Monday, May 31, 2010

Hair Update

I bet you thought I forgot.

This is what my hair looked like last month:

Here is what it looks like this month:

It's getting pretty long.

Onward and Upward

When I was younger, setbacks really hit me hard. Five years ago, during my Junior Year of high school, I had my heart set on attending Boys' State, a prestigious leadership conference for rising Seniors that boasts such alumni as Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, and Tom Brokaw, among others.

Only two young men from each participating high school are given the honor of attending, and at my politically apathetic school in Deep South State I was considered a shoo-in to be picked.

In March of 2005, however, my family unexpectedly moved to Southern State, settling in a community where national policy debates carried a lot more weight than they had down in Central City. Unaware of the partisan nature of the American Legion-run program (Democrat that I am, I gave honest answers to the questioners' inquiries regarding my opinion of the Iraq war), I was passed over for two solid conservatives and spent the better part of two weeks anguishing that my aspirations to become an elected official had been squelched before I'd yet seen my seventeenth birthday.

Now, I have a different view of obstacles. I've realized that many things in life are arbitrary, that objectivity is often elusive (and thus that just because someone thinks you're not good enough doesn't make it true), that roadblocks can be sent to teach us something, and that in retrospect many hurdles in fact aren't hurdles at all.

Perhaps it was this attitude that allowed my disappointment with the Local Records situation to melt away as fast as it did. The more problems I run into, the easier they are to brush away.

Yesterday afternoon I was one town over, across the border in the Goldlands, to audition for the lead-singer position in a local band. On Friday, I will head out to another town closer to Major University and do the same thing. Both groups of people seem talented and committed, but if neither takes me I'll look elsewhere. That's all a person can do.

On a level, the extent to which learning acceptance is key to both adulthood and wisdom lets me down. Is it true that we must just take our lot? Is it a foolish man who continues to pursue his dreams? I suppose (and have to believe) that the answer is no. Acceptance means not settling, but taking as a given that adversity will put itself in your way and that you have to deal with it. Struggle makes for better stories anyway.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying myself. The Memorial Day holiday gave me a five-day weekend, which I spent reading, cleaning, and playing outside.

Thomas and I have invented a new game that I think is quite brilliant, but which we've unoriginally christened "Trampoline Volleyball."

This innovative sport is almost exactly what it sounds like.

It's played with two people, one of whom stands inside the netted trampoline while the other hits from the ground. They use the trampoline mesh as the net and conduct a pretty standard game of volleyball, with the one major difference being that only a single point is scored (normally) in a given round; because the person inside the trampoline is at a huge advantage to his counterpart on the grass, his serves onto the turf don't count against his opponent.

Once the person on the ground is able to get the ball onto the floor of the trampoline, though, the two players switch.

A stopwatch runs for the duration of the game, and whichever player can knock the other out in the shorest amount of time wins the preceding round. There are four rounds, and the winner of two (because the winner of one round isn't known until the conclusion of the next one, the fourth round only serves to decide the winner of the third) takes the game.

The winner of each round receives one point.

The clock runs for eight minutes, and if a trampoline player can manage to stay in all that time, he takes two points. Once that happens, the clock is set for nine minutes. If that time were breached, it would go for ten, and so on.

In addition to being ridiculously fun, this pastime makes for some great cardio; a round only counts as full if it goes for more than half of the time on the stopwatch, in most cases four minutes. Given the high rate of turnover, four full rounds can be stretched well over an hour, during which time the player on the ground is running about like mad and the one in the trampoline is bouncing up and down as though a hornets' nest has been thrown in with him.

In the 90-degree heat of a humid Southern State afternoon this makes even me sweat, and at the end of it the combatants are quite envigorated.

I'll be heading to bed soon after finishing this post. Tomorrow and Wednesday are internship days, which means I have to be up at six o'clock in the morning. The lessons and implications of the public relations work I'm currently doing for Major University are fodder for a post all their own, though, one I'll hopefully be attending to sometime this week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Every Day Can Be a Good One

I said back in March that if I ever had to part with Local Records, I would press on in my musical aspirations.

That day has come.

When I went in for what I thought was a scheduled recording session yesterday, Label Owner told me that the company would not be able to fulfill the terms of the contract they offered me a month ago.

"We just don't have the resources to get you where you need to be," he said. "I don't think we'd be able to meet the deadlines that we laid out in the contract. For right now, we're going to focus on CD distribution and trying to build up a customer base instead of doing artist development."

It would be a lie to say I am not disappointed, but that disappointment is not as great as one might imagine. To begin with, Local Records's budget constraints were clear from the beginning, so the financial woes don't come as the huge shock they might have.

Secondly, Local Records was never the label I wanted to build my career with, though I had hoped to get further into an important first step before parting ways. Their limited means and a significant difference in vision between the owner and me over the direction my career would take (I joked with friends that I was the only recording artist in history who had to fight his label to be more commercial) made the separation not a relief but not the huge wound it could have been.

These underlying tensions were reflected in the negotiations surrounding my record deal; Local Records originally wanted me to be under contract with them for five years, an arrangement that caused me discomfort specifically for fear that I would be legally obligated for half a decade to a label that could not adequately promote me.

Yesterday's developments are testament that, however let down I might be, Local Records was not the right vehicle through which to begin my career.

The biggest source of anxiety I have regarding all of it is the practical concern of finding new work. That being satisfied, no lingering regret will remain. This is the right thing to do.

In the day since I've been back on the Internet searching for bands and labels. A friend directed me to a possible musician to record with and I'm also keeping in hand the option of paying for a professional demo. That would be expensive (between $300.00 and $500.00), but a worthwhile investment if I'm serious, which I am.

I said before that, regardless of what came, I wouldn't stop. That's a promise I aim to keep.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Summer That Will Be

I have plenty to be doing right now, numerous things that should be keeping me off of this computer, but I don't care. I haven't been able to put up a regular post in weeks, and blogging is something I enjoy entirely too much to surrender to the hands of a crowded schedule.

I've been absent the last fortnight because of the ongoing ordeal that is finals for any college student, a long stretch of exams, projects, papers, and presentations that feels like it will never end. By the time it finally did on May 12th, I was ready to run off campus screaming.

At the end of this school year, much more so than at the end of the ones that preceded it, I've felt completely emotionally uninvested in my courses. Maybe it's the knowledge that I should be graduating right now, walking diploma in hand with the Class of 2010 to a place where homework and tests are things of the past, but I've been disconnected from all of it, impatient to be moved on. Perhaps my age is the culprit: I'm twenty-two now, and I suppose my inner self is increasingly uncomfortable playing the schoolboy.

I ducked out of the dorms at Major University on the afternoon of the 12th and left the next day for Grand Ma Normal Family's house, Blonde Boy in tow.

Blonde Boy, twenty years old, is my brother Powell's best friend, and one of the most fiercely loyal he has ever had.

A good illustration of Blonde Boy's faithfulness comes from 2007, when Powell, then a high school Junior, played host to a wild house party in my parents' absence. They telephoned in to check on us, deduced fairly quickly what was going on, and immediately called the police.

When the dozens of teenagers had scrambled into cars that raced off and the police cruisers were winding their way down our street, Blonde Boy was one of but two of my brother's friends who stuck around.

When Powell's overall situation deteriorated very dramatically in 2008, Blonde Boy was virtually the only companion who stood by him.

Powell, for his part, is doing much better. My grandmother, while admittedly difficult to get along with at times, has provided him the adult's motivation and oversight he clearly needed, giving him the vital push to enter counseling at a local church, find a job, and cut back on his smoking.

Not all of this can be attributed to her will, however; Powell has matured, one might even say been forced to mature, through the loss of thousands of dollars, expulsion from his own home, several arrests, and a stint in rehab that, while voluntarily undertaken, was essentially mandatory.

During a visit he made here two weekends ago, I was surprised and gladdened by his attitude on certain issues.

"Look," he said as we discussed some of the problems that had led to his departure in the first place. "I'm not saying I'm never going to drink again. I'm sure that at some point in my life I will drink. It's just that, right now, it's not a good idea for me."

Powell's outlook is pragmatic but self-aware; he understands that he never had a physical addiction to alcohol but can also see that he let himself get too far into the party scene. He's waiting to have more time away from that milieu, so that when he does allow himself to indulge in the occasional drink again, he can do it with the self-control that he did not have before.

His plans for the immediate future are promising as well; after dropping out of school twice, he's headed to community college this fall, where he's seriously considering pursuing a degree in journalism. I am obviously thrilled with this, as it would mean that I could help him with his course work and that we'd be able to have the experience of working in the same field.

For the first time in a very long while, I can say with full honesty that I am happy with and reassured by the direction my brother is going in. Even six months ago, I worried that he would be lost as Anne has been, to a life of perpetual misery, poverty, and underachievement, sustained only by its victim's unwillingness to use the ready tools at hand.

He has crossed the threshold where I think that's a real risk for him anymore, and I'm so relieved. Throughout his adolescent years, even when around eighteen he reached his nadir, I saw the talent and intelligence that I knew could take him far shining through. I despaired that they would be drowned, but they've surfaced. He has realized, at some cost, his errors, and he is taking what actions he can to right them. I see in Powell a calamity averted.

Our trip to my grandmother's, meanwhile, was very fun.

While she's a bit much to handle at times, it could never credibly said that she lacks anything as a hostess, and Blonde Boy reacted with delight to the endless dishes of home-cooked food and a level of pampering that suggested he was her own grandchild rather than just the friend of one.

On Saturday, Powell, Blonde Boy, and I trooped outside to help her with the yard work. Blonde Boy, plied with turkey, candy, and a trip to a local mall, was only too happy to jump on the riding mower and cut down the unruly grass in the backyard.

We headed back to Mountain Town this morning, Powell coming along for a visit of several days.

For me, the new routine of summer begins tomorrow. I'll rise at six o'clock in the morning to leave here by seven so that I can arrive at Major University by nine. I'll be working in the school's public relations office until August. I'm fairly familiar with the job functions I'll be performing--conducting interviews, writing stories, meeting deadlines--but am still excited and anxious to see the kind of work they'll actually be giving me. I wonder how much time I'll be spending in the office, and what I'll be doing between stories?

An interview only takes so long to do, but I'm slated for twenty hours a week. I can't imagine that they'd have me doing paperwork, but I guess I'll find out. Meeting my new co-workers should be interesting, too. I'll be sure to write about it.

The internship is Monday through Wednesday, and on Thursday I'm going to seek out a lawyer in Mountain Town, as I have yet to have anyone competent look at my recording contract. I don't distrust the people at Local Records, but I'd still rather not have any nasty surprises jump out at me. For example, upon examination of the terms presented me, I discovered that the label had intended to keep me under contract for five years, something I told them flat out I was uncomfortable with when I came upon it.

I'm assuming that I'll be back in the studio on Friday, despite my voice not being completely recovered from the laryngitis that I came down with about three weeks ago. It's gotten progressively better (a few days ago I hit the high notes in "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since U Been Gone" for the first time since before finals), but I'm still not in fighting form and am impatient to be fully recuperated. Rest is all that I can do for it, and, at least vocally, I'm bad at that.

I'm sorry that I've been gone a while, but I should be around fairly regularly now.

I look forward to penning the story of this summer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

He Is Like the Silence That Follows a Gasp

Does the world gleam gold to you
Through the sunny haze of your own magnificence?
Each bead of glistening dew like a pearl of fire
Emanating from your rusted flaxen mane
Of tough metallic locks

And does your hand chill
Or tremble in awe
At the touch of your own cheek
And at knowledge of the unfailing beauty there
The visage of snow and ice broken only

By blood
By crimson gorgeousness as luminous as you

What do those blue eyes
And all that lies behind them, which is so much more
See when they behold themselves?

If you could perceive your reflection as you are
In all your beauteousness
Which draws my joyous gaze and sorrowful sigh
Then you would be greater poetry
Than this