February 18, 2019

You know what time it is...!? Time for the semi-biennial oB update! Even though the last one took 7 years. It's not an exact science. Jumping right in... lots of things to talk about, but probably the biggest thing for me personally is the completion of my new record! HUGE down HERE has finally finished its long-rumored, oft-delayed, once-shelved-for-three-years, 4th full-length long player: ten songs of guitar-driven love as an epic ode to my lady called BRING IT ON. I've even created a couple of music videos, including a lyric video for the first track on the record, "Wednesday", which you can check out right here. I have pseduo-plans for a follow-up, but that will take a minute. You can feel free to peruse the songs and make a purchase (we got real copies made this time!!) over on our Bandcamp page... rock it out!

It was a loooooong time coming and we're mostly happy with the final product. Here's to hoping the next one arrives before 2027. Another long time coming, we finally listened to The Monkees and bought ourselves a dog. His name is Charlie and he is long, lean, largely brown, and kind of a lunatic. We don't know much about him prior to taking him off of the shelter/foster's hands at approximately age 2, back in late May of 2017. He checked a lot of boxes I was looking for... they thought he was part whippet, and because of Ashley Whippet, that was my way in. He's young, quiet, fast, loving, very chill when he's chill. He spends a lot of time on the couch. He was a ball of nerves and painfully skinny when we got him, but he's filled out a little bit and relaxed... um... ok, scratch that last part. He's still one huge frayed nerve ending. It's been an adventure, to say the least. When he's not chill, he's overly hyper and high strung. Easily spooked. Gets the shakes, for no reason. Jumps on and off people. Often has trouble calming down. Has destroyed countless books, remote controls and toys and things. And has developed an inability to not shit in the house. Other than that, he's become quite the lap dog, and again, when he's chill he's great. Mostly very sweet. If we could only get him to hold his poo in his butt for more than 5-6 hours at a time, we'd all be a lot better off. Or if he hears a noise. Or if someone he doesn't know walks in. Or if I'm outside and don't come in the house right away. Or if he was just out in our big yard for 20 minutes and comes back inside. Or if he sees another dog through the window. Or any other number of things that make him decide to unload in our living room. Oh, and if he could catch a Frisbee... that'd be great, too.

Some sad news: in November of 2017, I was minding my own business driving down the road and someone decided to ignore the law (and the laws of visible physics) and un-yield to me at a green light that I had, and attempted to turn directly in front of me. My poor paid-off car was unable to avoid a collision and smacked into some huge SUV fortress which received minor damage, but my crumpleable Saturn folded up like a chair. It absorbed most of the crunch, I was completely unhurt, but my old car was totaled. It wasn't terribly damaged but it was 10+ years old with 100K+ miles. (Sadlly, I have no photographic evidence). And of course since the other driver's (Farmer's) insurance was nothing but shite - they really do go out of their way to avoid paying you what they should - it ended up costing me money to rent a car until the matter was settled, and then they gave me a paltry sum to replace my car, which I could only use as a small down payment on a new car, which of course gave me an unplanned car payment for the first time in years. I got an old, used, quite reliable 2007 Honda Civic (named Cindy) but I miss my ol' girl and all the money I had planned on saving.

Ironically, the one thing my Saturn lacked was a functional CD player (I was plugging in a Discman for YEARS) and the biggest problem in the Civic was busted stereo speakers. I have since replaced them with nice upgrades, so my system is boomin'! It has some other odd quirks, but mostly is pretty damn solid for being as old as it is. And I bought it used with only 1 owner! Another side effect of losing my old car was that I no longer have use of its OnStar system, which included my own phone number for my car. Most of you probably know that I have never owned a cell phone and I have never wanted one, and I have been able to avoid that and still not anger my wife (too much) by having the phone in my car. When I lost that, I had to do something. I was able to find a super cheap ($5/month!) super low-fi old-school circa 2003 cell phone, so I have officially joined the dark side. It's not even a flip phone, which would at least be kinda cool! I can basically only text or call, and the screen is about an inch wide (my eyes want to murder me when I use it), but it is what it is. I have no desire to ever get a smart phone, but my wife loves that I can text her. I get it, and it's useful, but my brain hurts just looking at it. I've had it over a year and the price hasn't changed, so I'm all for that... except that I still have to push each number button 1-4 times depending on the letter I want to text!

I started playing in a weekly basketball league a couple years before my last update and am still very much enjoying hanging with the Over 40 dudes every Wednesday night. I'm now in my 4th year with those guys. It's become quite the respite in my week, the hump which gets me through the slog. Some nights I still look like I haven't played in years, but more often than not this regular playing has led to me looking like I have some actual skills. I even started recording video on the sly to make highlight reel recaps! Those are unlisted but if you ask real nice-like I would be happy to send you the private link. After you take literally over 20 hours of game footage and reduce it to a half hour of highlights, I look pretty good! I took a break from softball for the first time since the 90's and didn't play last summer. It was super weird, but I needed the break. I re-upped in the fall and played reasonably well, so I went ahead and jumped back in for this summer. I like most of the guys I play with, though the commute to get to games (30+ miles away, depending) is kind of rough. The price has gotten better since we got a solid sponsor, and that helps. The team dropped down to a lower division when I took my hiatus, and has won our division two straight seasons, whereas we used to be a little better than a .500 team in the tougher league. I have a championship pint glass and our sponsor has a big-ass trophy, but we only lost 1 regular season game all last year and most of them were kind of blow outs. I have a feeling we might move back up, which seems right. We lost our starting short stop to a blown Achilles in the last game of last year, so that will be tough, but that probably means I get to play a little more!

Speaking of being over 40, I am 44 now and have been more and more aware of my thinning hair. I saw a picture someone took of me from behind last year and with the flash on, my emerging bald spot was painfully obvious and almost perfectly round. I knew it was there but I never really knew how defined it was. I'm not vain enough to really care that much about my hair, but surely would rather it be there than not. However, haircuts are not free and my hair still grows really fast and I very much don't like how it poofs out after it grows out. I also have very greasy hair and in the winter time, I want to wear a hat - but it just flattens my hair like crazy and looks super gross. I've been contemplating just buzzing it for some time and I think I just made that leap the other day. I'm in week two and I'm pretty sure it's here to stay. No need to mourn, no applause. I'm just trying be like Mike. I don't love how big my forehead is and it's now more obvious, but I am enjoying the cost savings and the freedom and the ease of the breeze. It's also way less noticeable if I don't shower for a couple days. Just saying.

Steph and I are both still employed at the zoo... and are now both in the middle of our 20th years there. Wow. Some days are better than others, I don't love everybody I work with (who does!?) but it's still not a bad gig. Job security is a big plus in my book. It gets harder as I get older, though, that's for sure. The zoo is planning some monumental infrastructure changes in the coming years, so we'll see how that goes. And I have my 10th (or so) different boss in 20 years (which is actually much higher if you count all the repeats) so hopefully that has stabilized. Steph has actually recently completely changed departments and now works in Operational Services, carrying out mail and package delivery, supply ordering/delivery, running our warehouse and doing a myriad of other things. It's quite the change from being a keeper for so long but she is enjoying it so far, and the bonus is that it comes with WEEKENDS off and most holidays, as well! This means we have a weekly day off together (one, for now) for the first time in 8 years!! And we will no longer struggle to find child care on Christmas! She also got her Realtor license last year, though that has not gone as well as we'd hoped. We'll see how that ends up working out, but so far it's been difficult. That's a tough business.

I'm still very much obsessed with music, still buying CDs (somebody should!) and going to plenty of concerts. In terms of sheer numbers, both of those are down a bit, though. My willingness to pay ridiculous ticket prices is not very high, and some of that money is going toward the dog. My yearly concert totals haven't topped 40 since 2013 (from 2003 through 2013, it only dropped under 40 once) but I still average about 3 a month. There is still nothing better than live music. Late in 2017 I also completed my gear-up for Root Beer brewing, and made a couple batches, but they were both absolute shit. I took a break from that last year but I plan to jump back in and try to figure that out. I have big plans for that, so hopefully I can crack the nut. I haven't been to a Story Slam in a few years, but those are always on the table. I am also still very much overly invested (emotionally) in Purdue Basketball and was able to make 2 games this season after 3 each the previous two. The Big Ten Tournament was on the East Coast the past two years (NYC/DC) which was great, but it's back in Chicago now. After last year's letdown (losing our starting center to injury in the first NCAA tournament game in which we were highly seeded and favored to make a Final Four run) we were not expected to be that good this year. We've surprisingly made a push for a Big Ten championship (tied for 1st with 6 games to go) and have no bad losses, meaning our seed should be fairly high. I had concrete plans to get to the Final Four last year if we made it, and am working on those plans, unexpectedly, again for this year. If they make it, I will come. Some way, some how. We tend to do better when the expectations are lower, so maybe this is our year?

Stone is 8 years old now, in 2nd grade and full of attitude. It's a daily struggle. But he's smart and does very well in school and really enjoys it. He excels in art and seems to like science and math. He's very creative and crafty at home and makes all kinds of interesting things. He now regularly plays baseball, soccer and basketball. Last season he was picked for the 7-yr old travel team (baseball all-stars) and loved that. Just recently he completed his first season of playing actual games in basketball, whereas previously it was all just instruction, and he was his team's starting point guard (!) and his team ended with the best record. Just saying. And even with that, he says his favorite sport (currently) is soccer! He's come a long way since his pre-K freeze-when-you-look-at-him days. He now of course loves the Eagles and the Sixers but he likes Purdue, too, and I even took him to his first Purdue game at Rutgers last year. His first Sixers game is later this week! If we could only convince him to be a little less combative/argumentative/negative. :-)

Part of the reason Stone loves the Eagles/Sixers (he still doesn't have a great attention span when it comes to actually watching sports games on TV) is because of the HUGE fan that Tristan is of these teams. I'm not even quite sure how Tristan became a 76ers fan because he didn't pay much attention to any kind of basketball up until a couple years ago. But I took him to a playoff game last year and it was pretty exciting. It was kind of a surprise for him and he was beyond stoked. It helps that the team is actually really good now after years of mediocrity. Plus, of course, the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.... Tristan has also been more active outside of his video game console lately, which is fabulous. He's getting ready for his 2nd season of Ultimate Frisbee and just finished a season on the Dive team, his first. He took the PSAT last year, is getting ready for the SAT and is contemplating colleges and reasons (majors) to attend them. He's also looking hard at Navy ROTC. He's a soon-to-be 17 yr old junior taking almost all AP or Honors classes and doing reasonably well, and just got his driver's license last month. God help us! ;-)

So all in all, hanging tough and doing well where we can. I need more sleep and to make better time management decisions. No major complaints. I'm super psyched to finish the new record and am looking very forward to writing and working on new songs. I hope I can figure out the whole root beer thing. I need to get better at corresponding with my friends and relatives. I have continued to take a billion pictures of things but I have very much slacked in getting them online. Maybe I can work on that. Otherwise, I do update things on the website here, just not so much on the "news" front. Looking very forward to Steph being happy in her new job and to seeing my boys do as well as they can in whatever they choose. Peace out and Boiler Up!

April 25, 2017

Ummm... hey, how ya been? It's been a minute. I thought I'd finally put up something here just in case someone stumbles by and gives a darn. I know technically there hasn't been any new "news" here since 2010 when Stone was born, but I have been keeping up with certain things. The concert listings are always up to date (now listed chronologically, alphabetically or by venue!) as is the CD database. Ditto the band website (HUGE down HERE) and my "bio", which is regularly updated and more or less current. My new-ish music blog (Bands That Are Awesome) also features a relatively recent article after a lengthy break. I certainly have added some concert photos but I also have a healthy backlog of photo sets to edit and upload, including most of the ones I've taken with my new camera (a Canon that replaced my Sony from 2004 (!) but which is also still not as good at taking concert pics). I'm planning another upgrade soon-ish. There are some other newer personal photos up as well, but that backlog is even worse, bordering on ridiculous. I love taking pictures, but the editing/cropping/sifting/uploading/cataloging kills me. I have all of one picture up of my son, officially, who is now 6 years old. Unofficially, I started a chronological photo set of Stone that will be rather large, but is currently stalled at One Year Old. I'll let you see what's in there for now... which is 120+ photos.

I haven't added anything new to Steph's section, and we just hit 10 years married last September. WOW. I also haven't put anything recent up on Tristan's page and he just turned 15. He's in High School! YIKES. I took a rather huge break (4+ years) from recording music but I've been regularly back into that for some time now and am planning a release for (probably) later this year. I haven't played music in public since an open mic at The Fire in late 2008, though. I did put up something about my first Story Slam back in 2008, but very little about the subsequent multiple return trips I made, which included 3 Story Slam wins (this one probably being my best) and thus 3 battles for the title of "Best Storyteller In Philadelphia" in 2009, 2010 and 2012. I won none of them but did manage to capture "Best Content" (basically the runner-up prize) in the 2nd one... the other two, I might as well have been given the last place prize. I have told stories at 15 slams (including 3 un-judged guest-storyteller slots) so I've "won" an average of 25% of the time, but I haven't been to any since December of 2012. Competitive storytelling is a little weird to me (the being judged part), but it's good fun. I keep meaning to go back and happily will if the planets align with the theme and my schedule, though I should probably be a little more proactive about it.

So besides all that stuff, the un-updated things are mostly just news about life. It's funny, I love documenting things - if it weren't obvious from this website - and that involves a lot of sharing of personal information. But I get to really choose when/where/how that narrative gets told. What I am not a big fan of is sharing on social media. Not a big fan of the "me me me me look at me" attitude of the internet, really. I do not have a personal Facebook account, though I keep a fake one to follow bands - which all started when I missed a Sara Bareilles concert announcement that only happened on social media. Grrrrrrrr. I also have a fake Twitter account for the same reason. I have used both of those to communicate with musicians I love, which is great. I don't have Instagram, I don't use Pinterest, I have never Snapchatted. All of this is related to the fact that I still have never owned a cell phone. I don't really care, so stop rolling your eyes. I don't own a tablet - I don't like touch screens much in general - although I do have an old refurbished iPod Nano (from like 2006!) and only because Tristan didn't want it anymore. I do use it, but rarely. And only to listen to music that I can't buy on CD.

What I do use, kind of, is my YouTube account, and I have several videos on there, mostly of my children, for my relatives and friends to see. Some of them are mildly amusing and range to pretty freakin' hilarious. There's a backlog of videos to upload, too, but there are plenty of recent ones. I have planned on putting up more videos about me directly and probably will eventually, but it's currently mostly just glimpses of what my kids are like, and that's well and good. I would say I don't really blog (my music blog has little do with me except for my musical opinions) but only in the traditional sense in that I don't use Blogger or Tumblr or whatever. I do realize this website is basically a blog (which is a stupid word). It's mainly just an archive, really.

But back to life (back to reality?)... Steph and I both still work at the zoo, though she changed positions just as Stone was born back in 2010. We had worked on the same team for several years prior to that, and it became increasingly difficult to get time off together. We also needed to make sure one of us was home for both weekend days for Stone. She's in a different building now and our schedules don't directly affect each other's - as much - (we still have opposite weekends, which we've dealt with for 7 years, so the only time we get off together is when someone takes a vacation day). We're both now in the early parts of our 18th years at the zoo. She was awarded the Employee of the Year trophy at the end of last year! Woo! My team also won an award, but essentially just because the animals we take care of had a bunch of babies - we got the credit but the monkeys did most of the work. I am still in the exact same position that I have been for my entire career at the zoo: Monkey Man Extraordinaire (I'm paraphrasing). I was the Parent Committee Chair for Tristan's scout pack for a couple years. Steph has been the Secretary/Treasurer of our zoo's union for several years now, used to be the vice president, and was also a steward. She ran Tristan's elementary school's Box Tops program for years and is also currently the treasurer for Stone's school's PTA. She also recently joined a Cross Fit Cult, I mean gym (er, box?), and absolutely loves it. And dragged Tristan into it, too (willingly).

I left the zoo softball team last year, after much soul searching. It's a long story, but that was one of the saddest days of my life. I played on that team for 16 years with 11 seasons as Team Captain. I miss some of the players (a lot), I miss some of my opponents, I miss my team - but there's a lot of stuff I don't miss about being the boss. I play now on another team in a different league, on Sundays (Zoo team was week nights) and it's a whole lot different but also a lot easier on my schedule and psyche. It's nice not having the burden of being in charge, I admit. It's a tough league. I got off to a bit of a rough start, but I'm holding my own now. I have also recently (past couple years) been playing basketball regularly in a weekly "gentlemen's league" of Over 40 dudes, and it's been great fun. Some good players, but nobody's dominating, and some really good guys. I very much look forward to Wednesday nights.

I'm also looking forward to getting my (our) first dog, ever. I love dogs. I wasn't really allowed to have pets as a kid. I had guinea pig(s) - Nibbles and his replacement, Gilligan. And those were a big deal. My parents both grew up on farms and kind of hate cats; we had a dog when I was born but he was gone by the time I hit two years old, so I don't remember him at all. I had a cat named Carter when I was single but he died unexpectedly, young. We'd have a cat already if it weren't for Tristan being painfully allergic. But I have been un-patiently waiting to have a dog since I was a teenager and knew it would only happen when I hit adulthood and had a place of my own that could handle a dog. I've been in apartments and small houses until recently, and now we have a house with a nice back yard, and children who know it's going to happen eventually and who have been hounding me for years now. I've been waiting a little bit, for Stone to grow up a smidge and because I am going to be the primary caretaker and I needed some time. It's mostly just a matter of finding the right dog, now. It's going to be a rescue, and I've been looking. Something medium-sized with long legs that can run and catch things. Something whippet-y. It's not exact. I'll know it when I see it. That's gonna be a good day.

Speaking of moving, we've been in our house now for a little less than 3 years. We were somewhat sad to leave our little house in Drexel Hill, but we felt we kind of needed to get out of that school district, and that little house only had two real bedrooms, anyway. It was kind of inevitable. But we put a whole lot of work into that thing (that section of the website still has a shit ton of photos I want to put up as to how much it had changed over time). I do not miss that bathmat-sized yard, or all five of the square feet in the kitchen, but I do miss all three of those bathrooms! (We only have one now). It took a lot just to get out of there - financially and physically. We took a huge loss on the sale, which took a ton of work and patience. It was not the best time to sell. We had already moved into an apartment near where we live now, so by the time the house had sold, we were more or less out of it. We'd holed up in a little two-bedroom near the new school where Tristan was going. We survived several questionable neighbors - and each other - for a whole year and made it out alive, barely. Had some pretty horrible experiences with the landlord. Halfway through that year, our ceiling started to leak pretty heavily - in the middle of winter. It lasted for days and days, we had multiple buckets and bins catching water from several places. It was ridiculous. I guess it was a roof drainage problem when it freezes and backs up the drain. Landlord was not surprised by it and did not once come to even look at the damage, let alone try to fix it. They told us to make sure to put something down so the floor doesn't get damaged. Gee, thanks. Never thought of that. It actually first started leaking directly onto my computer keyboard, it just so happened we were home at the time. After some time, the leak unveiled an old patch-job on the ceiling - so this was a previous problem that was never fixed in the first place. And eventually it stopped, though not with any assistance or apology. I digress...

So we finally got out looking for new places, and we weren't sure we were going to be able to afford a house right away after selling. We contemplated another year in the apartment, which was likely to actually be another move to a different apartment, but that thought was severely painful. We found a house we both actually liked, and procured some down-payment funds (thanks, parents!)... and woops, it was actually already under contract. Why don't they put that in the listing!? So, another few weeks, and BOOM. We found one. And got it. Took some convincing - the banks are a little stricter these days, eh? And it almost couldn't be more perfect. At the end of a street (no traffic!) within walking distance to middle/high schools, right next to a park, cute colonial brick house with a fireplace, great backyard, nice sized basement with some room for my CDs and a small studio space... we don't love the little hill we're on - it's tough to get up the street when it's icy. But we like our neighbors and our schools and oh, did I mention CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING? I recommend it. (We hadn't had it in anything we owned, as of yet). We're gonna be here for a while. [there will be photos of our current crib up in here, eventually].

There's room in that basement for a drum set, too. Another thing on my wish list that I've been waiting (salivating?) to have since I was a teenager. I used to own one of those JC Penny catalog plastic drum sets when I was like 10 or 11, though it actually lasted a few years. I beat the fuck out of that thing, banging along to Motley Crue and Guns 'N Roses. That was when I discovered I actually have some rhythm. And it was after I had made my own drum set in the garage with cardboard boxes and a large wicker basket thingy that I connected shish-kabob skewers to, to make a hi-hat. No diggity. Eventually, I blew holes in all the drum heads. I've been yearning to have a real kit ever since. Someday soon! I have lots of future plans. Dog, drum set, root beer... yeah, I'm gonna start making my own root beer. Like I need another time-consuming hobby... but I got a book all about the process, and I'm psyched to see what I can whip up. I've sort of become a bit of a micro-brew root beer junkie. I keep a list with all the kinds I've had and it's in the 40s. My most recent one was a caramel-cream root beer called Brownie, originally brewed in Detroit. Holy crap, it was good. That's gonna be fun. Eventually. Also, eventually, I'm going to put together the telescope that Steph got me for Christmas... about 8 years ago. Or was it 6? It was a while. I am somewhat fascinated by astronomy and I have a bit of a jones for the Moon. So I asked for a telescope and she got me a good one. Nothing ridiculously extravagant but not exactly a little table top jobby, either. But holy hell, the instruction manual was written in English and I had trouble following it. I took it out one day with designs on hooking it all up. Why you can't just pull it out of the box and use it is beyond me... but there's some kind of calibration you have to do, and it was insanely specific and complicated, and I just didn't trust my poor eye sight to attempt it at the time. It's still in the box waiting for attempt number two... all these years later. I'm so glad I have it, I just am afraid of putting it together wrong. Someday... soon?

My son is 6 & 1/2 years old now. He's... well, he's who he is. Stubborn as shit, argues anything and everything, loves to drum on things, has trouble functioning in social situations. Not anything like me. He's opened up a lot since starting Kindergarten, actually. He played tee ball but only went to one practice the next season and refused to go back. We signed him up for a "lil' dribblers" basketball class (loves basketball) and halfway through it caused him so much anxiety, we stopped going. He played soccer but didn't love it. But now... he's playing baseball again and having a great time, tells me he wants to play soccer again, then basketball, then karate. We'll see. He still freezes a lot with people he doesn't know. Hides behind us or just straight up ignores people being nice to him. It's frustrating. He also has an appetite for about 3 different things. He eats the same lunch and dinner almost every day. Won't eat cheeseburgers or apple pie or spaghetti or a laundry list of other things that most kids would kill to eat! He says they're disgusting. He only very recently decided he liked pizza! He loves to read, loves animals, loves to draw. Very crafty with anything we recycle... it turns into an art project. And he loves to be tickled. Tristan is somewhat of a typical teenager (attitude, disinterest, hermit-like) and is currently attempting to pole-vault on the high school track team, and says he wants to be an FBI agent. Crap, he's going to start driving soon. He oscillates between the honor roll and very much not, depending on the amount of effort he feels like giving. He's pretty smart when he wants to be. He's also presently into vinyl! Records!

We've kind of all found some kind of hobby that we love and we're getting along pretty well right now, which is nice. The one bathroom thing gives us some problems sometimes. We don't eat meals together all at once as often as we should. But we're all pretty healthy and happy and figuring out how to make it all work, together. I'll take it.

October 1, 2010

That's my boy.

September 27, 2010

Stone Christopher Oberlin
Born September 27, 2010 @ 9:56 am in Philadelphia!
7 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches

Mom, baby, dad & big brother are all doing very well!

September 1, 2010

My wife is all kindsa preggars and still super hot.

Click for larger.

April 26, 2010

There's a little oB brewin'...

Hatch date: late September. :-)

November 30, 2009

Hey, folks. Sorry about the lack of everything... but uh, until I get back to it - check out my new music blog Bands That Are Awesome. Right on.

November 7, 2008

There will be more later (but who knows when) so until then, this was just put online for your viewing pleasure...

This is me, telling a very true and painfully funny story on October 28, 2008 at L'Etage in South Philly at a Story Slam presented by First Person Arts. It was great fun. More info and pictures (mostly video captures) are here. Dig it. I didn't "win" but I was in the lead for half of the show! You can also check out the rest of the night's storytellers here.

February 21, 2007

Welcome to the Year Of The Pig. Boar, whatever. Let's hop right in the mud, shall we?

My folks came to town for a visit the day after I posted the big year-in-review update. 'Twas very nice to have them here for a couple days, and they treated us to some very fine meals. Funny stuff: it was a Christmas visit, yet they forgot the gifts. Dad also forgot to pack underwear. And, Mom forgot her camera - because, it turns out, she left it at my Grandma Oberlin's house and Dad had forgotten to retrieve it (twice) when he went to visit her after Mom left it there. Good times! So I took a few pictures and sent some to Ma. Dad bought some new underwear. And we gave them their gifts without reciprocation. hehe. They sent their gifts UPS when they got back. We did some sight-seeing at the same two places we tried to go last year (during their Christmas visit then) when we were doubly denied. I got a Tower Tour reservation precisely one-half hour before the Masonic Temple tour, and since the Tower Tour is exactly 15 minutes, that would give us exactly enough time to get out of City Hall and across the street to get tickets and be there in time for the tour of the temple. And it even actually went as well as that sounded! The tower was amazing and it was fabulous to get back up there. I first went up in July of '04, with Desiree. Quite the contrast to be up there in the middle of winter, but still got some great pictures. Tristan seemed to enjoy the view; I was worried he might get a little scared being up so high. But it was all pretty sweet. The folks were really digging it. The Masonic Temple was an unexpected delight. I really didn't know as much about it as I should have, but we sure learned a bunch. And the place was colossal and magnificent. Our guide was beyond hilarious, sort of unintentionally. Tristan was a really good boy during the tour. I took a bunch of pictures during their visit, but due to the nature of some of the pictures and already existant photo pages of similar items, the pics are scattered. The scenic pictures of the city from the tower are in the Original Philly Photos section and mixed in with the earlier pictures. The Masonic Temple photos have their own picture page with some information on Freemasonry included. I took a few great pictures of Tristan which are over on his page, and at least one of Steph & Tristan is included right here. I'll give you a taste...

Not even a week after the folks were here, I had the opportunity to do something really cool and - *gasp* - WORK related. A friend/co-worker and I were given a couple of paid days to go up to the Bronx in NYC and hang out at the zoo and get to know a couple of their gorillas that were going to be moving to Philly. This worked out incredibly well; I genuinely like the company of the co-worker in question (bison!) and a third, crabbier co-worker had dropped out at the last minute. Mileage and meals and hotel costs were reimbursed. We got to meet up with Jay after he got off work and had dinner at a great Italian place near Madison Square Garden. And, for some strange reason, almost all the people we met and hung out with at the zoo were really cool. It was kinda bizarre how nice most of the folks were. I even met someone who grew up in Ft. Wayne, went to Northrop high school (10 minutes from my parents current house) and graduated from IU! Crazy. They have TWENTY-FOUR gorillas. We have FOUR. This is insane. It was such a completely different operation but it all seemed to work pretty well, which was mind boggling to us. They had 4 baby gorillas all about a year old and they were fucking adorable. It was like Baby Central up there. We saw a baby okapi, a baby giraffe, two baby rhinos, some baby ebony langurs, a baby mandrill, 23 wild dog pups. TWENTY-THREE pups!! We only have 3 dogs, and their pack total was in the 40s. Yikes. I took my camera but had some technical difficulties, but Anna came through and took a boatload of pictures. It was super awesome to see & hang with Jay, and the staff at the zoo were great. And even though it was bitterly cold, with a bit of snow & sleet on the last night, the trip was overall a grand success. Here are some tasty samples, courtesy of my most pleasant road-tripping partner Anna Thomas:

And then not even a week after that, I went to my first gig of 2007, Erin McKeown at Tin Angel. Another bitterly cold evening, but a really good show. The band she's got this tour is really tight, and she was in an especially jovial mood. The crowd was really feeling it and it rubbed off on her. It was the Philly release show for her new record, which is fantastic. I got a few good pictures. I just saw the first of the two Charlie Hunter shows I'm going to this month (he's doing a residency @ World Cafe Live) and got some decent pics at that one. Watching him play makes my fingers hurt, it's nuts. Oh yeah! 24 had its two-night, four-hour season premiere right before the Bronx trip, too. Anyway, here are some pictures of Erin & Charlie:

I have a slew of solid shows lined-up for the coming months, including Will Hoge (tonight! releasing a new live CD), Charlie Hunter (again!), Dave Barnes (haven't seen him play before!), Kill The Alarm (releasing a new CD), Matt Duke (playing at a new coffeehouse very close to here that also has an open mic night), Stephen Kellogg (releasing a new CD) and Fooling April (releasing a new CD). Lots of new records! And apparently, 2007 is also the year for really old bands reuniting? Rage Against The Machine isn't all that old, but to hear they were getting back together to play a gig? Wow. Even if it's only that one show. But now Chris Cornell is leaving Audioslave. Could Rage be back for a while? Genesis is touring for the first time in a long time. David Lee Roth is touring with Van Halen, too?! (For the first time since 1984, but not as cool as it should be since Eddie's 15-year-old son Wolfie is playing bass and not Michael Anthony). The FUCKING POLICE are touring for the first time since 1985! Sting looked downright giddy during Roxanne at the Grammys. WOW. I'm gonna lose a lot of money for that ticket. And Crowded House?!? Neil Finn, what's up with that? Not that I'm complaining... but since you basically said it would never happen and then Paul died and it seemed impossible. But bring it on, just bring it to Philly and don't bring it too expensively. You too, Sting. Is there something in the water? I heard a vague rumor that even the remaining members of Led Zeppelin possibly might get together and do something this year. The mind shudders. It must be karma for all the bands that I love that broke up last year (see previous entry!).

Speaking of Rock, Tristan wants to be a rock star when he grows up. He's starting early. In late December, he did an a capella medley of songs he made up on the spot. It was Rock Time. He had a fake mic in his hand and belted 'em out. We got it on video, but I made an MP3 of it for your listening pleasure. So go ahead and right click and select "save as" on this link. Download the tune and then play it on your media player. Awesome.

Valentine's Day was just last week, and apparently I'm married to one of the 6 women on the Earth who don't really like Valentine's Day. I mean, sure, it's kind of a made-up holiday, greeting cards and roses and candy prices are way overboard and ridiculous, but come on. What's wrong with an excuse to dote on your loved one? I think Steph would actually be a little mad if I spent too much money on her, but I have to do something. I got her a bunch of her favorite flowers, purple iris. And a big bag o' candy hearts, which she inhaled in about 32 minutes. In fact, here's photographic proof. And the message I wrote out on the table using the hearts. Click on it and you can follow along.

Speaking of Steph, we finally got our wedding pictures back a couple weeks ago. They are very, very nice indeed. We got a complete set of digital pics but they're all ready-to-print size, not ready-to-put-online size... so, it's gonna be some time before we get most of them on here. In the meantime, you can check out a few for now. All are copyright Geoff Horowitz, aka Leapfrog Photography. Hire him, he's the shit.

I've had six doctor appointments in the past six weeks. Two chiropractic, two general physician, one dentist, and one radiological. I had an upper GI barium series done a couple weeks ago. Fun and yummy. Not really. But not as bad as I had read and heard. The radiologist who actually administered the test was ALL BUSINESS. He was all about GETTING IT DONE. I didn't even meet him until I was strapped into the x-ray contraption and he came at me with barium in one hand and a napkin in the other. Umm... hi? He was also a bit elderly. And I didn't know that they would be able to see things "live" as the barium was going through me, on a sort of monitor/TV hooked up to the machine. It was kinda cool. He almost seemed disappointed that he couldn't see anything going on other than gastro-esophogeal reflux. I got the report a week later from my doctor and it said there was "much" reflux (which was the first she'd ever heard of that) but no hernia or ulcer or anything else wrong with my esophogus or stomach. So they started me on another med to see if it will help and then go from there. So far, after a week it has definitely decreased my discomfort - in fact the relief was almost immediate; but it's still there to a certain extent and seems to have leveled off (at least it doesn't seem like it's going away any more than it has). I also have another appointment next week with an orthopedist about my hardened/bruised/bulging knee. Just in time for softball season... practice starts in a little over a month! Opening day should be around mid-April. Sweet. Let's go.

We just got our plane tickets for my brother's wedding in Houston in April. I get to be an usher this time (his third). And right before that, we're taking a family trip to fucking Disney World. I know. Since Tristan has materialized a mysterious fear of flying, we're actually taking the train. I plan on writing a couple dozen songs on the ride down. Thank goodness for portable DVD players that we got for Christmas from Steph's Mom. I played another open mic last week, too. It was my 14th, and I swear I'm getting worse. It's like a comedy of errors everytime I try to play a song. I really need to practice more. And it would help if my guitar worked right - turns out something is wrong with the pickup in my acoustic (meaning it won't play in an amp if plugged in). We'll get better - I hope. Still working on that new record, by the way. And my sister Heather had a birthday last week. She would have been 40, had she survived her fight against myelodysplasia. That's all I got.

January 15, 2007

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the fucking man.

January 10, 2007

Good grief!
(aka My 2006 Year In Review, In A Very Large Nutshell)

I know. My bad. Just pretend it was a bad dream. I'm the boogey man. Boo.

But, oh wait! A-ha! Twern't a bad dream a'tall! No, 'twas a great year! A very busy, busy, busy year.

I bought a house*. I got married*. (*also involves Steph). A house?! MARRIED!! Hot damn! Yes, 'tis true! Though it sometimes seems like a surreal trip through someone else's life, it all happened to me. I even bought a brand new car, visited my first Caribbean island, attended my first NFL game (well, pre-season) and witnessed my very first Chinese New Year celebration. Two trips to Indiana. Two other weddings attended. Three bands I love called it quits. Sigh. Thirty seven concerts. My second season as softball coach. Finished my SEVENTH year in Philadelphia. I found documented family history dating back to the late 1600s. And I discovered Matt Duke. So, as you can see - rather eventful. Let's recap, with some pictures interspersed. Please do make sure you're quite comfortable.

I last "updated" this page back in January of 2006, but that's not entirely accurate. I update parts of the website constantly - the CD database, the concert list, the pictures page, the band page, during softball season, etc. I usually offer up a synopsis every couple of months to wrap things up and bring people up to speed. I kept meaning to... after we bought the house... ok, after we got settled... ok, after softball was over... ok, before the wedding... ok, after the honeymoon... ok, before Thanksgiving... ok, by Christmas... it just kept getting passed to the back. It happens. You'll get over it.

I definitely took a lot more pictures in 2006. About halfway through, I learned how to use a very nice feature of my camera (one of several I don't know exist, I'm sure) that really, really helped with the taking of concert photos (you'll see). I finally remembered to take it to a lot more shows. Some of them are pretty nice, I think. One thing that I've been meaning to do for some time, I finally got the chance to do in late January, shortly after the last update. I brought in the Year of the Dog, Chinese style.

Check out my lion technique!

It was rather haphazardly organized, not entirely well-done, but very interesting and educational. I learned a lot about some of the traditional things they did AFTER the fact, when I looked stuff up. Since I work during the day when they do most of the parades, I was only able to go to the actual Chinese New Year's *Eve* celebration, so it was dark and late. The pictures aren't fabulous. You get the idea, though. And I only had to dodge vehicles for a short time. But those firecrackers were fa-reakin' LOUD. Check out the pictures and get much more info on Chinese New Year thangs. Right on.

In February, the Steelers won the Super Bowl! The Bus is The Man. That was great. We also went to a tasting at the Valley Green for prospective wedding couples. It was pretty cool, nicely done and the food was GREAT. Better than we expected, even (more on that later). I loved this chicken cordon bleu kinda thing and Steph was digging the salmon. Their event planner person (Elise) was there but she was on her way out for some other gig and the new one (Kate) was there and they both seemed cool. Elise was really nice to us when we booked the joint and we were hoping Kate would be on the ball. Seemed like it at the time (more on that later). And then we closed on our house. We basically had all the stuff done last time I talked to ya, so it was mostly just a matter of time... everything went pretty smoothly and then, holy shit, we were homeowners! We ended up having the settlement in the middle of the month, so we had a couple weeks to get stuff ready to go at the house (and we did a lot of that) and also get stuff ready to leave at our apartments before we made the big move. The girl who worked at my apartment complex (my landlord "liason") didn't know I was moving out because her bosses didn't tell her, so that was kind of a funny moment. For me. It took me many, many trips in my car to get my shit moved - long after Jim & Eric helped us move in the U-Haul, which went well, too. It took some effort to get Steph's couch in the basement (well, Jim & Eric's effort) and Jim told me after they got it down there that "it's probably not coming back up". And, we couldn't get Steph's queen bed box spring up the stairs. Not at all. The ceiling on the stairwell was just too low and it was too narrow to angle it through. We ended up buying a split box spring... many weeks later. Because of that, and the fact that we were still doing renovation work on Tristan's room when we moved in, we set up his bed and my old full-size bed on the floor in the basement and basically lived down there for a few weeks.

Tristan's got the Capt. America sheets, not us.

We completely re-did the master bedroom (removed wallpaper, painted), Tristan's bedroom (put up a new wall, removed wallpaper, painted), and did major work on the basement (new carpet) and bathroom (removed shower doors, put up new rod & fixtures). The wallpaper removal was the biggest job, and Tristan's room was ridiculous. I spent about 8 hours cleaning out the fridge. The whole place was nasty filthy dirty. I've got a boatload of pictures to put up here, with complete and detailed descriptions of things we did and will do, but that's not quite done yet. It will be sometime this year! Stay tuned. Steph's mom also got married in February, and it was a sweet little wedding at a bed & breakfast up in Phoenixville. I took some nice pictures. And then it snowed a whole bunch. In March, we finally finished unpacking and got that new box spring so we could sleep in our bedroom. Steph was way tired of sleeping in the basement. And that was about it for March.

Tristan turned 4 on April 1st. No foolin'. We had a massive Chuck E. Cheese blowout and I ate about 1.7 large pizzas. It was painfully good. It took about 2 hours for Tristan to be comfortable to step one foot inside the big overhead-tunnel-system-climbing-thing they have there, and then we couldn't get him out of it. I literally had to pull him out by the feet as he was about to go back in for the 19th time. My bro Jeff came to visit the house! The first official relative (of mine) to see our shack. He was on a business call for a couple days (Cindy was back home in Houston) and I had to drive his lazy ass around a lot, but hell he bought us dinner! Or at least his company did. Sweet. Softball season began with a bang (and a win) and we had very high hopes. Oh, we did. We surely did. My second season as "coach". Right before our first game, I was walking down a steel spiral staircase with wet feet and both hands full. I slipped. My knee broke my fall - by slamming into one of the metal rungs on the side. It hurt like a sumbitch. I sat down for several minutes. I didn't think much of the swelling when it ballooned up. I iced it a bunch of times. It felt better after a while. The swelling did not. It's still there. Yeah, that was back in April. We'll return to this later.

Not much happened in May except for probably continued minor work on house projects and softball games. We proceeded to lose three straight games, all by one run, after our opening day victory. It was tough. We had a major lead in one of those games and lost it in the last inning. We had a minor lead in a great game that went back and forth but lost it in the last inning. And we had a major lapse in talent while losing big to a bad team, and almost caught up to them but couldn't quite get that last run, in the last inning. And already we were having trouble fielding more than 10 or 11 players for a game. You only need 8 to play, 11 is a full team, but we had 17 people on the team. We just couldn't get them all there at the same time. We (Steph, Tristan & I) all went up to Steph's Aunt Gail's house for the big Dogwood Festival of Phoenixville. Aunt Gail happens to live smack across the street from Reeves Park, and they have a fair/carnival thing there every year. Took some pictures, ate some greasy food, won some cheap prizes, rode some cheap rides, and heard Matt Duke play some songs. Matt Duke. Yeah.

I prowl the outfield. ~ Steph & Tristan super slide.

My mom very graciously wanted to host a pseudo-bridal shower for Steph back in Indiana, and it ended up being in June. She knew Steph didn't want it to be a big thing, and mom invited all the local girls in the fam and a bunch came. No major ordeal, just hanging out in the house and doing girly stuff. A few generous gifts (including a whopper of a Home Depot gift card). We drove out with Tristan, so we did most of the driving either very, very early or very, very, very late. And we didn't have a lot of time, so we didn't stay very long or even really tell any of my other friends we were there. Got to hang with some Grandparents and siblings and nieces and nephews, though. We did sneak off to the zoo (my old stomping grounds) for the first time in some time, for me. Good times. Took some pictures of the various activities. All of the fam loves Steph, as well they better! There was more softball, with not much better results. We started losing some games BIG. We were never in last place. I think. Early in the month, I was downstairs in the studio working on some ROCK and Tristan came down to hang. So we banged out a little song of our own, apparently called "There's A Storm Comin'" (he didn't title it, but he sang all the words and that phrase repeated, ad nauseum). He even strummed the guitar (I held the chord positions). We did it at least three times, and all three versions are now online and can be found/heard here. That kid knows how to rock. Right on. (I literally just finally got them out of the mixer and into the computer the first week of 2007). I also turned 32 in June, and I still have trouble saying that. My man Mike D sent me an awesome gift! An actual exit OB sign! Custom made! Hell yeah!!

That's my exit!

In July, we finally settled on a color for the kitchen walls. I campaigned for yellow and Steph eventually gave in... though it was an even brighter shade than I would have picked, I think. It looks super and we did a decent job. It was fucking hot in there while we were doing it, though. Jeff came back for another visit! With Cindy! Amazing. Another business-type trip, though, so more free food for us! Whatever. We went to the zoo, and ate a lot. A strange thing happened while they were here. We were talking about family history, and I remembered that I had a copy of a letter someone in our Grandmother's family wrote about some of our ancestors coming over from Holland on a ship. Grandma Oberlin had given it to me (and everyone else in the family) several years ago. Jeff remembered getting it but couldn't recall where he put it, so I went to go get mine and make him a copy. I found it where I thought it was, in a shoebox in the basement. The box was on the floor under a shelf, but... the bottom of the box was wet and moldy. The carpet under the box was very damp. FUCK.

Long story short, we found a large pool of water under the carpet on that side of the basement. And had no idea how long it had been there. That was brand new carpet that we had installed in Febraury. It was in a corner that we hardly ever walked on - most of it was under a large bookcase/shelf thing. I don't know how long it would have continued to be there had I not gone looking for that letter. After some demolition, we thought we figured out where the water was coming from... and then a month or so later, it finally rained again and we figured out where the water was REALLY coming from... and it's been a multi-step process that continues to this day to try and completely seal off the leak. It was actually an old leak that had been previously repaired long ago (and covered up by drywall and wood panelling, both cut out & removed in pieces by me) but wasn't mentioned to us when we bought the house. Who knows, the previous owners may not have even known. More on that later on, when we get all the house pictures up. Good times. We had our first 4th of July in Delaware County and got SUPER lucky with our choice of fireworks locations. I tried out my camera on the actual fireworks and got some nice shots. It was a bizarre scene, man. Loads and loads of people in a bit of a snooty town. They put on a good show, though.

And the rockets red glare.

In August, Nellie bit the dust. Sort of. My car started having a treasure trove of troubles (nice alliteration, eh?) in early summer. Air conditioning broke. Bad tires/alignment. Gradual oil leak was getting very un-gradual. Add those to the ever-present non-working speedomter and manual turn signals. And then the radio just stopped working one day. It would come on at random times and work for a day or two and then go off again for two weeks. I was dealing with that until the brakes just up and started crunching like HELL one Sunday morning. Then I finally started to listen to Steph and knew it was time to get a new car. But what? I toiled with the idea of getting a Toyota Prius hybrid but scoffed at the sticker price, looked at conventional economy cars and settled on the Saturn Ion. So I bought one. It's blue! Check out my synopsis of the whole process and some sweet pics of my sweet ride right here. Her name is Ishie.

Real men drive Saturns.

I installed a new light/chandelier in our kitchen in August. You have no idea how long that project took me, nor how immensely proud of myself I am that I didn't burn the house down (or electrocute myself) in the middle of it. I had to put holes in the ceiling and hook up wires and shit, and it was driving me nuts. I've never done anything like it. More on that, of course, will also be in the house pictures section. A band that I love from Jersey called Granian (they played in my house back in December of 2001!) decided to change their name to Kill The Alarm in August. Don't ask me why. They also changed their sound a bit, too... much harder. I still dig it, though, and they played a gig at Grape Street so I took Steph and a couple other friends to go see them play. The funny thing was that we were in the "other room" listening to open mic'ers and didn't know their entire set got bumped up an hour - so when we went into the main stage area at their scheduled time, they were actually one song away from finishing their set. I was ridiculously pissed that we were there and didn't know about it. Plus, we had to pay a cover that was over twice as much as the advertised price on their website calendar. I was brooding about having been taken for a ride, when the band that bumped them came on stage. Mardo. And they fuckin' rocked that joint. They were beyond awesome, so go check them out. But I'm still pissed about that. I wrote Grape Street a letter detailing exactly how they screwed up. Shortly after that I randomly came into some Eagles tickets - and the Steelers were in town! I have never been to an NFL game, ever - and my first one (though pre-season) was all about waving the Terrible Towel. It was pretty sweet - I went with Steph's brother Joe - and though the game was really lame, it was good fun. I took pictures, of course.

Pittsburgh @ The Linc.

August was also chock full of interesting but crappy things. Literally a week after I got the new car, I got pulled over and ticketed for speeding - my first speeding ticket in more than 6 years and my first in Philadelphia (though technically it was in Montgomery County, about a quarter-mile outside of Philly). They had the whole thing set-up like a machine, pulling over 3-4 cars at a time. I was going about 40 in a 25, which is probably slower than most cars usually travel in that stretch of road - and the damn thing cost me $150. Ouch. At the end of the month, we got a notice from the Code Enforcement Officer of Upper Darby Township (where we live) that we were in violation of Township Ordinance #2919. We had debris in the driveway. Now, let me explain. When we moved in to our house in February, there was a wooden deck built onto the side of our house that led to a wooden walkway into our backyard and up to our shed at the back of the yard. It wasn't so much a deck as it was just a wooden patio covering the cement/former car-port. The wood was pretty old and hadn't been treated, so it was rotting out in spots and generally not in great shape. Steph decided she was just gonna pull the whole thing up one day (while I was at work). Her brother was around and helped destroy it with a crowbar, and they piled the whole thing up kind of haphazardly, along with lots of other stuff, in our driveway - which is too narrow for us to park in or otherwise use at all, except for trash can storage. So there it sat, from March until August, a massive amalgamation of wood, nails sticking out everywhere, cinder blocks and pieces of random trash. I pretty much ignored it because to me, it was Steph's problem. I didn't really want her to destroy the whole thing right off the bat but I also didn't have the heart (or guts) to try and stop her, either. And I just didn't want to deal with the pile. But to her credit, some of it was really deteriorated. It needed to come down eventually. Check out our debris pile:

That's a pile of somethin'.

Obviously, we should have done something about it sooner. Kids play in our alley behind the houses a lot, and they had 24-7 unsupervised access to it. Obviously, it wasn't safe for Tristan to be near - though he never was, except for walking past it. Obviously, we didn't exactly know what to do with it all. We couldn't just put it out for the trash pick-up, but we didn't want to have to pay for someone to remove it, either. Threatened with "legal action" to ensure our compliance from the township if we didn't comply (and with no first "warning") - we were told we had to remedy the violation within 3 days. Three days!! I spent the bulk of Labor Day weekend wrecking havoc on my spine by pounding down nails and splitting up shanks of wood and moving around some 40-plus cinder blocks and now-solid bags of former cememt mix. The entire time I was keeping an eye out for whomever it was that turned us in. It's nice to have neighbors who call the cops on you instead of knocking on the door and asking you to clean up your shit. Even better when someone from the township comes to your house and inspects the property, then leaves and sends you a notice in the mail. It took 5 days, I think, but I finally got it all out of our driveway with some help from Jim and his truck, and into several random private dumpsters in the general vicinity of our house (and also including the one at my old apartment complex) - literally narrowly avoiding being caught dumping illegally by police at least twice (in Steph's car, no less). We 'craigslisted' the cinder blocks and some dude showed up and hauled them all away and we didn't even have to speak to him. And THEN - the Township had the nerve to send us another shitty letter threating us with severe fines, saying the property had been re-inspected at a later date and found that the problem had not been remedied. That date was in fact AFTER the date I finished removing it. I was livid, so I called the office that originated the letter, bitched that it WAS removed and told them they were in error. We didn't hear from them again.

September was supposed to begin with the righteous return of Teitur to the stage in Philadelphia. I got there and his opening bands and merchandise were there... but he was not! Apparently he was waiting on his Visa application to go through and was not allowed to come into the country. Bizarre. He returned in December, though without his band, and explained the whole situation. In his own self-deprecating, hilariously charming way. I took pictures (with some audio, too). And we had a little chat in the bathroom. I made it back to The Fort for Michelle's wedding (just a couple of weeks before ours) and it was lovely, though I had to travel without Steph & Tristan, so it was a quick and slightly lonely trip back to Indiana. I was glad I could be there with Michelle, though. Back in Philly, Steph and I got tickets to see Ralph Harris in Philadelphia's new comedy club Helium. That's a nice place, and thankfully it negates any reason to go to the Trop's Comedy Spot in Atlantic City ever again. (see below; August 11, 2005). Ralph is the funniest man in the world and we were both laughing HARD. And he's from Philly! Germantown, baby! Right on. He's in that new movie Dreamgirls, so go check him out. He signed a CD for me! The week before our wedding, I finally made it to a doctor appointment to get my ongoing sinus issues checked out, find out what the hell was going on in my gut (weird digestive stuff happening), and let someone look at my knee bulge. Turns out I have chronic nasal drip, which explains my congestion and constant sore-throat problems (got a prescription that helps clear the nasal passages but does nothing for the drip); apparently I also now have an acid-reflux type problem in my stomach area, though the prilosec my doc gave me didn't do squat, so it's still there; and I got x-rays of my knee and nothing is broken, just tissue swelling - hell, I coulda told ya that. I'm going back to the doctor soon for a follow-up on all three.

And then Steph and I got married! The entire time since my last update we had been doing wedding planning, though of course in the last few months that got upped a notch or twelve. It's almost a miracle we survived the planning. Well, not really... but she was trying to get everything all taken care of and for the most part, I tend to do things when they need to be done and not much sooner. She's not always the most patient person. But we did it. Hell yeah, we did. We paid for almost all of it ourselves, we wrote the entire ceremony ourselves, we planned the reception schedule ourselves. We made all the favors boxes and table markers and part of the invitations, too. We were our own DJ and we also hired a band. We rented a fucking charter bus to get most of our out-of-town guests to the wedding (long story). It was really low-key and unfrilled for the most part, but it still was a lot of work. And I'm happy and proud to say that it went almost exactly according to plan! There were no major quirks, just some colder-than-it-should-have-been weather (ceremony was outside, reception was open-air) and a less-than-stellar performance by the staff of the Valley Green Inn. It wasn't a big wedding - we had about 75 guests, and only one no-show (although, that one was 1 of 4 who were NOT invited, but whom invited themselves!). The ceremony was very sweet and officiated by my lovely friend Erin. Tristan walked Steph down the aisle and she had me crying from the get-go. The reception was rockin', courtesy of Fooling April. And we loved our photographer. Overall, we had a blast and we think most of our guests did, too. We got the whole thing on video, thanks to a very generous gift from my man Mike D (again) and the videography of Steph's brother Joe. We looked fabulous. Let me know if you want a DVD of the wedding! Now... the day before the wedding? That was another story. I'll have tons more about that when I get pictures from the wedding online. We haven't received our professional pictures yet, but we have several from a few of our guests. Preview a couple here:

'Til death do us part. Photos by Wendy Oberlin & Erin Price.

My lovely WIFE and I went on our honeymoon the morning after the wedding, in beautiful Republica Dominicana! Ah, we had a fantastic time... it was warm but rarely too hot, often a little cloudy to help with the sun's intensity, it rained a bit but hardly ever when we wanted to be outside. TONS of food, most of it good, great beach, cool pools, superbly friendly & nice resort staff, and lots of naked Europeans lounging around. It was a trip. We went sea-kayaking, we ping-ponged by the pool, we even caught some kind of a crazy Dominican broadway show. Little lizards running around, the best pineapple juice ever, and swan sculptures made out of bath towels, courtesy of the housekeeping staff. I even got to impress some locals with my knowledge of the spanish language, if you can call it that. Needless to say, I took many, many pictures - some of them you are actually allowed to see - and something like 70 of them are in the process of being put online, as well. Whoa. Until then, here's a teaser...

Honey of a moon.

And then we had to go back to work. Ugh. Say it isn't so. Before we did that, though, we hit up Linvilla Orchards for some sweet apple pie and the ass-kickinest apple caramel dip I've ever tasted. Picked out a couple pumpkins and got a righteous hayride, too. That place was mobbed with people. We also got our first official family picture taken in October, courtesy of the Picture People. It turned out pretty nicely, and as long as Steph is happy, so am I. We sent out several copies to family & such. We have a bunch of low-fi proofs of several poses, but here's a good quality version of the final pose we picked. We got it blown up and it's on the wall now, baby.

Ain't we cute!

November rolled around and was pretty mild, so one afternoon we took a trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences and got all hopped up on dinosaurs and butterflies. Naturally, I took many photos. And then I completely stumbled into something extremely amazing. I cannot even describe to you how cool it is. It's a long story, but luckily I have typed it out with infinite detail. I came across a geneology website that details my Oberlin family history, dating back to the late 1600s in Germany; I can trace my direct lineage back to a guy named John Martin Oberlin. And it turns out, I probably AM related to the guy Oberlin College was named after (and that's what I've been telling people when I wear my Oberlin t-shirts - though I was joking!) No joke now! I found out about some righteously courageous Oberlin relatives who served in the Revolutionary War (and who probably served as George Washington's bodyguards!) and the Civil War and World War II (including an Oberlin killed on Omaha Beach (OB!) during the invasion of Normandy, aka D-Day; and a Pearl Harbor survivor from the USS West Virginia, which was sunk that fateful day). I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am. Here's my family crest.

Check out how awesome we are.

Lots of Orangutan news in November... my old zoo in Ft. Wayne had its first orangutan birth and then subsequently the mother died an hour later. What a horrible tragedy following a very joyous occasion. And I had just seen one of their keepers at Michelle's wedding in September (and two other former orang keepers). Back in Philly, we sent our male orangutan Mango out to Cincinnati, where he's shackin' up with two girls who probably hate him less than Tua (our female) does. Good for Mango. And Tua, who now has a new boyfriend she's getting to know from St. Louis. Looks like she'll be getting the green light to have some babies herself soon. Let's hope that goes well! Gonna miss Mango, though. Thanksgiving was interesting... unfortunately, it wasn't our year to have Tristan but we decided to cook our own bird in our own house. It turned out great - minus the fact that we didn't know we cooked it upside down ("why is all the white meat down there?") - and I didn't even screw up the mashed potatoes from scratch. Steph made a pie and we were quite fat and happy with ourselves, if not a bit lonely. The next day, we put up the Christmas tree in our house for the first time, with Tristan. We have a big-ass tree, as you can see from the pictures. Saw some GREAT shows in November, including my first full Matt Duke set, at Milkboy Coffee... he is probably the best new songwriting/performing talent that I have seen in some time. And he's 21 years old. Fucker. He actually accidentally broke his guitar in two pieces early on in the gig and then proceeded to stomp the crap out of it like he was Pete Townsend. He also wrote the saddest, angriest, most bitter original Christmas song ever - called "Less Egg, More Nog (It's a Deadbeat Christmas)". It's fantastic. I got some great pictures of that show, and of the spectacular Tenacious D show about ten days after that. Jack Black does not disapoint, and I was right up front in the pit for that one. Dig it.

Matt Duke was born in New Jersey. ~ Tenacious D played this gig in New Jersey.

December showed up and I cajoled Steph into going to another Matt Duke show with me, at a bar I'd never been to called Mokas. We got there super early but by the time the music actually started it was super packed. With very young people from nearby colleges. We were feeling a little old and just plain weird (it was a hookah bar, too) and despite some good music (eventually), I don't think we'll be going back there anytime soon. Teitur made it back to Philly after he got his visa renewed and put on a great show. We had our first homeowning Christmas! It was very digital - Tristan got his very own digital camera, I got a DVD burner (that's how I can get you a DVD of the wedding!) and a digital voice recorder/memo thing and tons of DVDs. Steph got some DVDs too, and a lovely diamond/sapphire necklace that nicely matches her gorgeous wedding/engagement ring ensemble, if I do say so myself. I took a few pictures. We did lots of traveling again this year, also in driving rain (again) - but you can't beat good times and good food with good family. Steph's aunt's house for lunch and Steph's mom's for dinner. I just hope we can make it back on a holiday to see some of my family again sometime soon. It's been too long. I caught another great Matt Duke show at the end of the month, just before we saw a pretty sweet almost-full reunion of Stargazer Lily on New Year's Eve with Slo-Mo. Dinner was great, if not severely overpriced, Steph was beyond gorgeous as always, and I got some more good photos of the show. (Scooter was the only Stargazer absent). A lovely way to bring in 2007.

Susan rocks the tambourine.

The house is in decent shape, but I still need to finish scraping/sealing the wall where the leak was in the basement. And then eventually re-drywall that hole and then figure out how we're going to patch the wood panelling in that spot. That will take some time before it's fully finished. We'll also need to put more carpet padding and carpet down in that area, too. Good times. I still haven't gotten around to re-tiling the kitchen floor, and that is a daunting task. I don't want to fuck it up. When that finally gets done, we'll need to add new molding, too. And then finish patching the spot in Tristan's room with more molding, and then move on to either the living room (which hasn't been touched; it needs wallpaper removed, painted, new carpet) or the bathroom, which needs new paint and floor tiles, too. And that's not to mention either of the two half-baths that we NEVER even go into, or the stairwell upstairs with the nastiest wallpaper ever that we can hardly reach. Scary. It will probably be a never-ending series of projects that will continue until we finally decide to sell the house... but at least it will definitely be in much better shape than it was when we moved in. Let's just hope our future selling price will reflect that. :-)

Our beloved Team Zoo softball team finished 4-10 and tied for 5th, but we were never really in the playoff hunt. There was a big chasm between 4th and 5th place. We struggled to fill some big shoes that left a hole in our offense, and we just couldn't get everyone there all at once. If the whole team actually showed up for every game, we could have easily improved our record by a couple games (I'm certain of it). Even so, we lost so many close games that we were only a handful of runs within completely turning our record around. Frustrating, to be sure, but we ended on a very promising note. Our last game was against Philadelphia Business Journal - a nicer crew of combatants, you couldn't find - and we've never beaten them in 6 years of league play. Last year they beat us by 1 in the semi-finals. They finished in 3rd this season and in our last game, we played them fantastically well. It probably helped that the aforementioned "hole" in our offense, one Ken Pelletier, was urged out of retirement for one more game (for the second time this season). It took extra innings and one hell of a team effort, but we beat them 9-8 in 8 innings and notched a glorious victory after 5 straight defeats. AND - Ken told me later that he planned on playing again full-time next season. A happier coach, I could not be! Spring training starts soon. Let's do it.

We were not the champions, my friends.

In addition to the previously noted rock and roll shows, I also was blessed to attend the following gigs in 2006: Will Hoge (three times), Erin McKeown, Lisa Loeb, The Alternate Routes (sort of twice), Pink, Townhall, Gabe Dixon Band!, Live, Fooling April (five times, including my wedding!), Maia Sharp, Granian (twice before they changed their name to Kill The Alarm and then one more time), Ike, Ari Hest, Stephen Kellogg, The Black Keys, Mike Doughty's Band and PEARL JAM, amongst others. Even a Michael Ian Black comedy show in there, too. Gabe Dixon Band is a group I discovered this year (add them to my Matt Duke "awe-inspiring" list) and I can't get enough of their stuff. I just hope to god they come back to Philly sometime. Speaking of great music this year... my man Stook! is getting a LOT of props in Minneapolis for his debut CD and it is well-deserved. I'm really happy for the dude and am proud to have known him when he was a slob who lived in a shack behind his folks's house and couldn't even play guitar. He got nominated for a Minneapolis Music Award, got tons of positive reviews from here, there and everywhere and booked a mini-midwest tour. Right on, Josh. I've even made pretty good progress in remembering to take my camera to shows this year, and I love getting action shots of musicians in their element. The above links are to pictures I took at shows, and I think I'm getting better. Here's some further evidence:

Rock. ~ Rock. ~ Rock.

But hold up - what's up with kick-ass bands breaking up? Stargazer Lily did it in 2004 (it still hurts) but at least they play a random gig here and there. Just this year alone - hell, in ONE month of this past year, May - THREE bands I love decided they couldn't go on. Townhall. Townhall! A mainstay of my local Philadelphia scene... they became a band about 8 months after I moved here. I've seen them play exactly 20 times, the last being in March. I hadn't seen them play in about six months at that point. Granted, their sound had really changed recently and morphed into a two-guitar, heavy rock, in-your-face kind of sound. But it was still *great*. A shocker. At least George is having a decent solo career. Then, it was The Argument - one of those not-local but still very independent bands that got up to Philly once in a while. I had to ditch them when they played The Fire a few years ago because I already had tickets to see Stephen Lynch. I always knew they'd come back. Well, they never did, I absolutely loved their 3rd record, and then that was it. One of the best bands I never heard live. Scott is working on solo material, and I like what I've heard so far. And then the hat trick: Twin-A. I saw them play only twice, once a few years ago and then finally again just at the end of 2005. Their record Something Good is something amazing and I still rock it regularly in my car, in its entirety. That was one of those albums that didn't have a bad song. John Lardieri still writes and records tunes, thankfully. It's funny that for all three, the main singer/writer is the one who is still working in music. Still, that was a tough month. Not to mention the whole Granian/Kill The Alarm thing. Whatever. They better not fucking stop playing, who the hell cares what they call themselves. I saw 37 shows in 2006, technically a slow year for me, but pretty damn solid! When you have important things to do and important people to be with, sometimes you just have to skip the stupid random shows. And it's easier on the bank account that way, too.

And then there was Huge Down Here. That band, I tell ya... if they only would put out another album. That has probably been the most frustrating thing of this whole past year. In February we got to about the halfway point... and as of now, almost a year later, we're about at the halfway point. The house and the move and the wedding and LIFE has taken priority in many instances, but I've had studio problems (lots and lots and lots of re-do's after mysterious deletions and hard-drive lock-ups) and broken mic stands and guitar troubles up the wazoo. I also just haven't really put the effort into focusing on it like I should be. I've recently fixed the guitar issues (electric, not acoustic), got a new mic stand, and have started to get back into it a little. I'm going to try and re-dedicate myself to it. We worked on some drum tracks this past week and they sound fantastic. We still have a couple of those to nail down and then we'll get back into laying down guitar tracks. Maybe even by March or April we'll be ready for vocals?! Who knows. We hope to put it out sometime this year, and that's all I'll commit to. We think you really need to hear it. What we HAVE been doing this past year is playing live. We played seven gigs in 2006, including 6 open mics (all at The Fire) and the performance at my wedding reception (opening for Fooling April!). We keep putting some of the better recordings of most of those performances up on the HdH website, so check those out. There are also gig blogs from all of those shows, too. We love doing it and we hope to get out more often this year - starting with last Monday night's performance! Once a month is the goal. Time will tell. Maybe we'll even have a "CD release" open-mic performance. One other interesting possibility is that two other local musicians have expressed interest in possibly learning some HdH tunes and getting together and working them out as a trio - two guitars and bass. I've passed them some songs and things are still very iffy, but it's entirely plausible that we could be performing as a unit sometime this year, too. Don't put any money on that yet, though.

We're Huge.

The best is last. What more can I say about my family? I have a family. It's never simple and sometimes not easy, but I am deeply loved by two people that I love deeply. Tristan Alexander is one hell of an awesome kid. He's almost 5 going on 19, he'll kiss you for absolutely no reason and will tell you he loves you 5 times a day. I've been taking some great pictures of him doing random things like bowling and playing in a pile of leaves. And now that we have a working video camera, we have him on tape doing all kinds of fantastic things, like singing slightly lyrically incorrect Christmas carols and songs he made up himself and doing "scary dances". He kills me everytime he wants to do something EXACTLY how I do it, even though I had no idea it was at all important to anyone until he pointed it out. He'll just be a lot more fun when he understands the concept of time. And what can I say about his mother? My wife is amazing. I just love saying "my wife..." - ain't it fun? She doesn't let me take nearly as many pictures of her as I would if I could... because she's fuckin' hot. She slipped a card into my tuxedo bag before our wedding, and as I read it in the bathroom getting dressed, a half-hour before we were saying our vows, I knew I had made the only sure decision I will ever make. I won't let you read the card (sorry). If only I could describe that feeling. Don't get me wrong, she's still a pain in my ass every once in a while. :-) And vice versa, absolutely. But I wouldn't have it any other way.


What's in store for 2007? Besides seeing Erin McKeown & Kill The Alarm shows in January, my brother's wedding in April & the new season of 24... not a lot, so far. The schedule is constantly being updated, though. My folks are visiting Philly this weekend! Cool.

So, thanks for hanging in there - keep an eye out for wedding, honeymoon & house pictures, more concert photos, HdH album updates, and general bullshit. I'll make sure to get back before next year. Be good.

January 18, 2006


Get ready for this.

I'm getting married! And I'm buying a house! Not in that order. A whole lot has happened since my last little update. I know this is way overdue, but I have a sort of a reason. Literally a couple weeks before Steph and I got engaged, GeoCities upped my total webspace memory to 500 MB, from 75 (which I was paying extra for) - for free. So it increased by 650%!! How crazy is that? I was shocked and amazed and grateful... I had slacked on adding the loads of new pictures I have, due to not wanting to deal with the fact that in order to do so, I was going to have to delete large chunks of things. And I'm an archivist (some may say packrat) so those kinds of decisions are quite painful. I can't tell you how many times I've scoured through my list of online picture files, resizing them and reloading them, to try and make room for a soundfile or another set of pictures. Anyway, what I'm getting at is this : I have added somewhere around 140 megabytes of pictures and song MP3s to this website since the increase (meaning I still have nearly 300 MB of available space! - oh, the possibilities!) It's taken some time for all of the updates, and I wanted to announce them all at once. So, with apologies to my future wife, Stephanie, who doesn't deserve this delay of our engagement announcement, or pronouncment; and Mike, who's been waiting patiently for some of the new pictures; and to you, whomever you may be and however you have found yourself here. I have a lot to cover, so get comfortable.

I am engaged to be married to Stephanie Lynn Ellis. I am a fiance. Yes, me. I know! Our wedding date is September 30, 2006 at Valley Green Inn in Philadelphia. It will fucking rock. Steph and I got engaged on November 12 in Sedona, Arizona. And I did it right! It was so totally awesome. We went to AZ for my man Mike's wedding (as previously mentioned below - I told you the trip would be fantastic!) and it was beautiful. Gorgeous, even. The scenery, the ceremony, Steph. It was outside, with awesome Sedona red rocks in the background. It was also short and sweet and not too over the top. And I was honored to be an usher. We didn�t really have a whole lot of time for extra-cirricular activity � we flew in late Friday, went straight to the rehearsal dinner, went back to sleep, went to the wedding in early afternoon on Saturday, then the reception that night and left the very next morning kinda early. So, we had maybe a few hours in the morning before the wedding on Saturday to actually look around and check out some rock formations and chill out and stuff. We drove around for a bit, did some climbing, took a boatload of pictures, and then towards the end, we jumped a fence and started hiking up Bell Rock, my favorite Sedona rock.

Bell Rock. Click for more pics.

We got about maybe halfway up (as far as we could reasonably climb) and found a little spot of our own to chill. We were the only ones up on the rock, that we could see. Very peaceful, fantastic view. We made out a little bit and took some more pictures and then I bent down to get water out of my backpack, took a breath and whipped out the ring and totally blew her mind! I was so NOT nervous or goofy and I was down on one knee and I said a little speech and it was perfect. She knew it was coming eventually, but she didn�t know when or where and she totally didn�t think it was happening then. She was taken completely by surprise. I mentioned on this very website at the end of last year that it would probably be happening this year sometime � �sooner or later�. It was just a matter of me getting the ring and figuring out where and when after that. Of course, she was impatiently waiting for it to happen and would make predictions at the beginning of every month of the year as to when it would go down. I wanted to make it a little special and it turned out fantastically well. She got all choked up (she still can�t remember hardly a word of what I said). She's all about pink, so she absolutely adores the ring and I picked it out all by myself. I�m quite proud of it!

The Rock. Those are pink sapphires.

I had seriously considered talking to her mom and dad about it beforehand, but I chickened out after swiping both of their phone numbers from her address book. Hell, I hadn't even met her dad before we got engaged. That happened at Thanksgiving (see below; it's rather interesting). He actually found out before Steph got a chance to tell him, though - from her brother. When she called him, he said "well, congratulations, I guess..." Thanks, dude. We tried to keep our engagement on the down low at Mike & Alison's reception, but pretty much the whole joint was coming up to us and congratulating. Mike's mom found out, and came back at me with a $50 bill! Alright! The Valley Green Inn is on the Wissahickon Creek, not far from where we both live now and where I hike and bike all the time during the summer. It's a lovely old Inn from the mill era of the creek, when Forbidden Drive was a turnpike and business was booming. Now, there are no other buildings anywhere near the Valley Green and it doesn't even have a street address. The ceremony will be outside, weather permitting, with my good friend Erin Price officiating. She's getting ordained just to marry us! Right on.

Steph and I up on Bell Rock, mere seconds before engagement.

I actually got four days off around Thanksgiving (well, including the two that are my weekend) and contemplated making a trip home. But, there was no way Steph could go, and it's a really long drive by yourself and we were just there in July. But I kept the time off, as it was much needed. And then Steph's dad invited us down to his place, so we went down there for dinner and I could finally meet him and also get to be with Steph & Tristan for the holiday. It was definitely a little strange - her dad and step-mom are on some other kinda wavelength - but the food was PHENOMENAL. It started weird, right off the bat. The first thing he says to me, ever in my life, is "whatever her mother told you about me is a lie". Nice to meet you too, sir. But it wasn't painful, except for the chain-smoking that was mostly confined to the outside porch; there was insane amounts of cable TV channels and lots of stuff to eat. I think the turkey was maybe the best I've ever had; there was all kindsa juice and flavors in that bird - cinnamon, allspice, who knows. Who CARES. It was fantastic. I asked him about it and he started telling me this glorious, complex story about brine and salt and buckets and god knows what else they did to that turkey. And he was really appreciative of the bite I took of his sweet potato pie - my first ever. And probably last. (It was laced with Jack Daniel's).

And oh yeah, I grew a goatee in October. Dig it.

Right around Turkey Day I realized that I could probably get the first weekend of December off - and that's when my dad's side of the family always has their Christmas dinner. I am never able to go usually because I try to find some time later in the month to get home - if I get home at all. Steph couldn't go but I also found out that Jeff and his girlfriend Cindy were gonna be there, and I hadn't yet met her or even seen him in about 3 years. So I decided to make the trip, lonely and short as it may be. I got the car tuned up before I left, so that made me feel a lot better, and I got to eat a few scrumptious meals of Steak N Shake, hang out with Michelle and her fiance Andy, chill out with the parents for a bit and see a handful of relatives I probably haven't seen since 1999. An aunt had just had some pretty invasive surgery and we got to visit her in the hospital. All the neices and nephew were there, too, so that was great. And we played bingo! A few photos are right here.

Christmas Day for us was NUTS. It was great, but we did so much driving around and meeting up with friends and family... kinda exhausting, but definitely fun. We went up to Steph's mom's house on Christmas Eve, woke up at 6 am to open presents with Tristan and Steph's brother, drove to work, worked, drove back to Steph's mom's (40 miles away), drove to Steph's Aunt's house with Tristan for a quick visit, drove back to Steph's mom's for dinner, drove to Reading to drop off Tristan at his dad's, drove to Lebanon (1 hr west of Reading) to meet up with Michelle & Andy at a Chinese Buffet restaurant approximately halfway between where they were in Sunbury, PA (at his folks') and Philly. I think it was the only thing open in the entire state that wasn't selling gasoline. Hung out with them for an hour or more (Steph had yet to meet them) and then drove back to Steph's Aunt's house for more food and more presents, then finally drove home around 9 pm. Oy. It was raining most of the day, too, but at least it wasn't snowing. Tristan got a boatload of sweet toys - I got some good pictures and some video, too. He got all kindsa excited for the remote control dinosaur that I picked out. :-)

Steph and I relaxed for New Year's... we did the whole shebang last year - fancy dinner, concert, dressed up, downtown. It was good to chill. Although we ended up talking late into the night about wedding and house stuff before getting up to go to work on New Year's Day. And ol' Dick Clark wasn't looking so hot on TV. Poor kid. I did not forget the leap second!

Steph and I close on our new house on February 17. cRaZy. It's a little scary, and it's happened ridiculously quickly. We had spoken to a local mortgage lender a couple times in November/December, but they were kinda vague and less than fully forthcoming. And I think they were playing around with us a little. We got a recommendation from a friend at work and talked to a different lender and she was much, much better. She hooked us up with a realtor at that same first meeting (Dec 23); we met up with him and checked out a few houses one week later. Four days after that we made an initial offer on the one we liked. Counter offers were made and accepted by the end of the next day. An inspection was conducted two days later. More offers and counter offers were made three days after that. We have signed sales agreements and mortgage committment letters and made down payments. The appraisal happens this week, we get home insurance this week or next, our loan has been formally approved, we have a walk-through and a settlement date of 2/17. DAMN. This shit happens fast. It's a cool little 1 1/2 story "cape" style twin in Drexel Hill, a western burb just outside of the city. Full basement, half-bath in the master bedroom (which IS the second story), fenced in yard, on a one-way street just off of Route 1 (City Line ave in Philly). Hells bells yeah!

The one on the right (it's a twin) is ALL OURS.

My parents came for a visit at the end of December between Xmas & NYE and braved the Philadelphia cold (and rain!) It was about time they made it back! They haven't visited together since 2002. My mom even upchucked in the car at 70 mph somewhere in Ohio on the way here. Oops. She felt better after some sleep and it was a good visit (some photos here), we had loads of great food, saw some sights (though a few were fully booked) and exchanged gifts. Unfortunately, Tristan was with his dad all week so they didn't get to see him, but we did all get together with Steph's mom Cece and her fiance Zack (they're getting married in less than a month - whoa!) for dinner at Buca di Beppo. Good eats. We all even got together to see me play at an open mic at Steel City in Phoenixville. My mom *and* my future mother-in-law at a place where I have a microphone and an amplified PA system? I couldn't pass that up. This is what I said, exactly...

"So my mom is here, and my future mother-in-law as well. so I thought this was be the perfect time to break out very sexually graphic material. So I wrote a song called Fornicatin' In The Woods. Not really. Um, then I re-thought that, and thought it better to play a nice little love song. So this is... that."

And then I played a song about Steph called, amazingly enough, Stephanie Lynn. The place was way too chatty and they couldn't really hear me well, but my folks were stoked to see me play and it was fun to rock in front of more than one person I know. It was actually the 3rd open mic I've made it to since the last news update - I did two at The Fire, once in late September and again in November.

The Fire is fantastic... it's small and intimate, quiet and not competitive, laid-back and kinda quirky - and it's three songs. I'm going back next week! I aim to be a semi-regular. Speaking of Huge Down Here, the 3rd album is still chugging along... though not without struggle! I've had to re-do drum tracks for 3 different songs - sometimes more than once. They were completely finished but somehow were mysteriously erased in their entirety. It's been beyond frustrating. But, I think they're all safe now and ready to go, we've completed music for a couple of them, even recorded more drums for more songs and are still hoping to be done by summer. It's really going to rock. Still writing new songs, too. And now that we have hundreds of megabytes to play with, there are new MP3s galore on the website. Most of the album cuts, more demos and yes - LIVE tracks from some of my open mic performances!! Listen to them at your leisure, and discretion. Consider yourselves warned. HdH has their own MySpace page now, too. We're all over the place. I have my own MySpace profile as well, though it's not exactly stocked with info. That's what this crazy thing is for.

Speaking of independent music, my old pal from back home Josh Stuckey, aka Stook! has recorded and released his own record! His first solo release, The Soundtrack To My Minneapolis, is available now at CDBaby. Rock it. I think it's fantastic and I can't believe I've known the guy since high school. Also in music news, in 2005 I attended 57 concerts - exactly the same number of shows I saw in 2004. I could have taken it over the top in the last week of December, but I missed an Ike show because I was exhausted. No sweat. Since the last update, I've seen: the kids from the Paul Green School of Rock (twice), Heiroglyphics, Townhall, Sue & Steph (twice), Stephen Lynch (my 300th concert ever), I won free tickets to 311/Papa Roach, Tracy Bonham (twice), a full Stargazer Lily reunion, an Ike CD release show, Alien Ant Farm (twice!), The Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Cecilia, Mike Doughty's Band, Hanson, Juliette & the Licks, Granian (twice), Will Hoge, Ike (again), Fiona Apple (twice!), and Twin-A (finally). Whew. Links are to pictures I took at the gig. I've finally started doing a little bit of that. ROCK. Upcoming : maybe Lifehouse?, definitely Will Hoge, Alternate Routes & Maia Sharp.

I have uploaded tons of MP3s on the HdH site, as mentioned; I have also expanded the downloads available for both The Dillys and my rapping alter ego, OB. There are so many pictures on here now that I can barely remember them all : completely new sets of pictures from Philadelphia, Eastern State Penitentiary, Sedona, Phoenix, the Phoenix Zoo, my zoo, the infamous East Coast Baseball 2004 roadtrip (diary included), all the open mic gigs, Christmas, plus more pics of HdH, the fam, and the love of my life. Not to mention the concert pics I mentioned earlier. Plus, I was looking up contact info for my old apartment complex for my mortgage application/credit check and randomly came upon some great photos of the fire that I hadn't seen, courtesy of the Limerick Fire Rescue. One of those is the clearest shot of my apartment in relation to the flames. Sigh.

I'm done. You're welcome.

August 11, 2005
Sorry about the lack of summer news - it's been a crazy season. That, and I'm lazy, but you already knew that. Some great things happened. Some strange things went down. Good times. Let's recap.

Three days ago, Steph and I recreated our first date that occurred on August 8, 2004 (that was a great day). We went to the same restaurant we had gone to on the first date, that we hadn't been to since. We gazed, we laughed, we ate, we reminisced. We went back to my place and reminisced some more. I even serenaded her with a song called Stephanie Lynn, the first time she'd heard of it and the first time I'd played anything for her as the only person listening. Luckily, she loved it and I didn't screw it up too badly. They say time flies when you're having fun, and time really flies when you're madly in love. I can't believe it's been this long - I remember that first date like it happened yesterday. It has been a great year. Year two should be monumental. Watch out.

In mid-July, my Curry grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Now that's an aspiration. I'd been there for the 50th and wasn't sure I'd make it this time around until about a week before. It's been really difficult getting vacation time lately, even harder for Steph and I to both get the same time, but we managed to get 3 days together after a co-worker canceled some vacation of hers. We were able to take Tristan along, and Steph was really psyched to bring him even along though it meant she would spend several hours in a car on her 30th birthday. We drove overnight (immediately after a concert I already had tickets for) from about midnight 'til 9:30, which was beyond rough, but worth it. The trip was short but very sweet, and the fam was all supernice to Steph & Tristan. I got to see some cool relatives I hadn't seen in some time, and my cousin Nic and I had a sweet jam session in my Aunt's living room. Good times. Pictures on the way.

Stargazer Lily announced that their show at World Cafe Live in April would be their last, ever. Like, for real. No real reason given, not a lot of sentimental goodbyes at the gig (which was completely kick-ass), and some serious question marks. It sucks. They're an amazing band. Sue & Steph are still playing sporadic gigs as an acoustic duo, so it seems odd that they would break up and still play together - but if the rhythm section is the one breaking up, why not just get a replacement? Perhaps they'll regroup again and change names again, after all they used to be called Cory with different band members before becoming Stargazer Lily. But that just seems like a major hassle to me. I don't get it. And on top of that, while doing some random web surfing last month, I found out Eve6 also has broken up. What the hell!? Granted, their last album came and went and nobody noticed, but it was a really good record. I'm in shock. Strangely enough, because of that I've been able to hear a bunch of studio b-sides and live tunes from them that probably wouldn't have been online if they hadn't broken up. But listening to them just makes it harder to fathom. They were a great band.

Speaking of great bands, it's been another crazy concert year so far. I'm only a few behind last year's record-setting pace, and I've seen a few new bands (well, new to me) that were really good. In late March, I saw Marc Broussard, and Will Hoge opened. I liked him, got his CD, loved it, and have seen him play twice since (both times at North Star). He's got a hell of a band and writes some damn good tunes. I caught a solid Ben Folds show and he was great, though I'm not as familiar with his latest stuff (which also isn't as good, in my opinion). The last half of the show was gold. I also saw John Mellencamp and John Fogerty play together - and that was fun as hell. I thought Fogerty outplayed Mellencamp (whose band is heavy with violin and accordian, ugh) and those tunes... his catalog is bananas, man. He opened with Travelin' Band and I was in 60's folk-rock heaven. Good times. I also saw Weezer, Ben Harper & Jimmy Eat World again, all great shows. Ari Hest and Granian (full band!) both a couple times, as well. Granian really kicks ass with a band. Still rocking the local scene with more Brave the Day and Townhall shows, plus a few great local bands I hadn't seen before - The Fractals, Young Samuel; I finally caught a full, proper Mutlu show and he didn't disappoint. And the Paul Green School of Rock kids never fail to impress. Saw their movie and got the soundtrack, too. Right on. In May, Steph and I went to see perhaps the funniest comedy show ever - Richard Jeni and Kevin Meany at the Keswick Theater. I've seen Jeni on TV and video dozens of times and I always thought his stand-up was genius. He made me laugh so hard at the gig, I think I'm still feeling the pain. Steph went in a bit skeptical, but she was howling as loud as anybody. Damn, it was good.

We tried to go see Ralph Harris in Atlantic City in June, another favorite comic of mine. I'd seen him in AC last September and was super-psyched he was coming back. We went to the beach that morning with Tristan, drove back to Philly and then went back to AC for the show. For those keeping score, that's Philly->AC->King of Prussia->Philly->AC again, all in one day. We were really stressing it but made it in plenty of time and got a great seat in a front row table. And then Ralph Harris wasn't there. Some other dude was. Ralph's name was still on the website, his picture still in the display case at the door of the club, his bio still on the flier stacked at the entrance to the place - the Comedy Stop at the Tropicana. And they never even mentioned the fact that he wouldn't be performing - but he was the only reason we were at the show (it goes without saying it was nice that Jimmy Walker (dyno-mite!) was the opening act, but not the clincher; he's not funny). I was livid, and I got more and more pissed as time went on - I felt duped and taken. I'm still pissed about it. I wrote them a nasty letter. It was harsh. No response yet.

Speaking of nasty letters, I sent a doozy to my landlord (well, "property management group") in May. They threatened to evict me when my rent didn't show up, so I sent another check and a letter that ripped them a new one. I found it disgustingly disrespectful that they told me I was in default after my rent was late 5 days - even though I've been a paying tenant for 39 months with no problems. They gave me 2 days to "cure my default" (5 days total, with only 2 left after I received the notice) or they would begin to evict me. I sent payment on time, they just didn't get it... and when they did, a week after they cashed my re-sent check, they cashed that one, too. And completely fucked me over. I was in the red a few hundred bucks and getting $30 "non-sufficient funds" charges one after the other when outstanding checks began rolling in. I called and yelled at them for a half hour and they finally figured out they fucked up, but not until after they tried to claim they never received the letter I sent (it came with a check they cashed). They reimbursed the second rent check, apologized to me a few times, and even agreed to pay my overdrawn bank fees. I will not be renewing my lease.

I got called in for more jury duty in May... I really don't understand why people don't like it. I would be happy to do it every year for the rest of my life. I find it fascinating and one hell of an honor. This time around wasn't quite as exciting as the aggravated assault case from 2003, but I'll take it. It was a civil case, and we ruled in favor of the plaintiff, but he wasn't too thrilled with the amount of money he got (we heard him complaining on the phone as we walked out of the jury room). Good times. I originally was in a pool of prospective jurors for a murder trial, but since I have problems with the death penalty, they didn't want me. Shame - woulda been a long trial. The zoo pays you for jury duty, so you can see why I don't mind serving.

SOFTBALL. Oh, softball. I remember when I came out for the Zoo softball team in April of 2000. I hadn't played baseball since I was 12, and my softball experience was limited to teenage excursions to Pokagon State Park with my family. I was ok at first, and I kinda caught on quickly, I think. The zoo team wasn't so good. Times have changed. I'm a lot better. Our team is eons better. We've been in a real league now for 5 years but we've never finished in the top 4 to make the playoffs, and we've never had a .500 record. And I was never the coach. All of that changed this year. Mostly by coincidence, though. heh. A week or so before our first practice, our coach basically said she didn't want to do it anymore and she wanted me to. I didn't. But I relented. I still don't much like telling people they're not playing the whole game, but by and large it was a pleasure. And we played well, finished 8-6 in 3rd place, made the playoffs, and kicked lots of ass. Good times. Unfortunately, we lost in the semi-finals by one run, leaving the tying run on 3rd in the last inning. Painful. We lost to the eventual champion, though. You can read all the juicy gossip and see oodles of crazy pictures on our website. I still run that, too.

As mentioned earlier, Steph turned 30, and I turned 31 - all in the span of a few weeks. We're both Cancers (astrologically speaking, I think that means we would never be a good match, hehe). We went to two really nice restaurants and filled up on overpriced-but-still-super-tasty food. Steph looked gorgeous as always. She got me a pair of sweet-sounding conga drums (already getting warmed up for the next CD) and I got her some hot & sexy leather apparel, and we both got some awesome DVDs. Homemade cupcakes and Dairy Queen ice cream cake. Good times.

Those congas will be put to good use, but they were just a tad late for the release of Huge Down Here's second record, Simple And Bitter. It was officially released to the masses on May 17. We think it's pretty damn good, and if you haven't heard it yet, don't take our word for it. Ask and ye shall receive a copy. And some stickers. It didn't take nearly as long as the first one, and it was a joy to make. Not a joy to mix, but it turned out ok. It's a happy record. Not really, but it's a vast improvement over the first. We took about a month off and went right back to the lab to start work on album #3, having just finished drum tracking and getting ready to rip with guitars galore. Right on. Good times. Some not-so-good times, too - we've been trying not-so-hard to sell one of the band's guitars for some time, now. About a year. We finally got a bite from a friend of a friend, and sold it. It was a pretty good deal for him, and I wasn't looking to make a big score or rip anyone off. If I wanted to make the effort to get the highest bidder, I could have. Well, he sure did... he told me the minute we exchanged money for guitar that he intended to re-sell it on eBay - and then he bragged TO ME about the price he got when it sold. He was proud of the scam, in fact. What the fuck? Who does that? I still have a hard time understanding it.

Mike D's getting married in November in Sedona, AZ - and Steph and I already have the time off. That will be a fantastic trip. Can't wait to see Mike get hitched and enjoy the amazing scenery. I've heard wonderful things about that place. He's having a pretty good time in Seattle with his girl, even though they locked themselves out of the house only one week in - thankfully, their new neighbor still had an old spare key from the previous owner! Stan even moved down to South Jersey at the end of June! He's only about a half hour away from me, now - of course I have yet to see him since the move... but the potential is there! He was in Long Island for a good couple of years but the New York lifestyle wasn't thrilling him. South Jersey ought to really make him crazy. It makes me a little crazy, and I don't even live there.

My sister Lisa just had major back surgery, my friend Erin is about to have major back surgery, my friend Michelle got engaged, my friend Rhonda just had a baby, my cousin Stacy just bought her first house. Good luck to all!

I have some really good concerts upcoming (well, the potential is there) : Tracy Bonham, Stephen Lynch, Pearl Jam, and Ike has a new record coming out in September. I'm ready to rock. Are you?

March 23, 2005
Hey. It's spring again. Thank God. Although I don't really feel the need to actually thank him, because I'm pretty sure it was bound to happen. Anyway, it's nice to have rain instead of snow, but not that rain is all that great. Apparently we got more snow this winter than the last two combined. I hope your 2005 has been going as nicely as mine so far. In January, my lovely girlfriend and I went up to the Poconos for some much-needed R&R. It was great but ended up shorter than planned. We were supposed to drive up on a Wednesday night and come back Saturday morning, but it snowed a decent bit on Wednesday and prevented us from driving. So we had to wait around and go Thursday, which was fine and everything but we got there in the afternoon and then we only had one full day on Friday to lounge. We lounged well, though. Ate some seriously good food and slept a lot. The bed & breakfast we stayed at was super cozy and breakfast was great, but it was a bit weird because we were the only ones staying there at the time, and there was a plethora of ladybugs infesting our room. It was ridiculously cold outside (1 degree at one point) but we managed. Of course, the day we were to drive back it was supposed to snow. A lot. It barely started to flake mere minutes after we checked out and of course by the time we were really on the road it was coming down pretty good. The closer we got to Philly, the worse it got and it got pretty bad. We couldn't see the lane lines on the highway and we kept having to stop and de-ice the wipers so we could actually see through the windshield - and for some time, the wiper fluid was clogged. It was slow moving and there were lots of people on the road. We never *really* got stuck and we kept moving and made it back relatively sane, although the 2 1/2 hour trip took about 4. It was tense, and unfortunately removed some of our well-deserved, relaxed vacation glee. Next time we'll go in the summer.

So Mike D has lived in Phoenix for something like 7 or 8 years and even though he's been to Philly a couple times, I've never been to visit him. Seeing as how he's moving to Seattle and getting married I thought it wise to finally take advantage of him and go out West. So I did. I flew out to Arizona for 4 days in early February and had a blast, but it's hard not to when it's 70 degrees in winter! We did some serious mountaing climbing, mountain biking, tennis playing, music listening, food eating, sightseeing, zoo walking, bullshitting, fresh orange picking, car selling, house buying, arrest-in-progress picture taking, unintentional Alice Cooper spotting, Intel security guard bothering and Super Bowl watching. I took loads of photos. He literally bought a house he'd never seen on one day and sold his car the next (I got to drive it - a convertible - to the sale!). An appraiser came to look at his house that same morning. It was crazy and Mike had loads going on, but we still managed to have a pretty damn good time and do lots of cool stuff. Even my flights weren't all that bad. I'm glad he's moving (well, moved!) to Seattle though, because I've wanted to visit there, too! And do some whale watching. Hell yeah.

[that's Camelback mountain, which we climbed to the peak.
Mike took the photos with me in them.]

Steph got an apartment of her own in town (she had been temporarily living with her mom, 40 miles away from me and the zoo) and moved on March 1st. It's a cute little place, pretty nice, and quite awesomely about 3 minutes away from me. I drove the U-Haul (joy) but it went relatively well thanks to help from a couple of zoo pals - with only a couple of major casualties, like a broken couch and a scuffed-up chest with huge sentimental value. Oops. Sorry, baby. Oh yeah, and when my keys got locked in my car when I wasn't driving it, instead of waiting for AAA (who was on the way), I decided to pull out the window a little bit and unlock the door with some help from one of the guys, and then I promptly shattered my own car window with my bare hands. It was actually rather funny. I highly recommend Ajax Auto Glass on Passayunk Ave in South Philly if you need a car window replaced fast and cheap.

Things are calm on the concert front, but this year so far I've been to see Vanessa Carlton, Ari Hest, Granian, Ryan Montbleau, the kids from the Paul Green School of Rock Music, Townhall (for a minute!), a couple of comedy shows, and a cover band in Phoenix called Furious George. I've got Jimmy Eat World, Richard Jeni, Stargazer Lily and Marc Broussard coming up, and maybe Erin McKeown, Weezer and Ben Folds if I can swing it. In mid-February, I ended up being selected to work the mailing list during a show (and get in for free on the guestlist!) for Mike Doughty, former frontman of Soul Coughing. I got to meet and hang briefly with Mike and go backstage. It was all a bit weird, he had his girlfriend with him and he didn't stick around after his set as is his usual (he was opening). I had a long list of topics I wanted to chat about because I think he's an endlessly interesting artist and person, but of course two questions into our conversation we were all talking about me and my fascinating job hanging out with monkeys. He seemed pretty pleased when I gave him free zoo passes, though. And oh, that Stargazer Lily show that I'm going to next month is their last show ever. WHAT THE FUCK. I'm still in shock.

My band is in the final phases of finishing up our next CD and we're really happy with it so far. It should be done in May so look out for that (incidentally, our first record came out one year ago today). We've been meaning to get out and play another open mic gig, so a couple days ago we did just that! It was at Grape Street, which is really close to my house and ironically located on Main Street in Manayunk. I'd never been to see their open mic (or case it out) so I called and got some info and decided to just go in cold. It ended up relatively well, the host was really nice and it was fairly laid back, and I managed to get through both songs without major flubs. And of course it's all on digital camera and 8mm video. Photos by Steph.

Very soon, Steph and I are going home to visit my family for Easter. It's gonna be fantastic and the fam is going to love her, and it will be my first full-family dinner since last Easter. Softball season starts any minute now and I can't wait for that. And a very happy birthday to Tristan Alexander Ellis who turns 3 on April 1st.

PS - I've recently upgraded for more webspace and have uploaded lots of music that I've created or recorded over the years. You can download MP3s here, here and here. Right on. Massive amounts of pictures are also on the way.

December 31, 2004
Oh. My. Goodness.

Where to begin? Let me first apologize to all three of you who have been waiting for this update with baited breath. You are my reason for living. Not really. But thanks. I�ve been slacking and procrastinating doing this, but I have been doing other things that are much more fun than writing code for some dumb website. Life is good. Actually, life is pretty fucking great.

Honestly, I got behind when I started to slack on the softball stats and updates back in like May/June, and then it started to snowball. I�ve been a part of some really amazing things (to me) and to report on them required some focused effort, which I wasn�t able to give. That does not in any way belittle them whatsoever. I�ll try to go sort of chronologically. Let�s rock.

Right before I put up the last update (with the beard), I went down to the National Zoo in DC, in early April. It was a work-sponsored trip as part of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance 2004 Conference. Nice name, eh? ABMA. Not the Swedish supergroup. I was lucky and didn�t have to sit in on any lectures, I got to just go around the zoo and get some behind-the-scenes tours and hang out. Nice gig! I saw giant pandas up super-close, cheetah stalking and running after fake prey, orangutans peeing on the path from the O-Line (a rope system that allows them to brachiate over the crowd from one building to the next), and I got to hang out with Christina, who lives nearby and drove up to the zoo just to hang out with me for lunch. She even risked a parking ticket. Got some good pictures, too.

I�ve wanted to visit Eastern State Penitentiary for quite some time. I drive by it on Fairmount Ave often on my way home from Center City or South Philly. It�s maybe the most kick-ass building I�ve ever seen. It�s an ancient prison in the middle of the city that was built in the 1820�s. It was intended to house 250 inmates in 3 cell blocks, but ended up with 15 cell blocks and over 1,700 prisoners. It was last used as a prison in 1971 and now it�s simply open for tours. Desiree and I finally went in June and took the self-guided audio tour, plus caught the free Escapes tour (bonus!). It was a beautiful day, and we both got some awesome photos. I love that building. It makes me smile. Ok, it�s kinda creepy, too. Al Capone stayed there, once. He had the nicest cell in the block.

Shortly after that, Desiree and I also went on another tour. It was a little different this time, giving us a whole new perspective. Literally. We went up to the top of the City Hall tower to hang out with Billie Penn in early July. We only got 15 minutes, but I got a ton of cool pictures and a kick-ass experience. We walked around downtown for a bit and got some more killer shots of the beautiful Philadelphia landscape.

Just before that, also in July, the zoo�s three male gorillas were sent off to Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina and we got a family group of four from St. Louis. I try not to get too attached to the animals I work with because it�s the nature of this job that they either don�t live very long or end up being sent to another zoo. It�s what happens. It was a good reason to take some more pictures, and I ended up with some really nice ones of the boys before they left. This all happened in the middle of the zoo�s summer �season� (May-September) in which the primate building was the primary �attraction� � which means everyone was spazzing out. It got a new paint job, we had special uniforms, and they put on a little show with some actors and called it �new�. It was even named Jungle Trek. One day it stormed vigorously and knocked down a large stage-like contraption that was used at the theme�s exit, forever dubbing it Jungle Wreck. I told my boss they should put a bunch of green ogres in a cage and call it Jungle Shrek. It didn�t fly. By the end of the summer, two of my primate team co-workers had resigned.

Team Zoo went through an entire softball season, in which we missed the playoffs yet again and finished 4-9 (winning one by forfeit and having one game rained out twice and never played). This year was markedly different from the previous, during which we played 6 games decided by one run. 2004 saw us lose once by two runs with the next closest game being a 9-run loss, and lose the other 7 games by an average of 18 runs. The three games we played and won, we won convincingly by an average of (coincidentally enough) 18 runs. Two of those 3 wins were against the same team, and the fourth forfeited win was against the second team we actually beat. Those two teams finished in the last two places in the league. The ultimate game of Team Zoo�s career occurred on June 29, in which we scored 41 runs (besting our career league record from last year by 17 runs!) in only 6 innings at the plate � we didn�t get the last at-bat because we were the home team. That game total represents 34% of our SEASON total of runs scored. If you include the other game against that team (Franklin Institute), in which we scored 25 runs (our second-best league career run total), that makes up over 50% of our total runs. I think we need to play the Franklin Institute more often. Personally, I had a pretty good year even though I wore an ankle brace for every game due to my still-slightly-tender left ankle. Defensively, I threw out runners at first base (force out from center field), second base (tagged out from left-center), third base (tagged and forced from left field), and I threw out a runner at home from left field on the fly, with a tag by the catcher. It was perhaps the best throw of my life. I batted .700 and finished with 6 home runs, but I didn�t have as many extra base hits or score as many runs as I would have liked. But then again, neither did our whole team this year. 2005 is our year. I mean it this time. Again. My next goal is to finish updating the 2004 stats before the start of the 2005 season.

I played Frisbee Golf! Frolf! Finally! Desiree and I played 18 holes (holes? I guess it�s baskets?) �18 baskets one night in July (or August?) It was fairly dark by the time we finished, when all the hippies had gathered to shoot the breeze and drink beer by the 18th basket. We left immediately. It was a great experience, though. I think I won, but I don�t remember exactly. hehe. That activity was on my list of �things to do� around town, along with going to the Italian Market and visiting the Art Museum, two things I also did with Desiree in July (I think). The italian market was cool but not as chaotic as it should have been, had we gone on an early weekend morning. Good eats, though! The art museum was great and I spent a lot of time in the ancient art rooms, especially the �armor and weaponry� area. Medieval, baby. It�s a big-ass building, and I need to go back. The Penitentiary and the City Hall tower were also on that list, which also includes visiting the Edgar Allen Poe house, the Japanese house in Fairmount park and the Archeological & Anthropological Museum at the University of Penn. Sooner or later.

I also went downtown (near the afore mentioned art museum) to see the 4th of July fireworks display, my first since moving to Philly. Also with Desiree. We hung out a lot this summer when we had the same two days off. It was ok, but the drive home (or lack thereof) really, really sucked.

I even finally got my Purdue diploma replaced in July, so I have proof once again that I received a degree. Nice, that. It now sits in a gorgeous frame in my kitchen. More on that later.

August was a monumental month for me. Mike D and I had been planning a big East Coast baseball road trip for some time. It was his idea and it turned into a week of complete awesomeness. We started in Philly, then drove to games in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Four games in five days. Something like 28 hours in the car. Three auxiliary side-trips to visit friends in places near stadiums or on the way to them. Sight-seeing in New York, the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia. Two days of car rental (to and fro Boston). One concert. Even one zoo staff-party/barbecue (free food!) I hadn�t even seen Mike in nearly 3 years, let alone hang out with him at all. He was on an 8-week sabbatical from his job (nice perk!) and flew to Philly almost directly after returning to the states from hiking in Europe (Alps, glaciers, etc). Shit! It was just great to hang out with my old pal whom I haven�t seen much of since we both moved out of Indiana, and the baseball was pretty cool, too. We had fairly good weather, except for some excessive heat at the Phillies game and some slight rain in NY and Baltimore. We had really good traffic except for one major backup on the way to Boston on the first day � on the GW bridge in Manhattan on I-95. Most of the time when we saw really bad traffic, we were going the other direction on the other side of the highway. The actual games were good overall, 2 of the 4 were pretty close and the other two weren�t complete blowouts. The Yankees lost. The Red Sox won. That was good enough, but the Sox game was fuckin� sweet. We had incredible seats thanks to Mike�s dad, 3rd row behind 1st base � literally 5 seats from the end of the home dugout. Unreal. And the game! The Sox came from behind, in the bottom of the 9th inning, Orlando Cabrera hit a double off the wall that scored Johnny Damon at the plate � the throw was made, he slid� SAFE!! It was bedlam. A great game. A much-needed victory. And we were right there! In their World Series Championship season! I took a metric ton of pictures (and even some video) and eventually I�ll put up most of them on the site. Here are a few for now. Mike took the one of me in Philly.

On the trip, I heard a lot about Mike�s girlfriend Alison, and I told him he was going to marry her. He called me to announce their engagement a couple months later. On the trip, Mike heard a lot about the girl I had just started dating the week prior to the trip. Her name is Stephanie and we�re still together. And I�ve never been happier.

If you stay tuned, you might just hear about our engagement, sooner or later. She�s the most beautiful thing I�ve ever seen and I can�t believe I get to kiss her. She makes me melt. I�ve known her for years since she started working at the zoo just a couple months after I did. We actually first met on January 13, 2000 - she interviewed on my second day on the job and took a tour through the primate building. We became pretty good friends and I had always thought she was cute, but she was never single. Well� she became available! Thank God. Our first date wasn�t really supposed to be a date (I swear!) but we severely hit it off and we could both tell there was something really special. I can�t get enough of her. I could say a whole hell of a lot more, but that�s about it for now. I don�t want to get too mushy in public, here. Hehe. Get used to hearing the name Steph a lot.

Also on the trip, Mike & I stopped by Vicki & Pete�s in Connecticut and Jay�s place of employment in NYC. It was really great to see Vicki, Pete and Maddie at their new place. They just left Philly and the zoo in June. I miss �em. They�re getting along great in CT, and got married the month prior! I hadn�t seen Jay since his trip to Philly in February, and he took us to McHale�s in Manhattan for maybe the best bacon cheeseburger I�ve ever had. Wow.

But again, the best part of the trip was hanging out with Mike. At the Sharon Inn. In the Ford Focus. On I-95. In the Bronx. At the OB diner. Watching a thousand motorcylces drive by. Sitting in someone else's seats. Eating cheesesteaks. I�m going to Phoenix in February, finally. Before he moves to Seattle!

Photo by Mike Dendinger

Speaking of vacations, I�m going to the Poconos in late January with my baby. I�ve never been and it�s going to be fantastic, three nights in a cozy bed & breakfast with no reason to leave except to eat. Can�t wait! Steph and I went up to NYC recently, too� in mid-December. We had a day-off together and I wanted to take her up there, so we went. It was cold as hell but we got to see Jay, check out Rockefeller Center and the big Christmas Tree & skating rink, Times Square, and get some good grub at Say Cheese! � an all-grilled-cheese restaurant. We even caught a free Ari Hest show at the Apple Store in Soho, where Al Franken walked right by us! I looked at Steph and said� �that was Al fuckin� Franken!�

Also, I went home for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2001. It was great to see all the Grandparents and some of the cousins and aunts & uncles, and the parents, of course. Heh. Unfortunately, my G&G Curry weren�t feeling too great (knee surgery, and a mystery illness) so we didn�t have the usual big family dinner. I missed that, but it was good to see everyone I did see, including both Michelle and Susi from the old zoo job in Ft. Wayne. I hadn�t seen Susi in 4 years! I�m going home next for Easter, and I�m taking Steph with me. I�ve never taken a girl home for a big family get-together before. Never wanted to. I can�t wait to bring Steph home. Just before Thanksgiving, my mom was crowned CITIZEN OF THE YEAR by the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. Hot damn!

Speaking of concerts (well I was a minute ago�) - I've been to way too many shows, as usual. It's really not something I set out to do, but I've broken my own record. hehe. This year it's 57 shows. Crazy!! It doesn't even feel like it's one every week - in fact, last year felt like I was trying to go to every single show I ever saw in the paper that looked interesting. This year came much more naturally. That sounds really corny. They're still mostly little local shows, but I did see Avril Lavigne and Green Day and Vanessa Carlton and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and They Might Be Giants and Mike Doughty and Live and Incubus and Train and PRINCE and Hootie and The Black Keys and Finn Brothers and Medeski Martin & Wood and Damien Rice and Teitur and JERRY SEINFELD! hehe. I'm such a glutton. Plus a whole slew of Townhall, Stargazer Lily, Granian, Ryan Montbleau, Ari Hest & bravetheday gigs. Support local & independent music.

Election day. I voted. I�m sorry, we tried. At least Pennsylvania represented! Blue, baby. Blue.

Also during the first week of November, it was announced that my place of employment was going through a slight financial crisis. It was hard to understand the logistics of it, but two weeks later they announced a large amount of layoffs. I don�t even know how many people were fired; they wouldn�t tell us. I believe it was probably around 40 people, company-wide. But we lost 9 union positions, including one position that was vacant but won�t be filled. We lost several other management-level positions in my department, including my supervisor. That was quite shocking, but to be honest she certainly won�t be missed. It was all very sobering and saddening and slightly chaotic. But I have a job! That�s about all I can say about that. Great timing, too - right before the holidays.

Speaking of gigs (well, I was a couple paragraphs ago�) � Huge Down Here, the band that I founded and currently front solo, actually played in front of actual people! Actually! It was a severely long time coming, but I (er, we) finally did an open mic performance on December 9, 2004 at the Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, PA. Two songs. Both originals. I didn�t fuck them up too badly, and I didn�t drop my pick! It was great fun. I�m going back again, too. ROCK. Speaking of rocking, I�m already 75% done with the band�s next record, which is sounding great. It�s gonna be done in half the time of the last one, so keep an eye on that for release in the spring. Last spring, just after my last �news� update, I finally finished digitizing ALL of the OB rap tapes from the �90s. Every single song I ever recorded is now available on compact disc. Word up.

Photos by Desiree Haneman

An old friend of mine from my high-school days recently got in touch with me after close to 10 years. The Legendary Stook (aka Josh Stuckey) is one of my basketball buddies from the Campus Life days (Huskers & Hoop Dogs, �91-92!), and he was a Boilermaker for a year before quitting to go to music school in Minneapolis, where he eventually graduated and got into the music scene up there. He�s working on his own publishing company, writing songs, playing in cover bands, giving music lessons and getting ready to rule the world with his rock �n roll. Right on. It�s been wild catching up. And I get to hang out with an old friend of mine from the DMB-groupie days of the mid-�90s. Kelly Bolton, whom I first met at NYE �96, is coming into Philly and DC for a few days next month to hang out with a few friends of hers from this area, including me. I haven�t seen her since 1998! We�re gonna chill and I think I�m going to get her addicted to Stargazer Lily.

I was unable to go home for Christmas at all, but I got to spend a lot of holiday time with Steph and her family, including her son Tristan who turns 3 in April (he�s cute as hell). I was very glad to be amongst loved ones. I got Tristan a keyboard, which he thankfully loves. He�ll be in my band by the time he turns 5! Now if I can only get Steph to learn bass guitar. She's the one who got me the beautiful frame for my Purdue diploma, which includes a signed and numbered 1st edition lithograph illustration of the Purdue Memorial Union. It�s freakin� awesome. Just like Steph.

OK, thanks for sticking this one out. I promise to make more than three news updates next year. Have a fantastic 2005. I know I will. Be safe! Be good!


Check out the old news (2000-2004) right over here. Right.

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