Thursday, April 13, 2017

that time i went to coachella (throwback thursday)

Every April, I think about how I went to Coachella. This was during the time when the world was trying to figure out if it was still the nineties or not. There were no lingerie clad festival girls frolicking about, just a lot of tshirts and jeans. LOTS!

My road to the one year I went to Coachella actually started the previous year in 2002. A friend of mine was going to drive across the country with the girl he was interested in. Long story short, the girl realized this was some sort of romantic overture and gave him back the tickets he bought her. He went around asking everyone if they wanted to go with him two days before Coachella. Surprisingly, no one could go because they had jobs and adult stuff to deal with.

He finally asked me and I was so heartbroken that I couldn't go. One of the headliners was Björk and is basically my spirit human. Unfortunately, I had the worst case of bronchitis in my life and was basically 98% mucus. 

I promised myself that I would go the next year and I did. 

The 2003 Coachella lineup was a different kind of amazing and the last lineup that I was interested in. 

At the time, I was working two jobs, doing freelance graphic design, and still somewhat involved in the Chicago electronic music scene. That meant my typical day went as follows:

  1. Wake up at 4am and get ready for first job
  2. Arrive at first job at 5am and work until 2pm
  3. Go home, change, check/answer email
  4. Go to second job at 3pm and work until 10pm
  5. Get home and either do graphic design or music event until midnight to 2am depending
  6. Rinse and repeat
This is important to note because although I did have a reserved campsite and plane tickets. I hadn't thought out much of the logistics or how this was going to work out. The night before in a fury of non sleep delirium, I packed a military sized duffel bag with clothes, dry foods, wet naps, a tent, sunblock, and disposable cameras. Then, without sleep, I hauled this 900 pound bag all the way to the Indio airport which I then realized was very far away from the festival.

So, I hailed a cab and spent a small fortune to arrive outside the polo grounds where the camping was. Unfortunately for me, my cab driver did not want to wait in the line of cars in queue to park so I was dropped off with my ridiculous bag on the outside of the grounds. This meant that I had to walk in the Californian sun, down what I remember as being a dusty road, that was literally the length of the polo field to where the entrance was.

This is how I met Travis and Sweet Jimmy. 

They were in a van and they asked me if I needed a lift. So, for everyone that reading this, I got in. Was that a decision that I would make at today's Coachella. Absolutely not, however that somewhat risky decision turned out to be kismet. For the next three days, Travis and Sweet Jimmy were my bestfriends.

I honestly don't remember much from checking in to the campsite. I was so sleep deprived, that I am unsure of the sequence of events. I remember going to a grocery store with Travis and Sweet Jimmy, but I couldn't tell you if it was before or after we set up our tents. I also remember that I snuck in booze. Sorry Coachella, but I did. Beyond that, I could have been babbling about beluga whales that night in our little circle of tens and wouldn't be at all surprised.

The next morning, I felt more like myself and woke to find my new friends all creeping out of their tents. It proved to be a beautiful day and we all were applying our sunblocks and hanging out until they opened to festival. 

What I learned that morning was that Travis and Sweet Jimmy were from Austin, Texas. Travis was a lawyer that had been surfing along the California coast and Sweet Jimmy had flown out to meet up with him and then go to Coachella. Sweet Jimmy and many of the other people camped around us were all working at the time for SXSW. So, they all had their sights on different acts and the morning was all about getting to each other and our musical tastes.

Coachella People, Guy in Red Shirt is Sweet Jimmy and yellow shirt girl gripping tenaciously to suspicious chair is me.

Travis was displeased with our lack of excitement and told us to 'look cooler'.

Then the festival doors opened and the next few days were strolls through open grasses to different tents to get in as many acts as possible. At times, this required to take in half one set and then race to another to catch the end of another. I saw, Queens of the Stoneage, Blur, Blue Man Group, Felix Da Housecat, Idlewild, The Libertines, The Rapture, The White Stripes, Iggy and the Stooges, Sonic Youth, Primal Scream, Interpol, The Mars Volta, and The Polyphonic Spree.

I won't go into a review of each band, their music, or how their performance was. I feel like if you are curious about these acts, you can seek them out so easily now. 

Me and Travis looking beat

Me and Sweet Jimmy looking thrilled about Sonic Youth

I will say that I remember seeing parts of all these acts and feeling as though I got way more than I paid for. I remember all the worlds I shared with my new friends and the sounds blending together. I remember the green of the grass. The random art statues. All the freak-outs of people seeing their favorite band member wandering around. Mainly, I remember the carefree attitudes. 

Me and Travis marveling at some inconclusive signs

Even on the last day, we were in good spirits. We packed up our stuff, Travis and Sweet Jimmy dropped me off at the airport, and we went our separate ways. 

Jimmy later asked me, "You going to Coachella again?" 
I responded, "No. I don't think so."
Jimmy paused and sighed, "Yeah, it'll never be the same."

Monday, April 10, 2017

9 steps to happiness

We all want to be happy right? That's a thing we strive for, search for, binge eat for, go to comedy shows for, take long naps for, etc. I suppose that is why self-help and inspirational quotes are so popular. And yet, I often see a problem with this. We are share a recipe for happiness that is incomplete. Then we turn around and ask, "Why aren't you happy already? I gave you tips bro!"

Let's examine the following image.
Photo Courtesy: redfairyproject
This list is beneficial. I can't argue with that. But, it's not that easy if you struggle with something on this list. Therefor, I have decided to share some helpful ways to do each thing.

1.) Stop Complaining
Complaining is something we all do and often it is a way for us to address what we feel. A person might go home and complain to a loved one after a bad day of work. This practice can in some ways actually rewire your brain to be negative.
Now, I am not saying that a person should never vent. That is a form of repression and will (in most cases) turn a person into a pressure cooker. I am saying that if something bothers you there are many things to do about it to make complaining obsolete. Such as, turning a complaint into a conversation about solutions. Also, for every negative concept think of a positive concept for that same thing. Even re-framing a chore into something fun can help. You don't like doing dishes? Start giving those dishes a bubble bath including the rubber ducky. 
2.) Do Not Limit Your Beliefs
Just because you believe something doesn't mean it's true. The crazy cat-lady down the street can think all her cats are shapeshifters-from-space-destined-to-save-the-world, but is that true?  
A good way to understand this is the diagram below. Belief must intersect truth to be useful to us. Otherwise, our beliefs are open to criticism, harassment, bullying, insecurity, ignorance, etc. Ultimately, this can hurt our happiness.
Photo Courtesy:
Now, this might seem like I am telling you to limit your beliefs. I am not. I'm telling you that you should always be open to thinking critically of belief in general. 
A good way of doing this is as follows:

First, challenge the truth of the belief
Second, look for dependable proof. 
This does not mean looking towards your own information vacuums for answers or accosting others when they, do not have "dependable proof". This means being a person that allows themselves the openness to look at ANY belief without bias and review it from a place of truth. 
Remember, sometimes belief comes from a "personal truth" or experience. This is outside the researchable field. Perhaps the crazy cat-lady has went on a number of intergalactic space missions with her cat friends and there is no way to prove her wrong. You don't know for sure that she hasn't. You can only use dependable proof to show how improbable it is. 
Understanding this can make your more tolerant of others beliefs and challenge your own beliefs. This allows you to explore the world outside of your limitations and generally live in a happier, more accepting place.
3.) Stop Blaming Others
Blame is full of bitterness and resentment. Often, it is the direct reflection of what a person doesn’t like about themselves. It can also leave a person with a feeling of guilt later. Regardless if they are the person giving or receiving the blame. 
I believe blame is lazy. It means that a person is upset about something, but doesn’t want to make changes.

So, stop blaming and make those changes. True, that blame might be well placed. That coworker might have eaten your work snacks, yet again! My advice is to make a change that solves that problem. Buy a toy-safe to store your snacks in. Buy extra snacks for the thief. Change your snacks to something only you can love! Mmmmmm chocolate covered pickles, yum. Problem solved!
Photo Courtesy:
4.) Do Not Practice Negative Self-talk
If you aren’t blaming others, then you certainly shouldn’t be doing that do yourself. There is a difference between self reflection and punching yourself in the soul. 
My first advice is to give that asshole-you a name. That may sound stupid and like a stepping stone to multiple personalities, but it’s not. My asshole-me is named Marge. Usually when she is being negative (or mean) I put a stop to it by addressing her. It might sound something like this, “Can it Marge! You are such a buzz kill!”

If that doesn’t work, I like to imagine what my best friend would say about the situation. This is only useful if you truly have a bestfriend and not a best-frenemy. When that is not working, I literally contact the people who care for me to get a realistic frame of reference. 
If all else fails, know this -- There is no such thing as perfection. So stop trying to reach it, go for what makes you happy instead.
5.) Stop Dwelling on the Past
My mother is a chronic past dweller. The kind that is still bringing up things that happened forty years ago. Yes, it's true those things shaped her but they aren't her or her current life. 
It's easy to say, "Stop thinking about it." But when the past is either substantially better or horrifyingly worse than the now, it is really difficult to get out of the past-dwelling pattern.
One of the first ways that can help is seeking out the closure to the past. This does not mean looking for answers or outcomes that aren't there. This is simply finding ways to close that chapter. This can be done through letter writing, talking it out, or even a representational ceremony. If you can't find the elusive feeling of closure that means you will have to find other ways to address the past.
This can be done by finding new adventures, trying to make your now better than the then, and/or celebrating your past by making new chapters to it. 
Often all of this will not help past dwellers, especially if it involves pain or repetitive thinking. In that case designate not only a time but a space to address the past. Its better in these cases to use a neutral party or a therapist as a sounding board. This can help you see that you are much more important than the past.
Or as the Buddhist would say, "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."
6.) Be Less Resistant to Change
I believe strongly that most change happens slowly. It happens in a way that we don't even notice. It's the fast change we are unprepared for. This is the kind of change we fear.
Interestingly, the resistance to change can be mapped in almost the same way we look the five stages of grief. A person who resists change often goes through; denial. anger, confusion, depression, and crisis.
Photo Courtesy:

It is when we accept change that we can grow, find new confidence, and nurture happiness.
To accept change a person must understand that it is inevitable. Life is like the waves of the ocean, constantly moving. It is easier to move with those waves then to resist them. Embrace your change and flow with it. Talk about it. Build on it. Make it your own.
Do you have move into a smaller place? Make it your own by getting into the Minimalist living lifestyle. Did everything change at your work? Make it your own by pretending you got a new job and what you knew about your work came from a former position. Did your favorite product discontinued? Make it your own by having a personal, "try it out" party. Gather all the things you never tried and see what becomes your new favorite.
7.) You Do Not Need to Impress Others
Anytime I talk about the need to impress, I talk about unicorns. Yup, you heard me. Unicorns. You'll see how it all comes together, I swear. 
First, I must point out that most people don't care enough to be impressed. It's true. These people are so stuck in the center of their own world that they wouldn't notice if a unicorn ran by them. How can you expect to impress them if they can't even notice that?
Next, there are the bullies in your life. These people can be coworkers, friends, family members, etc. Even if you are a unicorn and they won't care. They will always see you as imperfect and not as special as all the other unicorns. 
Note: You simply CANNOT impress a bully. So don't try. 
Then, there are the people that love you. They already see you as a unicorn. A perfect magical unicorn. These people are in a constant state of being impressed by you. You don't even have to do anything. You can just be standing there and they are like, "OH MY GOD!!!!!! SO IMPRESSIVE!"
Photo Courtesy:
This is why the only person who you need to impress is yourself. When you accomplish that, if someone else is impressed, it's a bonus.
8.) You Do Not Need to Always be Right
This is not just for those of us who are notoriously stubborn (me) or opinionated (also, me). This is also for those of us who want to “help” or “correct misconception” without invitation. I like to call this, “help-rape”. That is not to undermine the meaning of rape itself, it is to put more emphasis on how damaging and unhealthy help-rape is. Not only does help-rape undermine your own happiness, but it also hurts the happiness of those around you.

We’ve all overheard conversations that make us cringe. Where we want to turn around and correct the misguided fool speaking. We’ve all had a disagreements turn into a full blown, the world is ending fight. In both these scenarios there is an old adage that fits here, “Choose your battles wisely”.

The need to be right comes down to two things: choices and control.

The first choice comes when we find ourselves offended or angry. This is the moment where we can foster true happiness. By consciously making a different choice to be accepting, understanding, and patient. During this step, the simple action of not taking things personally and allowing others to have faults is mind-blowing. Cracking jokes, expressing opinions without needing to win and choosing to say nothing at all can all be part of the process.

The second choice comes when we find ourselves unable to resist controlling others. That is when we rip the dishes out of a family member's hand and tell them they are loading the dishwasher wrong. Slow down control freak, what is the worst that will happen? Your dishes will chip. Will you remember that chipped dish in thirty years? Is it that important? Was there a better way of approaching that?

Allowing yourself to ask these types of questions before you go into “help-rape-rage” is surprisingly useful. You’ll find that needing to chime in and losing your patience with others isn’t as consuming as it once was.

She says as she writes a blog, giving unwarranted advice.
9.) You Do Not Need Approval
You just don't. 
Why should you stop looking for approval? It causes a person to worry about what others think, it cause a person to fear any outside criticism, and it causes person to hold themselves back in life. That is no bueno.
How do you get away from this? Become self aware. Stop looking outside of yourself and look within. Acceptance you for you. Be kind. Think about what you say. Allow your truth to shine. Show the things you are most afraid of. If they react poorly, realize this means a form of incompatibility. It does NOT reflect poorly on you. Unless letting your freak-flag-fly means doing something illegal. Don't do anything illegal! Otherwise be you and be happy!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

whittier, alaska

I find unusual places interesting. Not, exotic places...but, unusual places. (Although, exotic places intrigue me on a different level.) Whittier, Alaska is one of these unusual non-exotic places that hold my interest.

Whittier is known for being the Alaskan town where almost everyone lives in the same building. A condominium tower built in World War II, that also houses; the local government offices, a clinic, the post office, a church, a laundromat and a grocery store. The town is accessible by boat in the summer, but in the winter the only way into Whittier is the tunnel.

This tunnel is about a two mile stretch that is one way for both trains and cars. It shifts direction every half hour and closes at night for security reasons. Most residence don't even bother leaving through the tunnel to make the trip to Anchorage, which is about an hour and a half away.

This self contained small-town-in-a-box is a place where people can wander in the halls in their PJs, grab some bread from the store, and socialize without having to leave.

I find the idea refreshing and have contemplated a move to Whittier more than a handful of times.