When I still lived at home–especially in the summer–it was pretty common to roll out of bed and find Brandon out on the computer watching YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway? To the point that we all kind of tease him about it.

So then two of the show’s comedians, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, actually rolled into Pittsburgh, and of course it was all, “Well, we’ve got to take Brandon,” so it was kind of a late birthday present for him Saturday night.

Paul came over Friday, which is kind of a routine for us now when I don’t have any reason to go home, and I talked him into a trip to Sephora at South Hills Village for some moisturizer I’d fallen in love with, since I knew my free sample wouldn’t last me the week. We went to dinner at Max and Erma’s first, drank a little, then when we were done we came back here and drank a little more.

Somehow, we ended up having a relatively serious conversation in which I told him he keeps complaining about life situations like his job he hates but won’t actually do anything about it, which significantly upset him at first (and by that, I mean like a minute or so) before he admitted I was right and resolved to actually try to better his situation instead of complain. One of my consistent, semi-major complaints about him has been that this is pretty common–he’ll complain and mope about things he could change pretty easily, or at least take steps to change.

He ended up having trouble sleeping, though as far as I know not because of our conversation–he actually did stay in my room with me for most of the night, even though I was pretty soundly asleep. And the good thing was he’s on the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift at work so he should be up all night and ended up falling asleep around 5. He made plans in town with a friend, so I had to wake him up around noon, especially since waking him up can be an arduous task.

He left me reading American Gods because he wanted to see my reaction (I’m at the end), and then I went off to drop off recycling and meet my family (plus Kelly) for dinner at PF Chang’s, which was a delicious and mildly drunken time for me.

Colin and Brad did put on a good, entertaining show, and it was filmed for a TV/Netflix release sometime this year. It was kinda neat to see how they actually go about filming those things, which includes bringing people up from the back to fill in empty seats and asking us to remove our winter coats. I’ll be interested to see what makes the cut.

And now we wait for more snow.

Top 5 on Friday: Thank

Top 5 artists/bands you would like to thank for their music.

1. Mumford and Sons For being talented and beautiful. One person at the Pittsburgh show called them the band of our generation, the one people are gonna actually remember and still love.
2. David Bowie For being such an innovative, badass icon who has consistently made different and good music throughout his career.
3. Buddy Holly For being one of the Founding Fathers of rock ‘n’ roll and one of the best songwriters this country has ever seen. And, duh, inspiring The Beatles. There are no words for how much I love you, Buddy Holly!
4. AFI For being the first band I fiercely, fiercely loved and truly changing my life, most notably by introducing me to music, ideas, and subcultures I’d never properly been exposed to before. And for providing me with music to move me through angry and hurt. And for reminding me of why you’re amazing and I love you when I forget, because I do sometimes.
5. The Beatles For being so iconic and beautiful and influential.
Five wasn’t nearly enough, guys. I could easily come up with five more. From the Music Memoirs.

Friday Five: Boring

  1. What’s the most boring television show? Anything involving gold mining or home renovation. Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing an impressive reno, but I like to see it in before-and-after pictures. Gun shows are boring, too.
  2. What’s a really boring movie? I know I’ve been bored by plenty of movies, but none are coming to mind!
  3. Whose music is really boring? I get bored by a lot of artists because so few these days are doing anything different. I find Lady Gaga to be boring because it’s the same old pop we’ve been getting for years. Most mainstream rock is boring because it sounds too generic and safe.
  4. What used to be interesting but is now boring? Given my previous answer, the music industry! The movie industry to an extent, too, because they keep doing remakes.
  5. Who’s the most boring person you know? Boring People, A Tale in Three Parts:

1. I was once told Paul was boring, which I think I’ve discussed before. Now, I was a little tipsy at the time, so I wasn’t bothered by it until the next day. And while obviously what matters is that he’s a good guy who makes me happy, being told he’s boring stung a little because 1) people don’t give him a real chance, not that he makes it easy because he can be very difficult to coax out of his shell, but he’s a lot smarter, funnier, more creative, and even bitchier than people realize and 2) other significant other are guilty are far, far worse things and no one thinks twice. The worst thing a person can be in the 20s is boring.

2. Brandon tells this story he loves where he claims I once bored myself to sleep, that I was talking and bored myself so horribly that I fell asleep mid-sentence. This is SO FALSE. He claims I was talking then closed my eyes, which may be true if I was sleepy or if my contacts were bothering me, but I certainly didn’t fall asleep and I certainly don’t bore myself.

3. So, that leaves who I genuinely think is boring, and I really don’t know. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever been bored by another person–conversation, sure. Circumstances or place, maybe. Actual person that is set in my brain as being 100% boring? No one. My dad’s a close contender, though, because he’s so predictable–you always know what he’s gonna say, he only watches Fox, and he only listens to music made in the ’80s or earlier.

From the Friday Five.

Booking Through Thursday

I decided I need a book meme in my life, so here it is.

Outside of books, what’s your favorite thing to read Newspapers? Magazines? Blogs? Fanfiction? Specific websites?

I’m not sure what my favorite is, but I dabble in most of the above and almost entirely online. I read the online versions of local newspapers, as well as Spin and Rolling Stone. Twitter makes it super easy to sort of curate what I want to read, so I also end up on AbsolutePunk.net and PasteMagazine.com. Of course, I read my own musical pseudo-employer, InYourSpeakers.com. I don’t read many blogs, aside from a few that’ll pop up on Twitter or Facebook, aside from ThatsChurch.com, which is pretty regular. As for short-form pursuits, TheRumpus.net and Brevity. I submitted a piece to The Rumpus like two nights ago and I have some ideas that would suit Brevity, I think.

And because I’m not content with just one reading discussion for the night, I’m hitting Booking Through Thursday’s archives.

  1. What kind of books do you like to read? I will seriously read almost anything. The only things I don’t seem to get as into are more academic writings, science-y things, romance, mystery, and true crime, but there are exceptions. For example, I’m interested in Richard Feynman right now, who was a physicist, and I want to read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And I have read mysteries and true crime, it’s just that they tend to not interest me quite as much.
  2. Why? Provide specific examples. My tastes are very eclectic, and just in books. I’ve always loved reading, so as long as it sounds interesting to me, I’ll read it. I’ll even read things that don’t sound interesting to me if they get a lot of hype or I receive a personal recommendation, aside from when my dad and other ultra conservatives try to tell me to read Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly. I enjoy anything that tells a good story or is well-written, or even if one of those traits is lacking but the other makes up for it. My stack of what I’m reading now is pretty eclectic: Sandman, which is a comic/graphic novel, I enjoy because it’s Neil Gaiman and is dark an intriguing, though I haven’t fallen in love with it as much as I’d hoped and as much as some have. Anne Rice’s Called Out of Darkness because I like her and discussions of religion and spirituality very interesting, although her writing in this is lacking–I want her to show me rather than tell me, the way she does in her fiction. 50 Shades of Grey because I had to see what the hyper was about, and I actually like it so far, but Christian Grey is about to ruin it by being a possessive, controlling asshat. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens, which isn’t engaging me much, which is weird because I generally get pretty into Dickens and this one’s all full of murder and swindles. Go Ask Alice, which is a total letdown because it’s surprisingly boring for being a fake drug memoir, but I suspect that’s because it feels so forced to me. Tess of the D’Urbervilles did not interest me at all but it was an old book of my mom’s, and I’ve fallen in love with it. I just want Tess to be happy and for Angel Clare to come around! The House of Mirth is interesting but not impressive. I’m still trudging through The Fountainhead after literally years–I hate it. It’s boring and poorly written. It got good for a hot minute but killed it again. I feel like I’ve read 500 pages of bad exposition with terrible characters. Seriously, these people all suck. Which leads us to American Gods, which is getting so epic that it’s giving me a mindfuck almost on Harry Potter levels. And then there’s Great Expectations lurking in my purse, which I liked well enough to start but shit just got real. I also realized it’s almost a less epic Bleak House. Shit, I loved Bleak House.

Friday Five: Signs

  1. Who is the most unyielding person you know? I’m not really sure. Probably my mother. And Terra. Terra just does not give in easily.
  2. Where did you last experience an unexpected soft shoulder? Hmm. I don’t know.
  3. What’s something you wish would just stop? Paul’s mother. For the love of all that is fucking holy. She’s basically emotionally wrecked her kid and then when she realizes it and apologizes, she just makes tons of excuses for why she does it. Just stop fucking doing it. If you know you’re being an irrational harpy, then think before you open your fucking mouth and hurt basically everyone that hears you rather than speaking first then backtracking and more or less saying, “Feel bad for me, I had it worse.” Shut the fuck up. You’re a rude, inconsiderate bitch who’s going to drive all six of your children to leave you in the dust.
  4. What’s a recent decision you wish you could make a U-turn on? I REGRET NOTHING.
  5. What mundane task do you think most people do the wrong way? Driving. Son of a bitch. No, tailing someone because your an impatient asshole is not a legitimate or legal driving maneuver. Neither is high-beaming someone for the same reasons. Neither is texting/drinking and driving. Stop signs and lights are not optional, and I get if you don’t want to speed like a mother fucker, especially since I recently got a speeding ticket, but that doesn’t mean you can drive 10 below the speed limit. And you don’t need to slam on your brakes because a cop has someone pulled over. That cop doesn’t give two shits about what you’re doing unless you’re doing 90 while hanging out of your car shooting people or something.

Well, the psychic that told me I’d win a couple hundred bucks gambling wasn’t too drastically off–I won about $100 and not the maximum of $500 she predicted, but my damn brother won $600.

We did have a fun trip, though. We did our usual buffet trip and slots. Paul insisted initially he didn’t want to gamble but gave in when I was doing well on a Princess Bride slot, and he ended up actually doing well enough to play all night until he ultimately lost it all. I was up to over my $100 but didn’t play below that, so we cashed out and went on a brief South Side stint, since Brandon and Kelly have never been.

We didn’t want a crazy, late night, so I limited us to two of the more entertaining bars–Jekyll and Hyde and Bar 11. Rachael and her roommates met up with us and we chatted and hung out for a bit. I need more Rachael in my life. We’re the kind of friends who don’t see each other often at all or even stay well in touch beyond social media, but when we get together we hold just about nothing back and can talk for hours. So we discussed our mutual distaste for rude people and what social media has become. I’m interested to hear if one of the roommates, Kassie, says anything–she once texted Brandon and told him none of their friends like Kelly, which isn’t true, but it sounds like she gives most of her friends a hard time when they’re in relationships. Brandon was frustrated enough with her that he was texting me earlier in the week saying he’s debating whether or not he even wants to continue to be friends with her, and I gave him the words of wisdom that if you have to ask yourself that, as a general rule, you probably shouldn’t be friends with the person in question.

We did have a good time, though. Bar 11 was a lot of fun and Brandon really enjoyed giving people name tags and drawing on them. I was dubbed Barry Fucking Gibb, Beware of Dog, Sketchy Sea Beast, For a Good Time Follow, Fun Hole, Pocket Rocket, and The Bearded Lady. Unfortunately, about that time, Paul got considerably cranky because of what I’m guessing was a combination of factors: tiredness, a headache, distaste for bars, feeling left out, and residual mother angst.

He came over Friday night and got a text after a few hours from his dad saying his mom thought he doesn’t like her because he didn’t get her a birthday present. For one thing, that’s quite a conclusion to jump to, and for another, it’s not completely true. He’d actually be deliberating over a gift for her for weeks because he had no idea what to get her. Apparently, she’s really hard to shop for, so he settled on an Applebee’s gift card. But when he got home and told his dad that’s what he decided, he told him not to give it to her because she’d received a few gift cards and complained they’re too impersonal.

Now, Paul of course took this all very hard and felt like shit. I’m trying this new thing where I try to get him to realize that some of the issues with her are her–sure, he should’ve probably jumped on getting a replacement gift sooner than he did, but her jumping to conclusions about it is on her, not him. It’s sort of the same reasoning my therapist worked with me on: how you think about things dictates how you react to them. I’ve kind of used this in two different ways. The first was pre-therapy realizations that things that the way people were treating me, especially to the extent is was taken, reached a point where it stopped being about me and what I might have said or done and started being about that person taking out their own issues on me. The second was taking the damage that did to me emotionally and turning it around and saying, “Nope. This blows, but I can deal.” Now that I think about it, I should probably give him the sort of handouts my therapist gave me and explain all this to him. It proved to be a very useful tool, and the only reason I plan on going back within the next month or so is because I want to address potential holiday stress before it becomes an issue, not ride it out and go after I’ve had a good cry.

Anyway, the point is Paul was moody most of the weekend. He’d snap out of a funk for a few hours–or maybe he was just faking it–then go right back into it, and of course he was in usual cranky Sunday mood where he doesn’t want to go home or go to work and the weekend is over.

We’ll see if an expensive coat, candy, and alcohol fix the problem, but I’m not counting on it. As helpful as therapy has been for me, sometimes I feel like the people around me are the ones who need to be going.

Top 5 on Friday: New Releases

Top 5 recent new releases

1. Burials by AFI I’m not sure if I would say this is the band’s best album, but I’m also not sure if that’s because I’m so partial to Sing the Sorrow or if Burials really just isn’t quite on that level. But Burials is certainly the band’s most mature album, and it’s some of their most straightforward, gritty rock. They feel a lot more like a grown-up band now and not a band for teenage goth girls. It’s still very much AFI in that it’s dark but at times incredibly catchy. And Jade Puget’s guitar riffs are some of his best ever.
2. Small Little Pieces by Blue of Colors Solo projects sometimes have a way of actually sounding a lot like the bands they originated from (one of my favorite examples of this is Queen’s Brian May’s Back to the Light, which sounds a lot like pure Queen, but I also cite this as an example of how collaborative the band’s songwriting efforts were). Blue of Colors, though, Punchline singer Steve Soboslai’s more indie-oriented solo endeavor, isn’t one of those. Some songs do sound like a subdued Punchline for sure–“Goodbye Stranger,” for example–but overall, Small Little Pieces is a different, solid indie record. Even though I admittedly overplayed some of the songs released in advance.
3. Matangi by M.I.A. I’ve always liked M.I.A., but I’ve only really been a casually listener–Matangi is the first of her albums I’ve ever listened to in full, which was a good decision because it’s excellent.
4. The Next Day Extra by David Bowie The Next Day was a nice surprise release from Bowie anyway–and I’m still pissed that I never found the Record Store Day vinyl on my pilgrimage–but the bonus material on the Extra release only makes it better, even though I strongly dislike bonus rereleases with a year or so of the original. That said, I’m a big fan of “God Bless the Girl.” This is definitely the best of Bowie’s most recent releases, too, so that’s a huge plus.
5. Reflektor by Arcade Fire I’ve been meaning to pay proper attention to Arcade Fire since I caught their SNL performance awhile back and really liked it, but other than happening upon a few songs on Spotify, I never really did. Then IYS started covering single releases and the album leak, and the Sirius satellite radio Paul had (has?) in his car had “Reflektor” on heavy rotation on all the alternative stations. And here we are.

Friday Five: Broken

  1. What’s the story behind your most recent broken dish? Very, very hot water had a run-in with a glass and split that bitch right in half.
  2. What’s the story behind your most recent broken promise? I don’t really make promises. I also don’t really go back on things I say I will or will not do (unless they apply to myself, in which case it’s a messy free-for-all). So I have no idea.
  3. When did you last cause a room of people to break out into laughter? I’m not sure when I was last in a roomful of people and speaking to them or otherwise doing something funny. Except maybe the last time I was at my parents’ and probably said something snarky about either our extended family or my dad and made at least everybody but him laugh.
  4. What’s something you should probably put the brakes on? My laziness and procrastination. I’d have a cleaner apartment, a more legitimate writing career, an updated resume, and possibly a better, more fulfilling job if I’d get my ass in gear and just do everything required to get there.
  5. When were you last out of doors at the break of dawn? Every weekday, actually–I have to be at work at 7 a.m., and thanks to changing clocks, I’m driving there at sunrise now. For awhile, it was dark. It’s nice to see the sun come up again on my commute, even though I know it won’t last.

From the Friday Five.

This past weekend was Paul’s last on night shift, and he ended up sleeping all day Friday, which is normal for him. We’d sort of planned on him coming over, but I laid down the law with his terrible sleeping habits and making plans but this is what got me stood up three times in one night more than once over the summer–if the plans hinge on him waking up by a certain time, then we don’t actually make plans. If he’s up and we want to do something, fine. Otherwise, nope. It’s still a pain in the ass, but it is a small step up from me getting stood up.

The one good thing, too, is I did keep my productive Friday night that way.

He came over Saturday instead, somewhere around late morning or early afternoon, which is when he’s normally asleep, so the first order of business was to try to get him to, you know, sleep. That failed because after he got mopey, bad-week cuddling out of his system, he got chatty, which was probably good for him. I’m slowly figuring out–because of how quiet he can be and how rare some of this is–that encouraging him to talk about something or asking him usually won’t actually get him to open up, but if he’s in a mood, he’ll kind of start a rambling snowball effect where he starts with a thought or two here or there and gradually starts saying more and more faster and faster, like it’s all tumbling out of him. And I think he needed a good rant about being unhappy with his career, especially considering I know his review didn’t go well and he has a habit of internalizing these things. I can’t really blame him. I can’t say I’d do anything differently.

Eventually, though, this turned into sexytimes, and it became pretty obvious he wasn’t gonna sleep, so I declared my necessary trip to the Apple store would happen. The charger for my MacBook has taken a bit of a beating in the two years since I bought it–first, that sort of rubbery coating starting to peel off, so I wrapped electrical tape around it, but lately that’s started to go, too, and some of the bare wires on the charger are exposed and fraying, which I figure is unsafe and would panic my mother into thinking I’m going to die in a MacBook fire in bed watching The Voice. So I shelled out the 80 bucks and ordered it online for in-store pickup in the South Hills, and it’s a good thing, too, because that store was a clusterfuck.

Fortunately, I was done in a hot minute and went to Sephora for some Marc Jacobs mascara. Now, I keep saying I want to quit Facebook, but chat and my mom’s friend Laura keep luring me back in. Laura is still everything I want to be, of course, but she also tipped me off on this Marc Jacobs makeup line. I pretty much have enough of almost all my makeup that I don’t need anything, but mascara is the one thing I will need the soonest, so that’s how I rationalized it.

Paul seemed like he was finally crashing by this point, but we were both hungry, so we got dinner at Olive Garden, which gave him his second or third wind. It was either that or the prospect of Half Price Books. And our trip to Half Price Books went the way most of our trips to used book stores go–I have so many books I want to read that I was walking around with a big stack that I’m told made me look ridiculous and cost me $70 bucks and he found a couple obscure paperbacks that probably only cost him a few bucks.

We’d planned on going to to a comic shop near my apartment on our way back, partly so he could meet up with a friend, but it closed earlier than we thought. He usually goes by himself, but I bought volume one of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman there awhile ago and just started it. I’ve been holding off on volume two just in case I ended up disliking it, but now that I’m over halfway through, I want to have volume two lined up. No such luck. I’ll have to tackle that purchase either another weekend or in a panic when I finish volume one.

Instead, we came back to my place, watched some Arrested Development and Cowboy Bebop, then went to sleep.

Paul left Sunday morning–and we forgot about the time change and realized it after my alarm went off and we looked at our phones–and I met up with Brandon, Kelly, and my dad for brunch at the country club my grandfather still belongs to, despite living on the other end of the state. It wasn’t worth it. The food is decent but not impressive and certainly not worth the effort getting ready and driving out, at least not from my apartment.

But from then on, at least when I finished my grocery shopping, it was a lazy Sunday.

On Careers & Shit

I always loved to write growing up. I wrote in my diary and I made up stories. I had an obvious knack for it–I was obviously at reading and writing levels slightly above my peers, my standardized test scores were always really high in English, and my teachers would point out how good I was. They always said I should do something with it as a career and I always said no matter what I decided to do, I’d keep writing, too.

My freshman year of college, I technically went in undecided but was taking classes toward a computer-science degree, which went well at first, but by the end of my first semester, my grades in those classes were pretty terrible.

The story of how I decided to go into writing instead is really kind of stupid. My mom wanted to see that movie Dan in Real Life when it came out, which was actually a decent movie, but I went with her and my dad one weekend. The main character wrote for a newspaper and had published a book, and the whole time, I kept thinking, “That’s what I want.” When I next met with my advisor, writing was declared as my major and I was registered for English classes in the spring.

Everyone thought–and I’m sure some still do think–I was a dumbass. After all, there are no jobs in writing, and the newspapers that would have them are all dying out! But I said, “Fuck that, I don’t care.” I wasn’t in it for the money. I knew I was risking low paychecks for potentially the rest of my life, but I’m really good at the English language. I may not be the best writer and I may get things wrong (it is a complicated language, seriously), but I know what I’m doing. It’s always been the one subject in which I could tell you the right answer and know it was right but not really explain how I knew it–I just did. And I love it, too–I legitimately enjoyed all but one English class I ever took in college, and what ruined that one was a mediocre professor. When I was at mandatory English department events, I felt at home, cliched as that is, and Paul said at Jakiela’s book launch over the summer that it was one of the only events/places where I seemed to be genuinely happy and comfortable. Besides, I watched my mother come home every day from a high-paying job she hated that she still thinks has made her depressed and stressed and decided pretty quickly I wasn’t gonna sell out for a good paycheck.

In a bizarre yet potentially cruel twist of fate, I found a job with my writing degree faster than some of my peers did with more “marketable” degrees, including Paul’s fancy engineering degree. I’m making less money than probably everybody I know, but I’m also not miserable. In fact, other than stressing myself out for no reason and that whole bit about seeing a therapist, I’m actually pretty happy and in a very good place.

I’m not sure how many of my peers can say that. My Twitter feed is full of people who are unhappy in their fields or used to be then switched gears. Paul is flat-out leaving his job no matter what happens, it’s just a matter of where he’s going and when. I obviously can’t speak for anybody, but I know enough from having heard both Paul and his mom talk that it seems there was a large focus on getting a degree that would get you a good, high-paying job rather than a fulfilling career that won’t leave you miserable until retirement, and I’m guessing others were probably in a similar position. And here we all are in our early 20s, some realizing already it wasn’t worth it.

I’ve always known I was lucky to know what I wanted to do, but I was also ballsy enough to say, “Fuck it,” and do it anyway when people told me not to. Tip for those wanting to write or go into something artsy or otherwise frowned upon for lack of a job market: work your ass off and seize opportunities, and when you do land a job, it pretty much shuts everybody up. Don’t let anyone talk you out of happiness.

Oh, and I guess this would be a good time to say I’m officially in the early planning stages of writing a book about local veterans in the area.