Archive for the ‘Carbon Leaf’ Category

*Suggested audio accompaniment for this post. Click here.

My year began on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas which, if I do say so myself, if a pretty decent way to ring in the new. As I write this, it is unseasonably warm in New York City which is ironic because exactly one year ago it was unseasonably cold in the city of sin. We sat by the side of the pools, enjoying the view of the Strip below, laughing and joking with revelers and huddling together for body warmth.

Six days later I turned 24, which I still have a hard time believing. For the longest time my residual self-image was a geeky 17-year-old kid with acne and while I have admitted to some aging, I still see myself as a 21-year-old in peak physical condition. *Sigh*

I hate birthdays, always have, but love that mine always happened to fall within Christmas Vacation because it allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do during the day with as minimal human contact as possible. I decided that for 2011 I wanted to go snowboarding, eat Brazilian food and then watch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I would post a picture here of me on a snowboard but despite my incessant nagging, Tyler Barlow (who purports to be technologically inclined) has YET to upload them. Fail.

2011, I expect, will be notable in my memory for two reasons: my quarter-life crisis and, similarly, my graduating year at Utah State University. It was the year that saw my transition from rabble-rousing student journalist at The Utah Statesman to starving journalist desperate for work in the daily grind. I went from the editor in chief of a publication, responsible for keeping a steady hand on objectivity while still shining a light on the conversations that the community at large had — and would try to — silence to an intern, scrambling to make any noticeable impression I could between shifts of sorting mail (*note, I never had to sort any mail at The Des, I was extremely well-treated there).

I think I’ll remember 2011 for the stories I wrote, as well. It was the year that I went to Sundance, declared war against the sense of social entitlement at USU, covered the sentencing of Brian David Mitchell, got a statement from the family of a murdered Salt Lake woman and interviewed Bruce Campbell. I stood in crime scenes and red carpets, press conferences and press screenings. I also saw Wood’s Stock hit 1,000 monthly readers, which makes me very proud.

In other student news, I returned to Vegas for to see The Aggies win the WAC championship and lost quite a bit of money on the roulette table (I would say the amount but my mom reads this blog and she hasn’t heard that story yet). No regrets, though. I relayed for life and helped raise thousands of dollars for Cancer research and finally scratched “crowd surf” off of my bucket list at the Hare Krishna festival of light.

Then I graduated, alongside some of my closest friends.

As far as personal growth, I kept my m.o. of falling out of contact with nearly everyone in my life during transitions periods. Admittedly Facebook makes keeping up the appearance of friendship easier, so thanks for that one Zuckie. So, to all of you out there who haven’t heard from me in a while, I’m sorry and just remember that even though I hate phone calls I’m still thinking about you, value our time together and hope you’re doing well.

Also, I’m either maturing — or becoming more introverted, funny how similar that can be sometimes — because most nights after I get home from work I just want to take it easy, read a book, watch some tv and fall asleep before midnight. I’ve managed to compartmentalize my need for diversion to the weekends which is, I think, a healthy thing to do. As a sidenote, I’m halfway through the book I’m writing that I planned on finishing during the summer, then during November, then by January and now by March. Progress, nonetheless.

I lived in 3 different cities this year. Three apartments for a combined total of 8 different roommates. In Logan it was Tony that didn’t wash his dishes, in Salt Lake it was everyone but me, Al and Will and in Queens it’s Jared who, by the way, blew his nose 30 times this morning. Yes, I counted and yes, it was an even 30. I’ve needed a reading lamp since May but I don’t want to buy anything until I’ve “settled.” Right now I don’t care where I live, I just want a reading lamp, a gym membership and some potted plants.

I hate to skim over the last half of the year but it’s too fresh. I’ve seen Broadway shows (best, How To Succeed, worst, Spiderman by a long shot) and concerts, (special shout out to Carbon Leaf, The Decemberists and Ted Leo) gone to world-famous museums (The Met, no contest) and landmarks. I’m working at my “dream” job where I watch endless amounts of movies and tv and interview celebrities but at the cost of my other dream of having enough living space to do pushups in the morning and a front lawn large enough to hose the mud off of my mountain bike (two more items missing from my life, the bike itself and the activity for which it attracts the mud), oh yeah and I really miss driving. And in theory, I’m supposed to meet someone and get married at some point and since my name isn’t Woodstein I’m not sure I’m in the right place. New York has been great, and it will be a fantastic memory looking back after I’ve moved on to whatever comes next.

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I live in Elmhurst.

Here, your location is never as simple as city and state. There is the city, New York. You live within it’s boundaries. You pay its taxes and elect its mayor. But you do not live in New York City.

Where you actually live is a series of concentric circles. You live at a number, on a street, in a neighborhood, that is part of a borough, which makes up the greater New York metropolitan area. I live on 48th Avenue, in Elmhurst, the borough of Queens, the city of New York. The city that never sleeps.

Queens sleeps. Unlike the hustle and bustle and constant flickering lights of its sister across the river, walking home on the cold streets of Queens at midnight or later is a parade of locked storefronts where bodies, obscured by layers, bundle and curl for the night.

My particular corner of Queens is little Korea. Every day on my morning commute I pass groceries selling odd-looking fruit and restaurants boasting specials that I can not read. The church on the corner is Episcopal. I didn’t know there were Episcopal Koreans. You learn something new every day in New York City.

On the subway — either of the two that I take every morning to work in Midtown and every evening back — I play a game. I count the Caucasians. In the morning there’s usually a few. Middle-aged women clutching heavy bags and men in Yamakas. I’ve always admired the Jews. Mormons get razzed for our holy underwear and it’s just a t-shirt that no one sees. I wonder where they work, especially the Hasidics. Obviously we’ve come far enough in our society that a Hasidic Jew can work anywhere I can, but I have to wonder if anyone would take me seriously at the magazine if I showed up to the morning meeting in a top hat and curly sideburns. In the end it doesn’t really matter, as they undoubtedly make more money at their job than I do at mine.

Yes, that’s a prejudiced statement and yes, it’s also true. I’ve always found it funny how people take offense to jokes about Jews with money. It’s usually people who aren’t Jewish who call you out for such behavior. I doubt the Jewish people care, they’re laughing their way to the bank. Is it really offensive to be positively-stereotyped? Do men take offense at being GOOD drivers? Do Republicans really mind being called shrewd Machiavellians? Trust me, we don’t.

I went to the laundromat this weekend. It didn’t seem necessary to shower just to watch my clothing tumble so I put on my laundry jeans — you know, that pair you only wear when your real pants are dirty — a black concert t-shirt, a red knit cap and a giant pair of neon-orange over-the-ear headphones. Why was I wearing a knit cap? I don’t wear a lot of hats to begin with and besides my black fedora — obviously — I didn’t bother packing a lot of headwear. When choosing between two items you’ll never use, go with the one that takes up the least amount of space. I wasn’t about to wear my fedora to the laundromat, so red knit cap it was.

The headphones are a recent acquisition. They were free. I don’t particularly care for over-the-ear headphones. Sure, the sound quality is better, but in most circumstances I find them to be gaudy, bulky, showy monstrosities that the kind of people who like to longboard and collect vinyl records tend to wear. I neither longboard nor collect vinyl records but my ear buds are starting to freak out and if I’m going to be sitting in a laundromat for an hour I want to be able to listen to my music in comfort.

So there I was, the only white guy in Queens, sitting at a laundromat filled entirely with Hispanics and Koreans on a Saturday morning. I have no doubt that they thought I was some sort of delinquent rapist. They had no way of knowing that Carbon Leaf is a celtic-inspired alt-rock band with folk influences. There was no reason for them to assume that my obnoxiously bright headphones were just a poor kid taking advantage of a free deal and I would hardly expect them to understand that I was wearing a knit cap because I needed to cover up my bed-head and didn’t really have another option.

To them, I was a minority. I was a minority in my grunge-rock t-shirt, my pot-head hat and my big, neon, skater-punk headphones. I was Kevin Federline, or worse, Fred Durst. I’ve been a minority before, but the circumstances were considerably different. In that case, I was perpetually well-dressed compared to the locals and their women would offer themselves to me on the street. Partly because my rich white seed would do wonders for their economic situation and partly because they knew full-well that I was a squirley virgin and the sound of exotic women calling me “Delicious” would mess with my mind.

I doubt that anyone at the laundromat noticed that I was reading a TIME magazine. Delinquent rapists don’t read TIME magazine, they don’t read at all. They flip through the pages of the alternative free weekly to get to the back where the tattoo/piercing parlor and escort service advertisements are or they just sit, empty handed, and scowl at passers-by.

I saw this kid on the train the other day, he was wearing a face mask with the image of some sort of clown or skull, or clown skull. He had a curly black ponytail that poked out of a black trucker hat. He was like 14. Part of me wanted to mess with him just so I could pull his ponytail and tear that stupid mask off his face. I’d bet $200 that he had braces, and acne. His name was probably something like Julien, or Samuel and he was on his way to violin practice, or Latin lessons. Every kid in New York has some weird extra-curricular activity. They can’t go play outside — there is no outside — so instead of playing football with their friends or kicking rocks down the road they learn calligraphy or go see a therapist so that their parents don’t have to deal with talking to them.

A while back someone asked me “What do you guys do in Utah?” They were younger, barely out of high school so I answered the question. I told them that I do a lot of mountain biking and camping, that we hike and horseback ride. I’ve been through this game enough times that I’ve learned to always start with the activities that your interrogators have likely never experienced. If I was a recreation para-glider, I would lead with that.

“What do you guys do?” I asked. This is when the horrible person within me started to rise to the surface. These kids were middle-class Queens Hispanics. They lived within miles of Broadway, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and some of the finest dining in America. By virtue of my profession I had probably had more “New York Moments” in 4 months than these kids had in several years growing up in THE city. “Well,” she said. “Everything is so expensive, we usually just end up going to someone’s house to watch a movie or play Rock Band.”

My natural reaction to this would be to cock my eyebrow, say “Good thing you don’t live in Utah,” and walk away like a B.A. from an explosion. I did not. I smiled and said “Cool, Rock Band is fun” and then changed the subject by asking what movies they had seen lately. I take this as a sign that I’m beginning to grow up. Either that or my subconscious was afraid that even though I was at a religious function, if I got too smart someone would knife me. They do that in New York, knife people, at least that’s what I’ve been conditioned to believe my whole life. In New York, people knife you. In Wisconsin, they offer you doughnuts. In Japan, they bow and in Germany they yell and punch you in the face. No matter where you are, though, you can change the subject by asking what movies they’ve seen lately. Everybody likes to talk about movies and besides McDonald’s, Hollywood is America’s chief global export.

So there I was, sitting at the laundromat in Queens, watching my clothes tumble. I know for a fact that they thought I was some screwed up punk. Why else would a dumb white-boy be sitting at a grimy laundromat in Queens in big neon headphones and a knit cap. Yes, it was prejudiced of them and this is prejudiced of me. That’s life, we all kind of suck sometimes.

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Recomended background music for this post. “The Boxer” by Carbon Leaf on Echo Echo.

Photos by Mandie Harris

About two, three weeks ago now I had my face blown off at Kilby Court by Carbon Leaf, one of my all-time favorite bands.

I had never been to Kilby before this and for those of you that haven’t been there, it’s a garage. There couldn’t have been more than 100 people packed in there and your’s truly was front row stage right, close enough to spit on the band. But why would I.

There really is nothing like seeing one of your favorite bands live, and when they actually blow your expectations out of the water it is often too much to emotionally bear. Such was the case with CL. They packed a two-hour set with a little bit of everything; from their indy Echo Echo days to their as-yet-unreleased in tangible CD form How The West Was One, which also marks their first production since splitting from their record label.

In one awesome 4-5 song set, the entire band unplugged and gathered round one old-fashioned microphone a la Grand Opera Style and Rocked. The. House.

Still, when they played Lake of Silver Bells, I almost cried. Not really, but yeah.

Me and Catherine waiting for the show to start (p.s., in case any of you that were put-off by my last post are in attendance–as requested, this is my real face. Begin.)

My sister Mandie and her friend Ryan (would you believe she’s a mother of 4? Check out her pictures here)

Semi-botched group shot. All the good ones are in frame.

Parking lot rooftop Irish dancing post-concert at Hire’s Big H.

More of the same.

In case you’re not noticing, that’s a washboard, a mandolin, AND an upright base in this picture. They also rocked an accordion, a violin, banjo, gourd, tin can, a harmonica and some crazy irish flute thing. Boo Yah!

After the show Catherine and I made the long trek back to Logan. She bounced in and out of consciousness while I weaved through single-lane traffic on I-15. Still, I was flying high, awesome night. Check them out.

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