Archive | September 2012

The Great Cool Down

Autumn has arrived.

It sneaked up again, hid behind warmer days, using the nights to paint the leaves, subtle at first. I blamed a long, hot summer for killing trees on the mountains, certain it could not be time for yellow, orange and red to cover the peaks. Content to let the last days of summer linger, I kept myself from looking at the hills, seeing the inevitable push down from the heights towards the valley. Like many, I had grown tired of the heat, of days in the high 90’s where being inside was the only reasonable option. Still, I love summer, being out in the city at night, wandering streets in short sleeves and short pants.

Two days of rain have convinced me it is no longer summer. Today as I drove to get music, get coffee, get out of the house, I took an intentional long look at the peaks above where I live. It was undeniable.

Autumn has arrived.

The school boy in me always associated this time of year with the end of freedom. That boy still has some sway in my head and he easily convinces me to mourn the end of greenery, bees bustling about the sedum in the front yard. “It will be more than half a year before you feel this again,” he says to me.

But the grown up in me knows better. I can anticipate the cooler mornings, wearing a jacket with cap on my head as I walk around the neighborhood, kicking and crunching leaves with Sheryl as we wander.  Trips to coffee shops where I press my hands on cups filled with delicious liquids that warm my body, awaken my mind.

The writer in me loves days like this.  I find bliss sitting on the patio, feeling the wind and rain, all sorts of words and situations slowly meandering through my head.  I like the alone-ness of it. I forget how much I miss it.

I forget how much I miss you.


Until I Snort

I loved Ghostbusters. What a fantastically funny film. I must have watched it 50 or 60 times on a rapidly decaying VHS tape. Finally this past week, I bought a copy on DVD for a whopping five bucks at the local Shopko.

With giddy excitement, I put it in the player and sat down to relive my teens and I was not disappointed. The capture of the first ghost at the hotel is still wicked funny. Mr Stay Puft rules as does the battle between Gozer and the Ghostbusters.

I am older (obviously) and some of the plot holes bother me a bit. I find the tension between Peter and the EPA bureaucrat a bit forced.  It don’t understand why Dana finds Peter less creepy and stalkerish because his business is more successful. In fact, their whole relationship never really develops and I don’t really get why they end up together. I was not bothered in the least by the bad effects (made more so with the clarity of DVD. Can’t imagine how bad they would be on blu ray). They actually made the show more humorous.

My favorite scene has always been just after the demon gargoyle crashes through Louis’s door. As he sprints to the elevator, an old woman comes out to check what all the fuss is about. Her one syllable reaction makes me laugh every time. Watch and giggle

Short and sweet today. I would like to know what your favorite 80’s movies are and what particular scenes or lines make your day. I am pondering a post about 80’s films that fail the test of time. Ideas?


Opening Acts

The best and worst part of any concert is the opening band. Some of the worst combinations I have seen include-Melvins and Primus (fans tried to boo Melvins off the stage. The guitarist just laughed), Stabbing Westward and Front 242 (despite claims that SW are an industrial band, they are not) and Tomahawk opening for Tool (Tool fans, while often accepting of whoever Tool chooses to open, did not quite get this band).

Recently, I attended a Mumford and Sons show. The ticket didn’t mention any opening band so when one started (Slow Club), I was a little put off. Then they were really good.

This all got me thinking about the bands I saw as opening acts that I ended up really liking.

Cranes-Opened for the Cure in 1992. Most people I talk to really dislike this band and hate Alison Shaw’s voice. I love her high singing (the same reason I love Made out of Babies). This track is called Starblood.

Flesh for Lulu-Opened for Public Image Ltd. in 1989. I had heard some Flesh before the show, but they blew me away with their powerful performance. They looked like Punks but played this melodic, almost pop-ish music. Check out Plastic Fantastic.

Bleu-Opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket in 2003. I have to admit, I only like a few songs, but I thought he put on a fantastic show. I was hooked enough to buy the record at the show and get it signed. One of the songs I enjoy, I Wont go Hollywood. Love the killer mutton chops!

Huffamoose-Another band that opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket. I only bought one record from this band, but I like most of it. They played a great live show and had a good sense of humor about the silliness from the crowd. Kind of an old school rock band.  Listen to Wait.

William Elliot Whitmore-Opened for Trampled by Turtles in 2012. I was familiar with neither of these artists before the show and the both are fantastic. Here is a TBT song called Alone.  William Elliot Whitmore may have the best voice I have heard in a very long time.  Hell or High Water is a great track.

I almost included ISIS on this list as the first time I saw them live was opening for Tool. I loved them long before seeing them live, which disqualifies them, but because I love to share them every chance I get, Listen to Altered Course.


“I thought of nothing else,” she whispers,

a far away feeling overtaking her.

“but ravishing you from head to foot,

saving your toes for a treat.”


Easy to forget this particular

pain, how it plants itself down,

takes up empty thoughtless spaces,

places I forget to defend.


With you it is over then over again,

and I while have already mended the fences,

they are not unbreakable.

You stand in front of me, facing away, line


of your poorly cut-cut-offs taunting, tantalizing.

Purposefully you draw my attention to it,

daring me to look away (which I would

not). And this is how we torture each other.


Tiny glimpses into what we have tasted

but can never feast on. I have memories-

your bruised thigh, one discarded sock, the other

complementing your ankle, a flexed calf, bed post.


Images of you walking at night, shadows

of street lights graying the pavement, blurring

your shoes, fragmenting your face. Looking up

at the camera lens, one eye raised, your lips wanting


to ask “where are you,” why we are not together,

going into this dance club, the sweat and sway

of the crowd pressing us closer, my hands pulling

your hips. But all of this is posturing.


Always something in between, breaking us,

waiting to prove to us the foolishness in our hearts

is our undoing, until one of us pulls back,

understanding, finally seeing the damage


this recklessness entices. You know I can’t

let you go. You know you wont ask me to,

but rely on silence and its devastation,

which is sufficient.


I have written you a thousand times,

ten of thousands of words, ten thousand phrases.

Each of them a vain attempt to understand how

I could have allowed any of this to matter,


allowed you a permanent home in my heart.


Turn and Face the Strain

There was a time when I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my personal growth.  Oddly, this moment lives side by side with some of the most insecure times of my adult life (another topic for another day).  I had experienced what I called my “boo, America” moment, when everything my country did, had done, would do, carried with it some sinister motive. Completely convinced of my opinion, I looked at every historical event and threw up my “boo, America” filter.  My political development began with me situated comfortably on the American liberal left, voting for Bill Clinton, twice. I am still completely comfortable with that decision.  My disillusionment with America had everything to do with learning more about it (from certain, biased sources. Every source is biased), being outraged by its motivations, its lack of compassion, its outright deception and cruelty. Every malevolent dictator supported, government overthrown, ridiculous conflict, furthered my distrust.

America’s unwillingness to acknowledge its own flaws, faults and mistakes still rubs me wrong. More often than I am comfortable with, my country misjudges situations, makes choices that have deadly consequences years down the road (easy examples-Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, all places where better diplomacy years previous would have avoided much loss of life and conflict).

This said, I have grown up some. I love most of what America is and what it could be, and there is the real problem. What I think America should be is not what a majority of the citizens want. What I believe is best, some would find dangerous. The beauty of America is-that kind of thinking is just fine. I don’t have to agree with anyone idea or person and they have to agree with me. My right to disagree is as important as any, maybe more. I get to hold any misguided, unsupported belief or factually supported opinion I wish.

As long as I take responsibility for it, I get to say whatever I want. Pretty cool, right?

What I think–

Americans are rarely on the extreme ends of  the political spectrum. Most of us hold viewpoints that cross from left to right and down the middle. We overlaps and contradict ourselves. Our views shift, change grow and digress. There are of course, people who insist they reside all the way right or left and I am not going to insist differently. I will say, that kind of thinking frightens me. It holds little room for discourse and conversation or collaborative progress.

I feel there is little difference between the two major political parties.  Republicans and Democrats reside in nearly the same position. They both play for the same team. The agendas are pretense. The difference is rhetoric-One party promises to help the “middle class” and stick it to those dirty rich folks. The other promises that if you work hard, let the rich be a bit richer, you just might get to play with the big boys. Result- Those that have, continue to have. People who agree with the current ruling party get to pretend they are making a difference. The power dynamic is static. Wealth is paramount.

As long as the political world is controlled entirely by money, the wealthy will always make the rules, pick the candidates, control the direction of the country and the world.  Elections offer the illusion of choice and most of the time, we all buy into it.

I bought into it…I most likely will again. It comes from an honest desire, an expectation of the best. Words are powerful and when said in a certain order, particular ways, they influence. We grasp on to what we like to hear. I feel it every time I watch a political convention. I get frustrated at what I don’t like in one group, while absorbing and devouring what I do agree with in the other.

From that, I realize a few things. Good and evil should never be at the core of political discourse. Right and wrong fall outside that dichotomy. Once the argument dissolves to a battle of who is good, people stop listening, things become about emotion and that rarely results in anything positive. No one idea is the best choice in every situation. No one group has all the answers. I am equally distrustful of those who put total faith in government and those who hold up business as the paragon of virtue.

I am willing to accept my naivety in thinking a combination of the two is best. Less willing to listen to someone rant about it.



Top Stuff 10

Top Five Foods I would never have eaten as a child, but love as an adult.

1. Saag Paneer-Such a delicious spinach dish. Add that tasty Indian cheese and I am powerless to resist. I hated spinach as a kid. Anything this mushy looking would never have been allowed on my fork. The lunch buffet at Himalayan Kitchen in Salt Lake offers the best Saag I have eaten.

2.Pad Kee Mao (Drunken noodles)-My current favorite dish. It has replaced red curry as my favorite Thai (inspired) dish. I love noodles and the thick rice noodles, drenched in sauce make my face happy. I loved noodles as a boy, but the spices and fish sauce would have been instant barriers to liking this dish. My current favorite place to get them is at Bangkok Classic

3.Smothered Burrito with Cheese– All my friends liked this dish. I would never have tried it. Something about the sauce made me afraid. When I finally tried this dish in my early 20’s I cursed the years I had wasted. So rich, flavorful and decadent. This is a guaranteed five pound gain, but one so satisfying, its hard to really regret it. Of course, I only get this burrito at La Frontera.

4.Roasted Asparagus-As a child I was certain I hated asparagus. I WAS NEVER SO WRONG. I have a favorite place for asparagus and it is anywhere my brother Dylan roasts it. Second, I would pick the grilled asparagus at Michelangelo in Salt Lake. Topped with a fried egg and bathed in truffle oil, it is the best 8 dollars you can spend. I hate to share it, but will if forced.

5. New England Boiled Dinner-I prefer mine with ham or plain brisket. I am not sure I can explain or describe the wonderful smells one encounters when entering a home where a boiled dinner is roasting. Thick scents of cabbage and carrots, the air is humid and heavy. Your skin absorbs it. When properly prepared, the meat is very tender and the vegetables break apart with the touch of a fork. The best boiled dinner I ever ate was prepared by a 60 year old woman from Maine. I was dog sick with a cold and certain I wouldn’t taste anything. Wrong. It was a taste explosion I have never forgotten. Young Ryan would have hated the smells and as for cabbage, it was best thrown straight in the trash. I have not had a boiled dinner at a restaurant that was ever any good. The are always under cooked or flavorless.

Finally, enjoy this fantastic version of This is not a Love Song by Public Image Limited, just because it’s cool.


Because I am Inclined

Tuesday, I spent a fantastic afternoon  listening to New Order. I played three or four albums, letting the music and lyrics take me back.  I love music that does that. Sometimes, specific songs take me to specific places, which can be good or bad. New Order takes me no place in particular, rather it takes me to a mood, a place where old feelings creep up and, if I let them, engulf me.

Other bands do that as well.

The way I listen to music has changed over the years. Where I used to listen with friends or during certain events. When I listen now, it’s mostly while driving, cleaning or writing. Luckily, no music has associated itself with that great floor board scrub of July or the trip to Ikea for shelf pins.

It is different when I listen to The Shins. They don’t remind me of when I was cleaning or driving, but they do remind me.

I was completely unaware they existed until (like many of you) I heard them while watching Garden State. My unnaturally creepy obsession with Natalie Portman has finally paid off!  Listening to the Shins is best done on headphones. There are oodles of subtle sounds that are easily missed, otherwise. Their music is airy, smart but not overbearing or pretentious. I am a sucker for the lyrics, even if they really don’t make a great deal of sense.  When I listen, the music takes me…someplace. I can’t really describe where, but it is familiar, like a great conversation with an old friend.   It’s comfortable.

I recommend the entire catalog, but of course I have my favorites.

Caring is Creepy Of course.

Young Pilgrims From Chutes too Narrow

Red Rabbits My favorite.

A Comet Appears Hauntingly clever, this one.

Simple Song Struggle through the add. This video is awesome!

And that is it. Enjoy the awesomeness.




Another jerking motion, rubbing hands, foot stomp. Forty seven blinks, one wink, just to see if it’s only the one eye. Result-a tiny slip towards crazy. I count shed dog hair, white on white carpet fibers, tiny touches of slate, flecks of brown. Persian rug stolen (Iran, most likely) from the down the street yard sale, stretching then bunching near the sofa where I sit, exhausted angry insanity creeping like chemical burns up my neck, over my face.

Someone in the bedroom shifts, bed frame creak, flat board popping and I want popcorn, but three-in-the-morning cravings should never be trusted. He talks in his sleep, wall muffled angry syllables.

I want it too.

Two hundred fifty five seconds later, the lights flicker.

Inverted ghosts slither through, blurry trails, tail like and misunderstood. They never mean you harm, but you couldn’t lie still in the bedroom where the two of you recognize each other. In the morning she will help figure it out. Like when I picked up the guitar; when the strings stretched and made sweetly muted muffled twangs.

Triple blink then pulling up a crumpled, inside out, backwards sheet. Shadow puppets pastime but my fingers are under cotton. It never makes sense until it does.

Slower now, fighting for darkness like fighting an urge to scream. The randomness of language. Someone stand in for me.

I Remember and am Still

Nothing I could say matters much today.  Instead I share a moment of silence with millions.

In the quiet, I reflect and I remember…










We all know sadness.

There have been much more terrible days. There will be more terrible days. I choose to wish and wonder, relish and revel in better ones.

I wish you all a better world, one where  hope and happiness and love outweigh the grief.

Not Broken

After returning home from serving a two year LDS mission, I felt completely converted to my religion and to God. I didn’t come home with hundreds of spiritual experiences that steeled my faith. There was not one significant moment where I woke up and knew I believed it all completely. Instead, a gradual feeling of comfort and peace replaced any doubt that I previously let lose.  Strangely, this feeling only manifested after my return, not during the experience. Several times while I was out doing the work (ugh, I hate that phrase), I felt the opposite-confusion, homesickness, frustration, full of  doubt and questions. Not to say the experience was a bad one in any way. There were horrible times and there were wonderful ones. I have said this in the past, but I have never regretted going on that mission. It taught me many things that have helped guide me into my adult life.

Again, when I returned home, I believed it. Hook. Line. Yep.

One year into my marriage, that all fell apart.

I can’t point to any one thing, any one thought or doctrine, no specific person or place, that shattered that calm belief.  I know it had a great deal to do with no longer being afraid and in the absence of fear, the questions I constantly pushed aside or chided myself for wanting to ask, bubbled up unchecked and there were not good enough answers to quell them. One thing that I have never really talked about with anyone but my wife is that during that time, I didn’t just quit, throwing away my entire life and faith without fighting for it. I prayed, I really did. I prayed I would be able to get through this crisis, find that calmness again.  I didn’t.

After my decision to no longer practice my faith (or any for that matter), I had conversation after conversation with people from all sorts of spiritual paths. Some of these people just wanted to understand and hear my story. Some wanted to commend me on finally waking up and seeing the truth about God and religion. Others wanted to convince me of my mistake. A few (and these are the ones I really remember) wanted to condemn me, feel sorry for me, criticize every choice I made.

A theme emerged. There are those in the world who believe something with all their souls. They have faith in things that don’t make rational sense. They believe in something beyond what can be seen, something that often has little or no tangible evidence,  believe it passionately. It brings them happiness. There are also people who don’t need that at all. They are equally happy. Both sides contain individuals believing the others are full if it.

Another theme-Regardless of claims to the contrary, most people try to convince you of the validity of their position at the expense of yours. Of those, most don’t do it out of a sense of love.  Labeling any belief system as foolish while ignoring the ridiculousness of your own is the ultimate hypocrisy.

Too many people have called me broken. I’m not.

I don’t hold animosity towards any of those people. I have surely unintentionally offended enough people in my life to ever hold that sort of grudge.

I have my own set of beliefs that work for me. My experience has led me to determine there are few, if any things in this existence that are universally true (I can hear the wheels churning and churning). For each person(s) who proposes an absolute truth, another (insert millions) believe the opposite. If there is an exception, an instance where something is not always and ever true, it cannot be absolute.  That said, I would never tell any one they had to agree with me. I have reached a point where I am more than able to allow people to believe what they want, regardless of my agreeing with them. As long as your beliefs do not lead to actions that directly affect mine, they are yours and you are welcome to them. I try my best to return the same.

Most importantly, nothing I believe is unshakable. I accept it when I am wrong, learn from it, change and grow. Too many things in my life have ebbed and flowed for me to place any permanent stock in any one idea. This doesn’t make me weak. I still have convictions. I just refuse to cling to them when the  facts tell me a different story.

When ideas dissolve into debates about right and wrong, emotion often takes over. No ideology is perfect or contains all goodness or all evil. It is arrogance to believe otherwise.

Finally, I am always open to discussion, debate, questions. I do require one thing-be open to what I have to say. I have no time for one sided conversations. I refuse to participate. If you want to debate, be willing to debate. Check your emotions and ego at the door and have a seat at the table. I am sure you have something to offer me that I will not have thought of.