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Monday, July 18, 2016

GOAL!!! (part 2)

A self-deprecating excuse for 30 years came to an end this past Friday night. With the help of my fellow Oil Money FC teammates, I scored three of our six goals in a victory. Along with the goal I scored in our first game together, I can now say those two own goals in 1986 are in the distant past.

But what's the big deal here? I scored goals in a league where the points don't really matter and everyone gets a free beer afterwards. This is like a friendly; not the Champions League final.

I make a big deal out of a lot of things, and arrogance can come across when describing any sort of accomplishment. It's probably because I often invest a lot of emotional baggage into why I cannot competently do things in the present. In other words, I make a lot of excuses.

Scoring those goals means I don't have to let the past shackle me. Whether it's with what happened at previous jobs, in previous relationships, or previous friendships, life isn't over when the outcome is not what you hoped it would be. Life is not over as long as you keep moving forward.

I am not the best player on my team. Other players currently play and/or coach, and they know what to do. I, on the other hand, try to remember what I learned when I played as a kid, along with what I have seen in football matches played all over the world. What usually happens when I get the ball is push it down the pitch some and then pass to a fellow player who is in a much better position. I often look like I freeze up when I play. There's something to work on.

Going into the match on Friday, I didn't think about anything other than playing well and not be afraid to go for the ball. This is not aggressive football, but I have seen some people collide and have to be helped off the pitch. Accidents happen, and as long as you're playing like you want the ball (and not aiming to break your opponent's bones), you will be fine.

Opportunities presented themselves, and I was lucky to connect three times with the back of the net. I got a hug from our team leader Mark (who, along with Joel, made me feel welcomed to the Manchester City watching group in the first place), and I twirled my kit around my head after the second and third goals. Sure, it was a bit much, paying a tongue-in-cheek homage to Sergio Aguero's memorable goal in 2012 against Queens Park.

But there are times in life where you just have to celebrate. That was one of them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Desire Lines

There are some things in life that I cannot escape. One of them is the desire to play drums in a band situation again.

Five years ago, I played a blues jam with some of Bobby Patterson's band. My rock band had recently broken up for the second (and final) time, I was single, and I was about to be laid off from my job at the time. I was up for trying something different and it was a wonderful, one-time experience. Blues music is simple to play, but is a hell of a lot of fun to do. You don't have to overthink what you're playing -- you just stay in the pocket.

That blues jam was the last time I played drums in public. After fifteen years of playing in bands, I was not sure when (or if) I would play in a band situation ever again. Too much of the business of promoting and working a band overshadowed the fun of playing music in a band. I cared about writing songs and rehearsing. I didn't care about networking for the next big show or opportunity. I only wanted to express myself through hitting drums and cymbals.

The urge to play never went away, but I would always remind myself of all the business dealings I didn't want to have. It happened in a few of my bands, and I didn't want to deal with it anymore. I figured if I worked on my abilities as a player (which had been stifled for years), I might get more mileage out of playing again. I had a wonderful time doing Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, and I believed taking lessons and working on paradiddles would actually benefit me. My focus was on playing my own material, recording drums, guitars, and vocals without any plans in playing live. I thought if I was better at playing the drums, especially working on timing, I could improve my playing of the guitar and bass.

I asked my friend Guyton if I could take lessons from him. He is one of the most in-demand drummers around the area for a good reason. No matter what style he plays, he's solid. And he's a good dude, too. I've learned so much from him, and while I haven't taken a lesson since late last year, I'd be happy to take more lessons in the future.

Throughout last year, he would occasionally mention that I would play a show again. I was very resistant to the idea, using the same excuses I had. I definitely did not entertain the idea of playing in another situation where friendship was forced after a band was formed. I only wanted to play with people I was friends with. Guyton believed in me and could see things that I couldn't at the time.

Still, I was unconvinced. Sometimes I'd run into people I would know in the scene who were interested in forming a band or looking for a drummer. I would tell them I was interested, but nothing ever came of it every time. They say the answer of no can be a gift, but the repeated lack of response would seem like justification of playing my own material in private.

Practicing would continue. When I'd watch a movie or TV show alone, I'd sit and work on my exercises. No matter what happened, this would help, I thought.

This past spring, while I nervously watched Manchester City eek out a win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup final, a fantastic surprise came in the form of a message from an old friend of mine. Ryan wanted to play a show celebrating his 40th birthday in August, and he was curious how many of his friends would like to play the show. Since the most fun and rewarding show I played was because of him ten years ago (where we played a set filled with Rolling Stones songs), I immediately told him I would be interested.  
A few practices later, we have a set filled with covers we enjoy playing as well as an original tune to boot. Joined by our friend Nick, whom I played in the 11:30s with, I have never had this much fun practicing with a band. It's probably because these guys are my friends and I will spend time with them without instruments in front of us.

As the Fearsome Brown eyes our first show together, a random opportunity to fill in for a co-worker's band came up. Playing a couple of gigs with a band that plays blues, oldies, and country tunes, I'm excited to help out. This isn't Rush or Metallica, nor is it some party band that only plays the most familiar material ever recorded, playing with this band helps build up my chops and stamina.

I certainly have to credit Hope for helping me see a way of life that isn't constantly distracted by excuses. The attitude of "Why not?" eliminates most (or sometimes all) reasons not to do something, and that includes realizing how great certain opportunities can be. If all I did was play covers and never write new material or learn different styles of music, I'd be missing out. But if I was still making excuses about not playing with people ever again, I wouldn't be where I'm at now.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Our Own Way

My first book, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007, came out in the late summer/early fall of 2008. Only two days ago, I found a copy of it in a bookstore. Granted, the store was Half Price Books, which sells mostly used books, but still, to see something I wrote be available for someone to discover and read was a wonderful sight. I had heard of copies available in stores here and there throughout the country. Now I had visual proof.

I didn't wonder if someone bought the book, hated it, and sold it. Since Half Price Books encourages their customers to sell back books they buy there and buy more, I figured that was the case.

Back when it was published, I paid a few hundred dollars to make the book listed as "returnable." The hope was, more bookstores would carry a returnable book. I never saw it in a bookstore as a new item. Never at an indie store or a Half Price Books. Barnes & Noble stores do not have large sections for music books, so I don't blame them for keeping their selections mainly with the biggest publishers.

I knew the book continued to sell over the years, and not just because I would look at the small quarterly royalty statements when I prepared my taxes. People would find me on social media and share a pic of their copy with me. I'd be asked to be on podcasts and we'd talk about Post and When We Were the Kids. No matter how small the numbers were, I was happy to see people reading what I had to say.

I can't help but kick in with more writer advice here. If your aim is to become a famous writer and never work a "straight" job ever again, I would not recommend writing a nonfiction book about a subgenre of music. That said, if you have a story/angle on a topic you want to tell that hasn't been done before, then seriously consider writing it. Don't think about getting famous or making some (or any) money. If you have a story to tell, then write it. Don't wait for someone to consider yourself a writer. Start writing.

Recently, I interviewed a best-selling author for one of the publications I write for. A handful of years ago, his fourth novel quickly caught a lot of buzz when a very famous author praised it and the movie rights sold in the millions. I asked him what his life was really like when his book became a best-seller. All that really changed was that he could afford to send his children to college, his wife didn't have to work to help financially support the family, and he focused on writing two more books. And he bought a summer house in the north east. But his day-to-day life didn't drastically change in terms of raising his children and being the best father and husband he can be. He had a happy life before the book sold like crazy, and he isn't banking on the royalties from his books for the rest of his life.

This author's books sell more in an hour than any of mine have ever sold, but I believe I came to an understanding in why people write books. It's not really for financial gain; it's the desire to tell a story, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. If I had never written my first book, I never would have started a blog. I probably would have not written for the publications I've written for. And I'm not sure I would have ever met Hope if it weren't for this blog.

Deep down, when I wrote my first book, I wished I would be interviewed for my perspective on post-hardcore/emo someday. That has happened quite a bit in the past seven years, and I'm happy that people believe in my research and my take on the genre. It's not for fame; it's to set the record straight.

Seeing my book in a store reminded me of this important idea as a writer (or really, anyone with creative drives): Do not put a time limit on success or lack of success. If you put everything into a six-month, five-year, or ten-year plan, you're prepping yourself for life going the way you think it's supposed to go rather than the way it will go. Enjoy the ride and the small victories. If you're lucky to have a book on the NY Times Bestseller List or make your primary income from writing, then great. But don't think not reaching those lofty heights means you're a failure. If you want to express yourself for the rest of your life, express it without thinking of any attention coming from it. Just express yourself.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Meet Your Heroes

When it comes to wanting to meet people you admire, occasionally you get countered by these four words, "Never meet your heroes." Meaning, if you hold someone in high regards, you'll be disappointed if that person acts in a non-friendly way. And all those years of looking up to that person will vanish like tears in rain.

While I can understand that train of thought, I must stress these three words: MEET YOUR HEROES.

Yes, I have had unpleasant interactions with people I admire, whether through online, on the phone, or in person. But that number is incredibly small compared to the people that have been generous and kind with their time. With the ones who have been pricks, chances are very good I was not the only person he or she was a prick to. I prefer to not take things personally, focusing on the battle everyone has with themselves that has nothing to do with you.

Recently, I went to Texas Frightmare Weekend with Hope. She loves this gathering of horror fans and even interviewed its founder on her podcast. Without a doubt, her enthusiasm for it made me feel more comfortable at the thought of going to an event like this. We saw lots of people we've only seen in movies, like Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, and Adrienne King, from a distance. But if there was one person I would have liked to have met, it was George Romero.

Romero has made movies I have seen many times and I've always enjoyed what he has to say in interviews. Sure, he's made some of the best zombie movies of all time, but other movies of his, like The Crazies and Martin, had a pretty big impact on me, too. The price to get an autograph and picture with him was a little high to me at first, but with a line that was manageable (and moving at a steady pace), I figured, go for it.

Hope and I stood for about 30 minutes, talking to other people in line with anticipation. The rules were simple: pay in cash and there are no personalizations with your autograph. I picked an 8x10 for him to sign, paid my money, said hello, and shook his hand. I showed him the shirt I had on, which featured a riff on the iconic Dawn of the Dead poster with the words "Fuck Cancer" replacing "Dawn of the Dead." I asked if he had ever seen this shirt before and he laughed. He said he had not. He was jovial and friendly about it. Then I sat next to him and Hope took a couple of pics of us.

Coming away from the interaction, I'm happy I went through with it. Romero is 76 and still doing conventions, but like a lot of things in life, we shouldn't think that will always be the case. I'm glad I had the experience firsthand and have the documentation to prove it.

Why I suggest you meet your heroes comes from something Bruce Campbell wrote in his autobiography, If Chins Could Kill. No matter how many times people have told him they love his movies, he always appreciates when people take the time and say something nice to him. Expressing a nice sentiment goes a long way, no matter who you are.

Given how curious I am with musicians, filmmakers, and writers of all walks of life, I want to meet the ones I admire. If I have the chance to say something nice about how much that person's work has meant to me, then I want to take that chance.

And even with the few I've had not-so-pleasant experiences with, my appreciation of their work has not dwindled. I'd be a little hesitant to talk to that person again, though. If I never took the chance, how would I know what it would be like? I'd rather know than speculate.

Monday, April 25, 2016

GOAL!!!

Since I got back into football/soccer a couple of years ago, an idea floated around with a few people I know: playing in an indoor soccer league. Nothing intense or expensive; just friends getting together and having fun.

Thanks to my friends in the Blue Moon Dallas group (whom I spend time with almost every weekend cheering on Manchester City F.C.), we have a team called Oil Money. Our first match was over the weekend, and even though we lost, I cannot wait to get back on the pitch.

Like so many kids who grew up in the 1980s, soccer was one of the sports I played with kids my age. I was into basketball and football casually, but soccer was what I played in a youth league. (I have the Good Job, Good Season trophies to prove it.)

Thing was, whenever I talked about my time playing soccer, there was a sense of embarrassment in describing my "achievements." In the two years I played, I scored two goals. Own goals, though. As I tried to clear the ball away from my team's net, they went the opposite way and wound up in our net. I distinctly remember being furious after one of them, crying, and throwing a massive pity party on the sideline. After that season was over (and a few recesses kicking a soccer ball around), I didn't touch a soccer ball for decades.

It's not like I considered myself a failure with soccer. I had fun playing with kids my age (and with my father being an assistant coach, it was even better), but the only stats I could come up with were two own goals. Some great years were whittled down to a puny stat in my mind.

When I got into the English Premier League through watching Manchester City matches, I talked to people who played soccer in their youth and still occasionally play. No one ever gave me grief for what I did. Every team has experienced own goals. That includes teams that pay their players millions of dollars. The pity party was almost done.

A tug to play soccer again was a chance to score a goal in the opposition's net. If I had the opportunity to avenge, I would go for it.

With my shinguards and knee-high socks on, along with shorts, running shoes, and a Manchester City kit, I got back on the pitch under the guidance of my teammates. A handful of them currently coach kids and know how to get their teams motivated. Plus, I like them as people, so I was in good company.

After only a few minutes of running up and down the pitch, I was dizzy. I thought I was going to vomit. And I felt blood in my nostrils. I decided to slow down and catch my breath. Oil Money had some good touches and a couple of goals. I had a clear shot on goal that misfired. But the key thing was, we enjoyed what we did. Our opponents were friendly and there to have fun, too.

In the second half, the unthinkable happened. Deciding to play on the offense rather than sit back on the defense, I had an opportunity to shoot on goal. Imagining the ball would go straight into the keeper's arms, it rolled up his chest and behind him, finding the net. I could not believe it. I ran right back to the middle of the pitch and almost clobbered a teammate in celebration. Since this was a beer league game, I got a ticket for a free Bud Light after the match. (I drank it slowly after downing water and Gatorade.)

Sure, it was nice to have a post-script after 30 years. But the bigger picture was about how happiness is a choice. You can let the past define your future, or you can do something about your future while acknowledging the past.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hopeful Cooking

I've never claimed to be a good cook. When I want to make my own meal, my focus has been on what I want and what I can make easily. Usually that means I will make the same meals week in and week out for months. Sometimes, years.

Yet lately, I've felt the pull of trying to cook meals that I've never made when I cook for me and Hope.

In the past, I'd use the excuse of having too much fear of making something that tasted terrible. Why should I make something I had never made before if there's a chance of it being terrible? Since I was not an expert with understanding recipes on the fly (gotta read the fine print or you'll be screwed), it would be nearly impossible for me to make something tasteful and edible. So what was the point in trying?

No co-worker, family member, or previous girlfriend has called me a bad cook. But I never really believed I was even a decent cook. If making something would take more time preparing to get right than the time needed to eat it, I doubted myself out of trying something new.

After Hope cooked us some delicious meals, an epiphany came to me: Why shouldn't I at least try to make something I had never made before? She encourages me by not discouraging me, so why not give something like turkey sausage chili or chicken artichoke pizza a chance?

The meals I have cooked come from recipes found online. I have yet to ask my mother for recipes, but I might someday. I'm up for trying something new every week. Cooking something new doesn't mean I will make the greatest meal Hope and I will ever have. I shouldn't place such weight on myself. If I do, nothing will ever be good enough.

Basically, my weekly criteria/goal is to make something new that sounds like something we will enjoy. Sounds simple enough, but it's taken me this long to understand. I'm not going to chef jail (where I'm banned from the kitchen until further notice) if something doesn't turn out 100 percent delicious.

The underlying message is to put forth a strong effort in something that benefits both of us. If I have to read a recipe repeatedly so I can understand every single part of the instructions and ingredients, well, that's what I have to do. She makes excellent food for us. The least I can do is trying new things and being willing to learn new things. This is all another step in learning to live a life with anxiety instead of living a life dominated by anxiety.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Light Up Ahead

News quickly trickled out on Tuesday afternoon about the passing of Jon Bunch, who had fronted bands like Reason to Believe, Sense Field, Further Seems Forever, War Generation, and most recently, Lucky Scars. People that are very in the know didn't know about it until Jon's family posted something on his personal Facebook page. Since I was Facebook friends with him, I found out this way.

Of course there was denial out of the gate from friends, fans, loved ones, and bandmates. Jon seemed to be happy at 45 and living his life in California. Hearing of his death was a shock, and only now is this shock loosening and the grieving has begun.

I didn't know Jon personally, but like anyone you connect with through music on a deep level, you think you know that person. I had a few brief interactions with him that I shared on Facebook and Twitter, but I wanted to expand on them some more.

In the summer of 1998, I heard about Sense Field through my workplace, Best Buy. One day I saw some guys close to my age holding a Texas is the Reason CD and I figured I should talk to them. Texas is the Reason was like a secret handshake at that time, and I still think they are. In other words, if you dig Texas is the Reason, I probably will talk to you as they are still a revered band for me. These guys spoke highly of Sense Field and I kept them in mind. Not long after, I randomly read a Billboard article about their forthcoming album on Warner Bros. in the break room one day. It seemed like the band had some great momentum behind them, so I was curious.

I moved to Fort Worth that fall and I befriended a guy named Jeremy, someone I stay in touch with to this day. He was all about the Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World and the whole emo/post-hardcore world that was in the late 1990s. He spoke highly of a new Sense Field EP called Part of the Deal, and at a price that was less than $10, I bought it without hearing a note beforehand.

Right off the bat, "One More Time Around" didn't sound exactly like their contemporaries. Jon had a gentle voice but there was a lot of strength behind it. These five songs weren't enough. I had to hear more. I patiently waited for this Warner Bros. record for months. I picked up their previous records and especially dug Building. These guys played songs that sang about love, friendships, and spirituality, but it wasn't ever cheesy to me. The wait continued. Very little information trickled out about the new record, aside from a possible title of Sense Field or Under the Radar. (I was fortunate to get a CD-R of the album, but I wanted the real thing.)

Eventually Tonight and Forever, which featured a number of songs from the Sense Field/Under the Radar record rearranged with new lyrics and titles, arrived in 2001. Four years was quite a while to wait, and I enjoyed the album quite a bit. I was in some disbelief that I was finally hearing this record. But it was real. (Added bonus: I got to interview their guitarist Chris for my Friday night show on KTCU.)

In 2003, I was a pissed-off 24-year-old trying to understand life after college. I had a major falling out with a close friend, was frustrated with my family and my friends, and I tried to stay afloat in a post-9/11 world. There were a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions going through me, but music once again was there for me. During this time, I really connected to Sense Field's next record, Living Outside, as well as Hey Mercedes' Loses Control. Jon's lyrics about falling out and reconciling with his father carried a lot of weight for me. I could apply them to the people I thought about everyday.

I was fortunate to see Sense Field with Damone and Hey Mercedes at the Gypsy Tea Room. I was unapologetically That Guy Screaming His Head Off in the front during Hey Mercedes and Sense Field. After the show, Jon walked up to me and I noticed how tall he was. He gave me a very appreciative handshake and we exchanged nods. I felt better and things seemed to sort out in my mind after the show.

A while later, after Sense Field broke up, Jon joined Further Seems Forever and put out a stellar record called Hide Nothing. The opening track, "Light Up Ahead," was in constant rotation as I pondered leaving a job that had turned toxic and I was moving into a new place. Jon's voice always game me hope and that song (as well as that record) gave me so much guidance. Things turned out OK with the job front as I found a new full-time job and wound up living in that new place for nine years.

I saw Jon with Further Seems Forever twice. One was at the original Door and the other was at Trees. After the Door show, randomly, Jon walked up to me and my friend Jeremy. His facial expression looked like he recognized us and thanked us for coming. That was it, but it meant a lot to me.

An important life lesson came out of that: you can mean a lot to somebody just with a handshake and a lot of great music.

This past Tuesday morning, I randomly thought of "Dreams" from Sense Field while I used the bathroom. As I continue to think highly of my girlfriend, I smiled at thinking of the song's lyrics. Only a few hours later, after I heard about Jon's death, it was an eerie coincidence of timing.

Adding to the coincidence pile, I had traded e-mails earlier in the day with a publicist I've worked with throughout the years. We talked about some of her bands that were coming to town in the next few months, and I noticed her agency was now following me on Twitter. After I shared some thoughts about Jon on Twitter, she messaged me to say that she is married to Chris from Sense Field. That's right, the guy I interviewed back in 2001. Small world, but in a good way.

As a music fan tends to grieve, I've listened to Sense Field and Further Seems Forever a lot in the last few days. What Jon had to say and how he said it gave me so much guidance in life, and I will continue to listen to what he gave this world for many years to come. Hearing "One More Time Around" again this morning, there's even more weight to what he said.

Now I think it's safe to say

There's a place that we all stay

There's a time when we all know

It's a place that we all go

It's where we all come from

We play in the warmth of the sun

Laugh so hard we cry

Writing our names across the sky



Thank you, Jon, for all the great music and lyrics.