Category Archives: simplicity

Lord Have Mercy

Sunday was essentially everything I’ve ever wanted a Sunday to be. It was exactly how life should be lived.

Rachel’s mom was wearing a shirt that said, “Alabama girls know that sometimes all you can say is ‘Lord have mercy!'” I love southern moms.

For a good portion of the day, we just sat on their pier and fished but didn’t catch anything because it was the middle of the day. But it was still a damn good time. We were drinking a little too. A mix of quality beer and cheap beer. Like Blue Moon followed by Busch Light (which I’d never had before in my life) followed by Sweetwater 420 followed by PBR. It was 89 degrees and sunny. Love.

Then we ate. Every backyard BBQ I go to down here is amazing. The food is better than any BBQ place you can go to up north. We had magically delicious wings, ribs, and burgers. And the best baked beans I’ve ever had in my life. And hushpuppies and fried okra. And a ton of other stuff but those were the highlights. Plus, it’s just nice to sit at a big table full of people and feel happy to be alive.

As far as I can tell, all southern dads have their own “secret BBQ recipe” that they’re super proud of. It’s so funny. But damn, that pride is totally justified. You don’t know how good food can be until you move to Alabama.

Then we went blackberry picking. The goal was to get enough for a cobbler. Unfortunately, we didn’t. But the experience was still a dream come true.

I stepped on the edge of a fire ant colony by accident and got stung on my foot and ankle couple times. The ants are kind of hard to remove quickly. It didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I imagined it would though. But the little red bumps are still outrageously itchy 4 days after the incident.

I love new experiences. I’ve had a lifelong uneasiness about fire ants because they always seemed really vicious on the Discovery channel. But now I know that they’re no big deal.

One activity I refuse to ever experience is noodling. Rachel’s dad asked me if I wanted to do it and I was like “No way.” Then he said the banks were full of catfish and tried to convince me it wasn’t that bad. Clearly the man doesn’t understand my aversion to live catfish. I do not want any part of my hand or arm to be inside of one.

I can’t wait to see a gator in real life though!

Here are some pictures that I took with my phone from the pier. Rachel’s parents live up a creek about half a mile from the actual river. Their place is really nice and the decision to build a house on the creek and not the river was a good one, I think. It’s so quiet and peaceful. But if you want to get to the river, you just hop in a kayak and you’re there. Added bonus: they’re only 30 minutes from the beach.

That’s Cricket. She gets super alert and barks like crazy whenever people come past in boats, canoes, and kayaks. She’s the queen of that part of the creek and won’t even let other dogs get on the pier. It’s hilarious.

Long story short: I want every Sunday of my life to be a backyard BBQ with fishing/drinking in the sunshine and blackberry picking. I have really minimal/simple needs.

I want Alabama and Pittsburgh to somehow become the same place. Or for teleportation to be real. Because then I could do things like wake up at my Alabama river house, go to the Buccos home opener (I miss PNC Park already) and end the day at Belve’s, then be back to sleep at my Alabama river house and go kayaking the next day.


Two Songs For Making Banana Pancakes And Other Sunday Staples

Gravity, you’re knocking me out
You’re shaking me up ’til I twist and I shout
Oh, gravity
It’s okay in the clouds
But I love it right here with my feet on the ground
Gravity, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers 

Pain throws your heart to the ground
Love turns the whole thing around
Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood
But I know the heart of life is good
The Heart of Life, John Mayer 

I Truly, Honestly, Sincerely Love Life With Every Ounce Of Loving Capacity I Have

It’s weird and difficult sometimes but the beautiful moments/days make the unpleasant stuff so insignificant.

I saw Matt last night for the first time in 2 months. And I realized I feel absolutely nothing toward him. I knew I didn’t love him anymore but I thought I might show up and feel hate because that’s what I’ve been feeling since we broke up and he started being super immature about the aftermath. But honestly, I got there and had no ill feelings. I’m not sure if he was upset that I was there but it seemed pretty normal. Awkward but normal. I think things are going to be ok.

I still can’t go to sports when he’s there and I totally respect that the mutual friends don’t think it’s a good idea. But thankfully, tonight he can’t make it so I get to go and everything is feeling close to normal again.

Ed was randomly back in town so I saw him last night at Bootleggers. Whenever someone comes home and/or when almost everyone is there, it feels nearly exactly like how life used to be. Before Matt and I broke up and even before everyone moved away. 2008-2010 will forever be some of the best years of my life. I’m not sad that time changed things because I’m definitely looking forward to all the upcoming years of my life but it is kind of upsetting when I think about how much I loved that phase. Life was really nearly perfect back then.

I also love love love having random days off in the middle of the week. I get so much done. Today was a gorgeous day. October might be my second favorite month behind July. No, actually nothing can beat summer so June and August take 2 and 3. But October is definitely 4th.

And even though I anxiously/compulsively check the mail every day hoping to see a letter from Alabama, I think I’m becoming more and more ok with moving to Utah. With such an awesome plan B, it almost doesn’t matter anymore. I mean, I’m probably going to cry my face off if I don’t get in and may feel less happy about plan B if that reality happens. But for now, I’m just kind of in one of those “whatever happens, happens” states. Especially when Mary sends me e-mails that end like this:

…and we can dance around the apartment relishing in our freedom from the East and all the glory that belongs to the West.

She missed her calling as a poet/novelist. You can blame Wendell Berry. She never used to be like this. Apparently A Timbered Choir: Sabbath Poems is the greatest thing ever. She quoted the intro in one of her recent e-mails as well.

These poems were written in silence, in solitude, mainly out of doors. A reader will like them best, I think, who reads them in similar circumstances–or at least in a quiet room. They would be most favorably heard if read aloud into a kind of quietness that is not afforded by any public place. I hope that some readers will read them as they were written: slowly, and with more patience than effort.

Holy FUCK, that’s incredible. Definitely next on the list. The number of books on my “to read” agenda is an exponential curve. It can never be conquered. I have yet to come to terms with the fact that there just aren’t enough life hours to read everything I want. The thought makes me too sad. Even if I only read, slept, and ate, there still wouldn’t be enough time. Curses, time!

Another thing that’s incredible: Ashes & Fire. I used to be kind of sad that Ryan Adams doesn’t make music like he used to. It’s more mature now and I like wild things because I’m wild. But honestly, Ashes & Fire won me over in every day. I cannot stop listening to it.

However, today’s album was White Blood Cells. Before I left the house, I found this random plain white CD in my trunk of stray things and I thought it was Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and I immediately decided it was perfect for today so I got excited and popped it in as soon as I got out of the car. Then I was pleasantly surprised to hear The White Stripes. Best surprise ever. Granted, both albums would have been great to listen to today but it had been so long since I listened to a White Stripes album in it’s entirety that I’m actually really really happy this turned out the way it did. I’d forgotten how goddamn incredible it is. And this is weird because I was totally listening to Hotel Yorba on repeat a few days ago. Proof: this post.

The alt-country blog is a lot more difficult than I thought. It’s hard to have a blog that’s so specific and focused. Good learning experience though. I’m hoping to finish up another post today or tomorrow at the latest. I’m just concerned that nothing I write will be good enough or anything that I’m actually proud of. Like this blog doesn’t matter because it’s just haphazard blithering. But I want that one to be a legitimate project. We’ll see what happens. I think I just need to sit down and write and not care and be happy with the results. Being a perfectionist sucks every day. I’m crazy successful at life because of it. But it sucks. Double-edged sword.

It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope that’s true. Because alt-country is definitely my #1 thing right now. Ralph Waldo Emerson will never steer you wrong, I swear. Everyone is always like “Thoreau is so much better.” Disagree. I mean, honestly, they’re both great so I don’t know why you have to take a side. It’s like the pop/soda thing or the ranch/bleu cheese thing or the Sheetz/Wawa thing or any of that. Why make it an issue when they’re all wonderful and you can say/eat/like both? For the record, I’m a soda/bleu cheese/Sheetz person haha.

Also relevant:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.
– Ray Bradbury

These things motivate me to keep truckin’ on.

Anyway, to finish up here, I’m getting back into running. I need it. It gets a lot of aggression and pent up energy/negativity out of me. I bought the MOST AMAZING running shoes today because my old ones were shot. Nike Air Pegasus +28. Mine are prettier than that though. Anyway, I consulted Marco after I purchased them because he’s an expert. Running is his passion and he also works at a running store and happens to also be an expert in helping people find the shoes/gear that’s most suited to them. This was his opinion of them:

As you may have inferred by the 28, that shoe has been around for a long time (28 years). So pretty reliable/popular. Definitely in the top 3 shoes we sell at Fleet Feet. Just hope you aren’t an overpronator!

I love my friends. I love people with passions/obsessions. It means they have something to live for and love. That’s critically important.

Mary is living her passion too.

I’m sooooo drawn into community and natural resources/environment sociology. It makes my heart beat in a way different than any other sociology I’ve ever studied. I think I’m finding my calling in life.

Everyone go be like her. And Marco. And everyone else who’s living out their passions.

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.
– Ferdinand Foch

Go hard or go home. I’m floating amidst several intense passions so that makes things slightly more complicated. I want to do everything all at once.

But back to the shoes. They seriously make you feel like you’re flying. Hence the whole “Air Pegasus” thing, I guess. I can’t believe I’ve gone 24 years without discovering them. It’s the dawning of a new era in my relationship with running. So long, animosity in my soul! Miles of running totally knock it out of me. That feeling where you think you absolutely can’t keep going but do anyway is the point where you’re most free. That applies to all difficult things, not just running.

And so, this is to you baby sister… Please keep in mind that while grad school sucks, you’re actually weirdly living at the height of experience right now. Appreciate that. Because from that difficulty will come the greatest success you’ve ever experienced. It will be the type of triumph that will define and give incredible meaning to your life.

Snuggling And Sweet Kisses

Oh, my God. Pottery Barn.

Dream life. I’m making that happen someday.

I think that just cured me of all my hostility and made it feel ok to want to settle down with someone sooner rather than later. Totally gonna have a big back yard with lots of grass and live outside all the time with an amazing guy who wants to do that too.

And kids. Four kids.

Tomorrow it may be a different story. I might be an uninterested boy destroyer again. But at least for tonight, I’m kind of wishing I had someone to be calm and affectionate with.

I’m also aching for summer now. Stupid Pottery Barn and its idyllic pictures.

Relevant: Something About Your Love – Mason Jennings

The Purity Of The Road

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!
– Albert Einstein

Or in this case, the beautiful land of central Pennsylvania.

Penn State football is always a family affair. It’s nice to know that reliably, no matter what game you go to, there will be an assortment of relatives there.

The most perfect thing you can experience is life when you’re sitting in a fold-up chair outside Beaver Stadium on a gorgeous sunny warm October day with a Yuengling in one hand and a slice of your mom’s famous tailgating sandwich in the other, surrounded by your immediate family along with cousins, aunts, and uncles.

I cannot emphasize this enough: a simple life is the best life.

Money and power are so overrated. All I want for the rest of my existence is to be able to drive over Pennsylvania mountains and end up at Beaver Stadium to watch Penn State win a football game.

If we were Catholic and if JoePa was mortal, he would probably be adopted as our family’s new patron saint once he died.

Usually I only get to go to one game per year. Two if I’m outrageously lucky. This year, however, I got to go to three. And now I’m hooked. As with all addictions, the more you do it, the more you need it.

As I’ve probably said before, the drive from Pittsburgh to State College is both spectacular and soothing. I get all happy and dreamy.

If this was Imaginationland where everything was possible, I’d have financial backers who would pay me to travel across the USA and write a New York Times bestseller called “The Definitive Guide to Alt-Country and the Road.” I would go to amazing shows, interact with the very essence of America, and also impart my roadtrip wisdom to eager young wanderers.

For example, how to make a 2.5 hour trip when you’re so hungover you want to die.
1) Portable carby/greasy breakfast in little bites over a long period of time
2) Ginger ale
3) Windows down for fresh air
4) Big sunglasses to block the light
5) Coffee for stamina (because passing out does not have the same restorative benefits as sleep) when you’re finally starting to feel recovered
6) Subtle but good music like Ghost

I always say I’m not going to go out the night before a game because it’s critically important that I’m in tip-top shape to get the most enjoyment out of it. That never happens. Saturday morning was rough. But I left at 10 and was back to 100% by 1 when I finally got to the tailgate spot. The walk down College Ave was magically medicinal. Nothing better than being surrounded by a zillion people who love the same thing you do. And the first Yuengling I had upon arrival was magic. Sweet, delicious Yuengling.

Anyway, because I’ve been outrageously productive lately (being single actually is awesome), I think I’m going to start an alt-country blog. Being that I just now realized that basically half of everything (musically speaking) I love falls into the alt-country genre, it’s going to be a little rocky at first. More of a beta project. Very exploratory. I mean, I’ve loved these bands/artists forever, but I’m a novice in terms of how far-reaching the genre really is and what it has to offer. I don’t even know how it started or why it started or who was the first person to coin the term.

Maybe someday I can actually be enough of an expert to write the definitive guide. Gotta win the lotto first. The gas money has to come from somewhere.

Mary went to Park City this weekend. I want to go to Park City someday too.

Steelers won. Thank God.

We Create Our Fate Every Day We Live

Henry Miller said that.

If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. 
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

If I Alabama doesn’t work out because I don’t get in, I’m moving to Logan where I can crash at Mary’s apartment indefinitely until I get a job in Salt Lake City. It’s a solid plan B. I kind of don’t know which plan I want more at this point.

I don’t really know what I want in any kind of specific or planned out way. Just generally, I know that I want to live. And adhere to certain convictions no matter what I’m doing or where I end up.

What’s that stupid quote about how the important part is the journey and not the destination?

I’m so young. So much before all beginning. 66 years left to live.

Today’s album: Long Way Home – Matt the Electrician

The Best Of The Worst Things That You Never Needed To Know

I changed my mind about that back to back song thing on A Carolina Jubilee. It’s not the best because the White Daisy Passing/Portland Is Leaving on Rocky Votolato’s Makers album is tied for #1. I guess you could say Rocky Votolato’s is the best opening combo and the Avett Brothers have the best middle of an album combo.

I decided that by the time 5PM rolls around, I end up hating my day off. Too much time to ponder/ruminate/contemplate. It basically just ends in feeling the heartache. I’m overtly happy and feel that good things are happening daily. But the underlying sorrow is still pretty powerful. I just hate to acknowledge it. I hated so many things about that relationship but you don’t come out of any 3 year relationship without some nagging agony.

Thinking/alone time is definitely good for simplifying everything though. I mean, it’s important to face things at some point. You kind of have to burn everything down before you can rise from the ashes. Like strip everything away and go back to the beginning. I’m still not myself yet. 3 years of slowly becoming someone else makes it hard to figure out what parts of me are genuine traits/goals and what aren’t.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
– Hans Hofmann

Needless to say, it’s complex/arduous work. Everything unnecessary is slowly going by the wayside. It’s like having a life yard sale. Friends, activities, interests, characteristics, actual stuff, desires, etc. are getting thrown out the window. As soon as I think I’m back to the bare minimum fundamentals of my life, I realize there’s more crap I don’t need and I purge that too.

“Chris was very much of the school that you should own nothing except what you can carry on your back at a dead run.”
– Into The Wild

Maybe that’s referring explicitly to material possessions… but really, I think can apply to everything. Sometimes you just need to feel that you’re not accountable to anyone (or for anything) but yourself. At any given point, you should be supporting only what you absolutely need. The nonessential stuff will drag you down.  Into The Wild really is my gospel. I haven’t decided whether that’s healthy or not yet.

Realization: I’m totally not ready to be dating yet. My mom knew it, my best friends knew it, and even the guys I was dating knew it. I’m happy to be on the same page finally. Love is the most important thing. It’s the most simple/basic element of life. And I’m not ready to try again. I kind of knew this a few weeks ago but now I’ve really come to terms with it. I want to be unbroken and less wary. Right now, I react with hostility toward everything associated with affection and trust and intimacy and attachment. Obviously, I’m not ready to be careful with anyone else’s heart. I’m reckless. I’m selfish. I’m narcissistic. So many years of putting someone else’s needs above my own has made me compulsively only care about my own. I get what I want when I want it. And it’s the absolute most inappropriate and abhorrent way to behave but I can’t completely restrain it right now. And I think that’s ok. I hate it but these things take time. I want to heal so that I can have that great kind of love that comes with lazy Sundays and staying in on Friday nights sometimes because going out is silly when you have everything you already want and holding hands and sharing secrets and slow kisses and encouraging each other to be the best people you can be and all that other crap. Honestly, I kind of feel like I’ve been more or less a little hostile to that idea since I was 14. I got the cynicism disease at an early age.

Simplifying and living at the most basic level of existence with bare minimum needs means that all the hang ups you may have that contribute to the disenchantment and world-weariness just go away. The greatest people I know live simply. Dissenting is my #1 strength.  And now I’m fighting back against all this superfluous crap.

At this point, I know two things about myself. They’re semi-related…
1) I have an intense capacity to love which is also why I have an intense capacity to build walls. Super vulnerability requires super defenses or else you’d never be able to survive.
2)  The only life purpose I’ve ever felt is the need to help other people. Somehow, even though I need that 5 years ago, it got pushed aside. Obviously, it never completely went away. But I used to be an activist with idealistic dreams.

Now I’m an egocentric person with a decrepit soul. And I’m regretting every second of the last 3 years except the part where this relationship taught me to LOVE love and all its components/requisites even though it was a broken type of love for many periods throughout those years. Even though I need the freedom/independence to be able to get up and go at a moment’s notice right now, at some point, the healing will be complete and I’ll be the best and most selfless committer you’ve ever seen.

It’s gonna be ok. I can’t wait to be ok. But for now, I understand that this is what needs to be happening so that the future can be a good one.

I’m gonna stay up all night every night for the rest of my life
‘Til the lines around my eyes grow deeper and more defined
You might ask me, “Aren’t you dead inside and so damn tired?”
“I’ll say, “I have no idea, I’m not sleeping until after the dying is over”
I can hear laughter in the distance and it all comes clear
Sounds too simple
Love is the only answer
When love’s a train wreck, you’re a mistake
– Portland Is Leaving, Rocky Votolato

This album is my entire self tonight. Listen to it. We’ve all lived (or will live) all 12 of the songs at some point.