with him for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Pocono Raceway. Of course, me being the young and foolish adventurer I am, I agreed to it. On 48 hours notice, we were making a 16-hour round trip to go watch some racing. Oddly enough, over the next three days, before/during/after our trip to the race, I didn’t have that discomfort/faintness at all. I wondered why this could be. Sure enough, within the next day after I got back home, it would come back at least once a day. What in the world was wrong with me, what was up with these faint feelings and random discomforts??

After a few more days I finally talked to my mom and dad about what was going on. My mom passed it off as being anxiety, telling me to calm down and relax. I thought to myself, maybe it WAS anxiety. I googled Anxiety Disorder and thought, hey, this sounds like what I’m going through. Random discomfort and faintness, check. Raised pulse and blood pressure, check. Numbness in the left arm, check. Wait, I thought, aren’t these also symptoms of heart attacks or heart conditions? Naturally, I read up on those, and found myself worrying about much more than any somewhat healthy 21 year old needed to.

The more I analyzed my life in early August, the more anxiety-causing agents I discovered. I worked extensively with paint, paint remover/thinner, and other paint-based chemicals. I absolutely hated my job. I had horrible sleep patterns, drank an obscene amount of caffeine, and didn’t have a very balanced diet. I struggled with money (still do), and was constantly either frustrated or depressed. Kaila was still in the hospital, I was having various disagreements with friends, my friends were having disagreements with one another… it just made for a very trying time.

I’ll never forget August 14th and 15th, 2009. The 14th was Ashley’s birthday. I had a great time watching her open her presents, spending time with her, eating Chinese with her, and cherishing her company. It was just too bad that I had to work that evening, as I would’ve taken her to a concert that night instead.

We agreed to make up for that on the 15th. I drove us up to Columbus, where we met up with my uncle, grandma, and sisters for a little bit. From there I took her to Tuttle Mall, where we proceeded to shop around and enjoy some Chik-Fil-A and Caribou Coffee. It was a great day, a fun day, and I was enjoying myself immensely. On the way home I experienced my discomfort that I had been having yet again while driving. I toughed it out and got back to Ashley’s house, where we sat down to watch some preseason football.

Not five minutes passed when my discomfort returned. I stood up and went into Ashley’s kitchen to get a bottle of water and clear my head. That’s when it hit, coming out of nowhere, like nothing I had ever felt before. I felt a surge through my whole body, my chest tightened hard from the middle out, and I could feel my heartbeat gallop into the sunset. I keeled over the table, not having any clue what was wrong with me. I felt to myself, is this a heart attack?! Is this a heart attack?!! Ashley’s family was a tremendous help, sitting me upright and helping me breathe, as I was hyperventilating. They wanted to call a squad right away, but I wanted to see what my family thought first. Ashley called my mom and dad, and they arrived about 15 minutes later to check me out. I was sweating profusely, twitching randomly, breathing rapidly, and still my heartbeat was fast. My family and Ashley’s, and myself, all came to the mutual decision to call a squad.

Not long after the call was made, the squad showed up. I was impressed and happy with how quickly they responded. Three EMTs came in to check me out. My pulse and blood pressure were astronomical, and I told them about my tingliness. They agreed that it was a concern and asked me the usual litany of questions about allergies, family history, personal history, etc. They checked my blood sugar; I was evidently normal. From there they walked me out to the ambulance and it was off to the emergency room with me.

I was very scared from the time my “attack” happened, and that fright just refused to subside. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t calm down, and my “surging” feeling refused to go away. All I could think was, am I dying? Am I ill? What’s wrong with me? Am I going to make it out of the hospital? Is Ashley okay? My family?

I was wheeled on a stretcher into the emergency room. So it began. I was given two separate IVs, one in each arm. They took a blood sample. They took a plasma sample. They checked my pulse, my temperature, my heart rate. My pulse averaged 140 or so during the entire time I was in the ER, and if I remember correctly my blood pressure was 180/100. The whole time I clenched my mom and dad’s hands, or Ashley’s, depending on who was in the room with me.

The madness didn’t end. I was hooked up to an EKG monitor. They took a chest X-Ray. Four different nurses and two different doctors came in to talk to me. The whole experience was both clear and fuzzy at the same time, I didn’t know what to think or feel other than negative, frightful thoughts. I was in the middle of a whirlwind of needles, wires, beeps, pokes, and questions.

Perhaps one of the most frightening tests I went through was this scan where I was slid on my back into a giant, cold, tight metal tube. That’s not the worst part. Before I was slid into the tube they gave me a shot of dye. They warned me it would feel “a little funny.” They should rephrase that and say, “this should feel like the creepiest physical experience of your entire life.” Within seconds after the shot, my entire body felt like it was burning from the inside out. I clinched my eyes shot and prayed fervently, just wishing that somehow it would all go away.

Later on, while I was still laying in the emergency room bed, I had the worst “attack” yet. My chest felt as if it was exploding. I sat upright quickly, feeling my eyes bug out as I grabbed my heart. I moved quickly and without caution as I sprung up, I tugged hard on my IVs. I could hear my mom faintly yelling (if you know my mom that’s an understatement, for her to be faint especially next to me, meant I was truly in a whirlwind) “Help! HELP! He needs HELP over here!” In that moment I swore I was dying. It was the scariest feeling yet. A nurse came over, and saw that my pulse and BP had shot up. She gave me a shot of a drug called Atavan.

I could’ve sworn something was wrong with me. I was dying, or gravely ill, or going insane. My thoughts were all negative. I was saying the most ridiculous things. “Ashley, promise me you’ll never stop singing. “If I ever get out of here, I’m gonna do this.” so on, so forth.. outrageous statements. But I really thought it was all over.

They admitted me to the hospital that night, saying that they were to take more tests in the morning. I couldn’t sleep at all, it was the longest night I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t watch television. I couldn’t listen to my iPod or do anything at all. When a nurse asked me that night if I needed anything, I merely asked her for something to write with. I wrote Ashley a poem and a letter.

The whole night, my thoughts were an endless snowball of negativity. I didn’t think I was ever getting out. I thought about my friends. Did they know I was in here? Would they care if something happened to me? What’s my legacy going to be? How will I be remembered? What have I truly accomplished?

I listened to one album only, Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood, my favorite album of all time. I tried to watch TV, nothing could interest me. My chest remained sore. Every time I managed to drift off to sleep, I awoke within minutes with a chest discomfort/tightness, or a nurse would come in and check on me. I could get no rest.

Morning came soon enough. I was shocked to discover, as I opened my eyes, I had actually gotten one whole hour of uninterrupted sleep. I awoke to a friendly nurse taking my blood pressure. I asked her what my BP and pulse were. 120/85 and 63, respectively. They had both went back down to normal levels since the night before. I was shocked and at the same time, ecstatic. That HAD to be a good sign. For the first time in twelve hours I had a smile on my face.

They called off one test (I had no clue what it was and couldn’t figure out whether it was good or bad that they cancelled it). My only test that morning was an insane experience. They basically took an ultrasound of my chest and legs to check on my heart functions, and to make sure I had no clots of any kind. This was surreal. The computer screen showed a perfect image of my heart. I laid there and watched it pump, churning away, seeing my blood go in and out, moving through my body. I could hear an amplified version of my heartbeat. I could hear the thud of its muscles, and the squishing of my blood. This muscle, I thought, is the only thing that keeps this whole gig running. Its health is vital to my health as a whole. If this little buddy peters out, the shebang goes with it. I was fascinated and found a new appreciation for the heart, its functions, and its role in my survival.

There were a few more hours of waiting. Fortunately, Ashley had arrived and was keeping me company. I was so thrilled, so happy to see her. She was a tremendous comfort. My parents were on their way and I lay there with Ashley, waiting for either my folks or a doctor, whoever it may be that comes first.

The doctor came first, to let me know what was wrong with me. I was much relieved to find out that my parents’ suspicions were true, I just suffered from anxiety. I drilled the doctor with questions, trying to make absolute sure that’s what was wrong. He said I was healthy as can be, no blockages or unusual rhythms or clots or anything. The flushing, warm feeling of happiness covered up any discomfort I had at the time and I felt my thoughts clear back up.

My parents came to pick me up, just in time to see me get a Holter monitor attached to my chest and back. I had to wear a portable monitor for the next day, so if I did have any peculiar heartbeats or arrythmias, they could be detected.

I carried on with my life as usual from there on out. I still awoke nearly every night for the longest time with a sudden rush in the chest, and I struggled getting to sleep. I never knew whether or not I was dying, or if it was just anxiety, or what was going. In the end though, I got through.

After the longest time, my discomforts finally started to go away. After only a handful of anxiety attacks within the month after the first, I stopped having them. As of the writing of this blog I’ve gone a little over three months without anxiety attacks. I look at the steps I took to make them go away..

I took better care of myself. I slept at least an hour or two longer every night. I tried not to worry so much, and I started doing breathing exercises. I reconciled with those I had conflict with. I cut back on my caffeine intake. I took a different job at Arby’s, getting hired there a fortunate two weeks after being laid off at Vitatoe. Anxiety defeated.

I haven’t been the same since that first anxiety attack. It’s odd that it takes thinking one’s dying, to make oneself truly want to live. What if I would’ve actually died that night? Well, I didn’t. I’m not going to take my life for granted anymore. Death can happen by any cause at any time for any reason. I’m not worried about where I’m going after I die, however I’m worried about what I leave behind when I do go. I’m not talking about physical or monetary possessions.

What have I accomplished, what will I accomplish? What have I created, what will I create? How have I touched others, how shall I touch others? I’ve been living my life with a purpose over the past few months. I realize I have a fear of being forgotten. I have a fear of not making my mark on this world, of not having any kind of impact. I made a bucket list of sorts. I started a blog, what you’re reading today. I made more of an effort to manage my time wisely, to spend more time with family and friends and my lovely girlfriend Ashley. I started working on a few novels. I’ve finally started doing so much that “i’ve been meaning to.” Well, I’m finally doing it.

And it took me thinking I was dying to trigger this.

This is my history.

I’m going to die someday. What I’ve written, however, won’t go away. (That’s as long as the Internet’s around, but that’s another story)

This is why I blog and write. I want others to learn from my experiences. I want others to avoid the mistakes I’ve made. I want others to enjoy the amazing experiences I’ve enjoyed. I want my life to be framed and accessible to those who wish to learn about it. I want to reach out to others. I want to make the world a better place one way or another. I want others to feel better about who they are. I want others’ dreams to come true.

It all starts with me… and it all starts with you.

Let’s write when we can spare the time and energy. Let’s share everything that we enjoy, and help others when we can. Take some time to read others’ work, learn a lesson or two, add every experience you have and every fact you can gather to your mind. If we all do this, we all become smarter and more experienced people. We make more of the world around us. We add more to our lives, and to others’ as well.

That… is why I blog. And it’s why you should too.

Tyler Woodbridge on Writing (Part Three: High School)

December 15, 2009

High school dawned. I was busy with football, constantly lifting weights and running and trying to maximize my physical potential. On the first day of school, I realized that I had to drop a class I had been taking for four years (Band) due to the fact that football would interfere with me getting the most out of the experience. I went to the guidance counselor and asked what classes were open. A journalism/newspaper writing class happened to have room, and I managed to get in.

With me having a natural flair for writing that was well-developed at the time, I picked up journalism rather easily, however, at first I had a few minor difficulties. My writing style was a bit too grandiose, I had to practice paring down the words and getting straight to the facts. I also lacked patience when it came to writing draft after draft of a short article, and some of my article ideas were far too ambitious for the deadline space I was given. More often than not I found myself scrambling at the last minute to get interviews or facts that I couldn’t’ve gotten before due to my busy schedule.

My first teacher, Mrs. Murphy, was an odd cookie. I liked her a lot, but sometimes it seemed that she got too caught up in running things “by the book.” She even forced me to write a retraction on a controversial article that I wrote about unhealthy eating/exercise habits practiced by school wrestlers; that didn’t gain me any favors with my wrestling team either. I was given all kinds of throwaway article assignments and received endless grief from her. It didn’t phase me too much at all, as I respected her and learned quite a bit.

Murphy left, and as my sophomore year rolled around I ended up with Mr. Ben Gerard Broschart as my teacher. He was a riot, he was a funny and easy-going guy that ran an enjoyable class. I have no ill statements to make about Mr. Broschart. He was brutally honest about the strength of my articles (or lack thereof), helped me pick up interviews and hone my skills, and made layout nights (I became an editor that year, and was one for the rest of high school) extremely fun. I was very immature and made all manner of mischief throughout my sophomore and junior years; Broschart had to come down hard on me every now and then. I appreciate how he handled my misbehavior, stern yet understandable, and think that he was a very professional yet accessible teacher. If I could list my five favorite teachers and professors I’d ever had, Ben Broschart would definitely be near the top, if not at the top. Hey, he helped me understand and accept U2 and Bruce Springsteen, now two of my favorite artists, so how can I not love him?

Mr. Broschart accepted a job in another school district, and his reign gave way to Mr. Jeff Fisher. “Fish,” as we affectionately called him (no relation to the sensational Marillion singer that I idolize), was barely older than his students, fresh out of college. He was like a perfect mix of Murphy and Broschart. He ran the class by the book while letting us have a little fun at the same time. Journalism remained my favorite class during my senior year, and I accomplished a lot of in-depth projects under his reign. It’s regrettable that I can’t find any copies of my work from senior year anywhere, as that’s the work I’m proudest of and should I pursue journalism again, those articles would look great in a portfolio.

The friends I made in Journalism class are unforgettable and incredible influences on me as a person today. I went from being a shy, quiet, overachiever my freshman year; to being the outgoing, musical, life-loving person I am today, and much of that transition was brought about by the friends I made in Journalism class. I’d like to give a nod here to three of my favorite people from Journalism and thank them for what they’ve done for me.

Kayla Rosebrook, who was already one of my great friends, ended up becoming my closest ally in high school. I talked to her every day in that class, no matter what, and was very close to her for a long time. I’d confide in her about anything and she would do the same. Her intelligence, wit, talent, and friendliness shined through in everything and I know to this day, although we rarely talk, I can still trust her to be a rock solid colleague and friend.

She seems like a completely different person now, but Lara Wheeler and I didn’t get off on the right foot. She went from barely contributing to the paper and hating me due to my overbearing personality, to becoming an excellent writer, a great friend, and a huge influence and support to me today. We became even closer after high school, and shared many things: music, rides, money, memories, adventures. I’m honored to say she’s one of my best friends of all time, and I’m glad I met her, thanks to Journalism class.

What can I say about Jessie Ford? Out of everyone in the class, she seemed to get the biggest kick out of my personality, creativity, boldness, and determination. Profoundly talented and extremely easy to get along with, she was perhaps a bit too encouraging of my insanity. She provided just as many, if not more laughs than anyone else in the class and is now a design professional. Check out her work here. I haven’t kept touch with her as much as everyone else, but when I think back on Journalism class, her face is usually one of the first to pop up. What a great girl.

There were many, many others who made Journalism class a great experience. Alex Buchanan, Tyler Stewart, Allison Hornyak, Chris Germann, Amanda Tootle, Marissa Tackett, Erin Casey Cottrill, Vanessa Triplett, Taylor Harrison, Tripp Lowery, and several others contributed laughs, memories, advice, help, and various other influences. They’re all unforgettable in different ways.

I ended up deciding to pursue journalism in college at Wilmington, where I majored in Communications and played on the football team. I ended up having to leave after my freshman year and have been out of college ever since due to incidents out of my control, but that’s a blog and a story for another day. I’d like to give a nod here to David Goguen, who was one of my favorite professors at WC. He was full of stories and was very friendly and helpful, I can’t thank him enough for the opportunities and praise he gave me.

I also picked up another writing interest in high school: Comedy writing. It all started when myself and my friend Austin Drewyor couldn’t stop making fun of another kid who played on our football team. The kid was unintentionally hilarious in just how stupid he could act, and looked like a small mammal. Therefore, Austin and I took it upon ourselves to start writing comic scripts and drawing cartoons centered around the kid, who we named Muskrat. It took off from there, with us creating endless other characters based on ourselves and those around us. My character was named Kirk, his was known as Toenail, and there was a legion of crazy, epic, random shenanigans written about in the three years to come.

I blame this comedic writing exercise as the reason for my grades being a bit lower than they should have been. Sometimes in class, instead of taking the notes on the board, Austin and I would write scripts back and forth. We’d pass them to our friends, who would cry laughing at the adventures we wrote about. I wasted so much time and energy and effort in these scripts, yet was so proud of them. We actually kept a folder through all three years that we wrote these scripts, filled to the brim with hundreds of characters, hundreds of events, and thousands of laughs. Unfortunately, these scripts have been lost or thrown away, our many hours of effort faded into nothing. Sure, we could probably write many of them again, but the spontaneity was what sparked their genius.

These scripts were a perfect example of my immaturity, my sense of humor, and the ridiculousness of our teachers and the people we knew. Austin and I wrote with coarse language, vulgar explicity, and held nothing back in our quest to bring laughter to the masses. Celebrity appearances, personal insults, drug references, blatant sexuality and tasteless gags abound peppered our Muskrat Scripts, as we called them. Those who enjoy South Park, The Simpsons, Will Ferrell or Kevin Smith movies, and Family Guy praised our work and said that we could definitely have a future in cartoon/comedy writing. I think, if Austin and I ever decided to, we could indeed make our way into the cartoon/comedy world. That’s an avenue I always want to keep open, as writing these scripts was something I enjoyed and could parlay into something useful one day. That is, if you want to count genital jokes, wanton violence, and cruel parody as useful. I like to think it is.

More to come in a future entry… as these are topics I could write about forever.

If you’re a friend of mine reading this and happen to have an unforgettable memory about CHS Journalism class from 2002 to 2006, or happened to have enjoyed a Muskrat script sometime in that time frame as well… post one of your favorite quotes or memories having to do with this topic! Unfortunately I’ve forgotten too much about two things I’ve held dear to me for so long. Your contributions are much appreciated!!

Just a Random Update

November 29, 2009

I have a horrible habit of starting projects with high ambition, only to have that drive fizzle out as I leave my unfinished work to rust.

I fear sometimes that will be the fate of this blog.

Due to work, spending time with my lovely girlfriend, and just living my life I haven’t been able to summon the mental energy or extra time needed to write very involved updates or come up with creative blog ideas. I know I’ve promised frequent updates and different entry series, and have failed to keep up on that. Don’t worry, they will come eventually, just whenever I find time and effort to.

I want to be able to write like this for a living someday. I’d love to be a professional journalist, novelist, blogger, or run a website related to music, sports, writing, or video games. However, it takes a lot of time and a lot of capital to get myself involved in those industries; neither of which I have at the time. Perhaps one day my ideas will be realized… but not now.

As the new decade dawns I need to solidify my life goals. I have one of the hardest struggles taken care of already: falling in love. With a wonderful girlfriend behind me, chasing my dreams will be a bit easier. Love takes away many of the pains of living, and I’m incredibly lucky to have found somebody who loves me the way she does. She’s helped me believe in myself again, which is a huge boost to my abilities and positivity.

I want to touch others with my work, I want to be paid to do something I enjoy, and I want to be known for what I do. I refuse to accept anything less than what I am capable of. Even though I’m a few years off course in my schooling due to reasons out of my control, and won’t get a degree until at least the age of 26, I feel I have the ability to contribute a great deal to any writing-related industry NOW. I just need to keep my skills fresh, keep my eye on key opportunities, and not be complacent or lazy in anything I do. I will achieve my dreams. It all starts now, the “Teens” will be the decade of Tyler Woodbridge.