Mapping the Crowd: That Chubby Guy Totally Just Farted

I originally planned to only review the Allen Stone concert I went to last night when I started this blog. But observations of the crowd dominated my brain as I began typing. Therefore, it will be part review, part exposé on a groovin’, soulful, stinky, drunken crowd.

Let’s start with some good news! Mr. Stone was leaps and bounds better than advertised – from the music, to his insanely talented band, his showmanship, and of course that VOICE, it was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

The show was at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Fantastic little place, plenty of room to move around but still a sold-out crowd, and two different bars with reasonably-priced beers. The only complaint is that it’s on O’Farrell St., close to Hyde, which as the hip kids say (okay, I’m the only one who says this, but still…), is “ticklin’ the Tendy.”

That’s the Tenderloin District for you non-natives. As if you needed to look any farther than the District’s name itself, it’s not a fun place to walk around.

You’d never know it by the crowd inside the Great American Music Hall though. Mixed in among the usual suspects (we’ll get to that here soon), were 50-somethings in sparkly shirts dancing on the balconies. There were 10-year-olds sitting with their parents on the sides bobbing their heads innocently. And even some young adults who looked like they wandered in by mistake and stumbled in on a pleasant surprise.

Then of course, you had the following:

1) The awkward, making-out-all-night couple in the middle of the floor. Nothing like a sweaty hippie jammin’ about his problems on stage to get those two turned on!

2) The awkward, trying-to-be-sneaky stoner who “hides” his joint behind his ear. Dude, you didn’t sneak that past security, they just didn’t care. They are actually laughing at you right now.

3) The awkward, middle-aged man dragged here by his wife, standing with arms crossed barely bobbing his head all night. He’s paying his dues. *Men everywhere nod in mutual understanding*

4) The awkward, WAY too drunk chick spilling beers before the opening act even finishes. Granted, she’s tiny and of a race that is normally bad at drinking excessive amounts of alochol-related beverages. But damn, really? The doors opened at 7. It’s now 7:32 and you can hardly keep your eyes open? 

5) The awkward, WAY too drunk guy trying to hook up with the WAY too drunk chick, eventually just stumbling to the bathroom with her so she doesn’t puke on anyone. You’d think the fact that WAY too drunk chick can hardly hold her head up would be a stop sign for WAY too drunk guy. He shall not be denied!

6) The awkward, screamy chick who only came to see the opener (not to knock on Yuna – she was incredible!). It’s always a little bit difficult to actually hear and enjoy the music when one crazed fan is hitting the high note with her shriek through the entirety of a four-minute song.

7) The awkward, can’t-shut-up-for-more-than-30-seconds girl in the back, who fights back when the performer is playing by talking loudly enough for everyone around to hear. It doesn’t help when the guy she’s with is going “Uh-huh. Yep. Ya. Totally.” while clearly trying to shut her up to listen to the damn show he paid for.

8) The awkwardly tall dude with the fedora, who insists on swaying right into your line of vision every half second. Like, you’re already at least nine feet tall, what’s with the big hat? And how did you manage to stay in front of me, even after I moved all the way to the other side? Shouldn’t venues have a tall-only section? You know…like, against the back wall?

9) The awkward, angry guys who almost get into three fights for getting bumped into. God forbid that would happen in a crowded public space…

10) The awkward boyfriend who is embarrassed to sing or dance with his girlfriend so just does a goofy, clearly-exaggerated dance and then nods at her and laughs like “Hahaha this is so much fun, see what I’m doing, I’m being funny!” to cover at his lack of skillz (contrary to popular belief, that guy was NOT me for once).

11) The awkward guy who does the lighter-holding sway to every song, regardless of the rhythm. This is the same doofus who would hold up lighters at a hip hop concert or to Call Me Maybe.

12) The awkward, ignorant one who failed to see the approximately 376 signs on the way in that said “NO CAMERAS, FLASHES, OR RECORDING DURING SHOWS” and insists on taking a picture with his phone, flash on, until Allen Stone is legally blind.

13) The worst. The absolute worst. The short, chubby guy who thinks the more people, the less his rank ass farts will be noticed. Note to short, chubby guy – don’t eat Moroccan food before the show, and don’t look behind you every time that gaseous state erupts in a fiery death for anyone within a half mile of you.

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is everyone at the concert aside from myself, my girlfriend and the actual performers on stage, SUCKED. Just kidding. But these are very common types I have observed at multiple concerts. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less, usually there’s at least one of each.

It’s something I find entertaining (except for the last one) for the most part. It makes the concert experience complete in my mind. Luckily, there didn’t have to be any extras with Allen Stone on stage. Right, back to your regularly scheduled review now…

…you have to respect the musicians in this show for a few reasons. Allen Stone and his band clearly are madly in love with music and the opportunity they have. They were extremely open about being grateful to the crowd for paying for their show.

And we were rewarded enough with the show of a lifetime, but keeping the crowd engaged for two solid hours was a bonus. Allen split the floor in half and made us have a dance-off. He made sure we sang the choruses of a couple of songs (impressive, people, impressive). He did a birthday toast and “Happy Birthday” sing-along to his trumpet player. He let his band mates have solo time (that drummer – WHOA), and genuinely had a great time on stage the entire time.

Don’t even get me started on the way the show was set up – the keyboard player coming out as an emcee and introducing himself as “the host of the show” while the band played some soul-style beat and got the crowd pumped up for Allen to come out. Or the pianist playing a chord with his foot, while standing on top of the piano on the last song. The unbelievable Bob Marley cover…the list goes on and on.

All around, just an amazing show by Allen Stone. I highly recommend seeing him live if you ever get the chance. And if not, at least go check out a video on YouTube. The man deserves every penny we paid to get into the concert.

Oh…and just in case you wanted a visual on the crazy crowd creatures I described above? Your wish is my command (numbered for your convenience – corresponding to the numbers listed above):

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Humans Are Screwed Thanks to Guys Like Me

How to operate Facebook:

1. Log-in.

2. Make sure to update your status, so everyone knows you are alive.

3. No matter how well you know the people in the upper right corner of your home feed, make sure to wish them a Happy Birthday! God forbid you run into one of them at the grocery store and they throw a kumquat at you for forgetting they turned 26 last December.

4. Check. Your. Notifications. Do NOT let somebody’s GIF of a random dude shimmy-ing and accompanying message comparing you and her/him to a hypothetical situation in which said dude was inspired to shimmy, go unnoticed.

5. CRITICAL: Scroll down the news feed at least until it reloads once – any further, you are creeping. But any less, and you clearly don’t give a shit about your friend’s pictures.

6. Click “Like” on any pictures or links that make you smirk. If you are feeling especially peppy, type “LOL” into the comment box! It will make those people feel loved.

How to Operate Twitter:

1. Log-in.

2. Scroll down on the timeline. Anything interesting, funny, or controversial? The answer is yes, unless you are super lame and don’t follow anyone that fits in the above categories.

3. Retweet anything and everything that is funny, regardless of how offensive it is to entire cultural groups.

4. Click “favorite” on any of your real-life friends’ tweets, to signify that yes, you do still love them. And yes, you have nothing worthwhile to tweet in return so this gold star will have to hold you over as an emblem of my affection for your magnificent phone-thumbing abilities.

5. Check your mentions. If anyone is still arguing with you about last night’s high school curling match on ESPN2, shut…them…down. Something like, “DUDE, check the stats before you talk to me – Goldstein is leading the STATE in adjusted brush technique this year! #Dumbass” should do the trick!

6. When addressing your adoring public of 250 followers (most of whom are porn bots anyway), make sure to start your farewell tweet for the night with “Well, Tweeps,” and then say something absurdly profound and original like “tomorrow’s another day. I’m gonna get thru this! #SelfConfidence #Potential #HopesNDreams”.

How to Use Instagram:

1. Log-in.

2. If you think it’s artsy or funny, it’s probably not. Take a picture anyway.

3. Make sure to use one of those filters that makes it look like the sun is about to bump into the Earth, creating a weird glare on the top of the picture.

4. You absolutely MUST hashtag “#nofilter” at the end of your message, even though you used a filter and it looks exactly the same.

5. Speaking of the message, it better have some kind of title to go with it, as if you just captured a work of art in your iPhone lens.

6. Share to Twitter and Facebook. You wouldn’t want the people stupid enough to not yet Instagram their lives to miss your pictures.

How to Use Foursquare:

1. Don’t. It’s really freakin’ creepy. (Says the guy who uses it daily)

How to Interpret this blog:

I’ll admit it. I’m part of the problem. There is no getting around it, no excuses to be made. Does that mean I’ll stop? Probably not.

My pupils can dilate into hashtags, my hands can turn into big, clunky thumbs-up signs, my brain can start processing images with an array of glittery filters…I just don’t care. I’ll probably still check my robotic self in at whichever cafe I happen to be perusing FourSquare in, though I may not even realize I’m at a cafe until the GPS tells me so, because my little Twitter-eyed, Facebook-handed, Instagram-brained self is a zombie. Not one of those cool zombies either. Just an annoying, nerdy, sometimes hip, apathetic zombie who only preys on flesh when his iPhone battery dies (every eight hours, I might add).

Yes, I’m completely, totally, unequivocally hooked into social media. I can think of any number of reasons why, but I’ll just go with the basics: it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s interactive, and it’s a totally free platform for personal expression.

I’m not going to unplug, either. I like being hooked in to people around the world. I like being able to turn on my phone and start a three-day debate with a random guy in Columbus over whether high or low socks look better on a baseball uniform (for the record, the answer is high socks – feel free to tweet me if you disagree).

I like being able to write a blog that normally only my parents and myself (at least thirteen times, just to make sure my number of reads doesn’t look too pathetic) would read, and then posting to Reddit and suddenly having a couple hundred strangers appreciating and/or making fun of my ideas and passions.

And I especially like being inspired by other people’s ideas or pictures or thoughts. Now that I’ve effectively pinned my opinion on social media to your brain and tumbled through all the ways I love it, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty here:

Humans are screwed thanks to guys like me.

Seriously. Social Media is a dangerous weapon, and I’m openly abusing it. The difference is, I know how to use it. I haven’t lost my ability to interact face-to-face with a living, breathing person. I’ve formed relationships via conversation and physical touch. I’ve felt the real, stinging emotions that humans feel – not the radiating glow of a computer screen slowly digging into your skin and infecting your bones.

People need to realize that social media is what it is. It’s media. A social form, yes. But it is media. It’s not real, tangible contact.

So don’t take it so seriously. If we aren’t friends on Facebook, that’s not a reflection of my opinion on you as a person. Hell, if we ARE friends on Facebook, it doesn’t mean we are actually going to meet up and chat about politics and the stock market and the new secretary’s affinity for filing her nails at her desk (that sounds awful anyway – note to self, don’t ever talk about aforementioned topics).

If I unfollow you on Twitter, it means I don’t want to read your tweets. It doesn’t mean I just subliminally told you to fuck off. Once I’ve followed you, I have not made a legally binding vow to keep reading your angry diatribes about life, love and the pursuit of retweets.

Let’s just put it this way: I have 300 followers on Twitter. Most of them are NOT my real friends. They are people who liked something I said at one point or another. Maybe they felt obligated to follow me because I followed them. Whatever the case, if you have 30,000 followers, you are not 100 times cooler than me.

It means you Tweet 100 times better than I do. Congrats!

Just please refer to the above user guidelines for social media…and then completely disregard them.

My friends are the ones I can call on Skype from thousands of miles away and hold a conversation for hours with. Or the people I can meet up with on a random Wednesday night for beer and wings.

The people who don’t care if I like their status, favorite their tweets and comment on their check-ins. Please use social media responsibly. And don’t let it take over the human race – we are all WAY too interesting to let that happen.

End, rant. Goodnight #Tweeps!

Hey America! Batman Doesn’t Use Guns

What can we do to change the world?

Since when is going to a movie, paying for entertainment, watching a superhero movie a dangerous endeavor? If only Batman was real and had seen the bat signal high above the Aurora, Colorado movie theatres at his own premiere last Thursday night.

The world would be less one criminal, plus 12 innocent movie goers.

In my opinion, the answer is NOT “prayer.”

Look, I’m not religious, but I’m also not against religion. I think for people who are religious, prayer is a great way to cope and a way of sending their best regards to people affected in tragedies such as Aurora. Or Columbine. Or Virginia Tech. Further, religion is a way for someone to direct their lives in a positive way.

That being said, praying for the victims of the Aurora shooting is not going to miraculously cure all future killing spree candidates of whatever insanity resides in their skulls.

Without stealing my friend @DanSharp‘s Facebook status outright, let me paraphrase and summarize for you, because he perfectly put the way I feel about situations such as these:

Let’s actually do something about what happened in Aurora. Whether that be stricter gun laws, gun abolishment altogether, higher security at public places…prayer won’t do it. Because when we pray, it leads to grief, acceptance and forgiveness. And how can we forgive something like this? Something unforgivable?

I’m not here to tell you that the NRA is at fault, or that Marilyn Manson inspired this man, or that movies should be less violent. But the fact that anyone with a WiFi connection, a little cash and a bad attitude can inflict so much damage on so many people is, frankly, disturbing.

The suspect in the Aurora shootings, James E. Holmes, was an honor student and scholarship winner. No matter how good he was, how smart he was, he had access to many deadly weapons, as evidenced by the sheer amount of heat he was packing upon entering the theatre.

Holmes got two handguns, a shotgun, an AK-47 rifle and two canisters of tear gas, according to police reports. How long until every kid outside the suburbs realizes they can save some allowance money and get a gun to carry around?

So…pro-gun law folk argue that if gun laws were more lenient, the people in the theatre could have potentially defended themselves. They even point out that the owner of the theatre enforced a no weapons policy inside.

Oh, the humanity! How could this owner live with himself now, knowing those patrons at the midnight premiere could have potentially defended themselves? Well, first of all. Nobody would bring a gun to a movie. That’s not even an argument.

Secondly, if anyone there could have dodged tear gas and a barrage of sprayed bullets and taken out a heavily armed gunman with a gas mask and bullet proof vest on, they should immediately be drafted into the Special Ops division of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The fact of the matter is, those people were completely helpless. And the root of the problem is not that they didn’t have guns to fire back with. The issue is that Holmes allegedly did have guns.

If gun laws were tightened up, if online purchases of firearms were more closely guarded, if punishments were stricter, if security at public places was better…if, if, IF we could actually do something to change the way our country has become, we wouldn’t have to pray for victims and their families, after the fact.

There is no coincidence that the United States has ten times as many murders by gun than any other country in the world on a yearly basis. We lose nearly TEN THOUSAND people to gun violence per year in our country.

Ten thousand. That’s everyone on my Facebook, multiplied by five. The sheer volume of human life lost at the pull of a trigger on a weapon that gives the holder power and protection and potentially, a sense of invincibility, is absolutely staggering.

According to JustFacts.com, 83 percent of Americans will be the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime (assault, robbery, rape) at some point in their lives. People are killed in accidental shootings, petty arguments, and carefully meditated murders. So how do we bring this number down and improve the safety of the general American public?

Easy. Ditch the guns. Require metal detectors and security at all large public places (look, I created more jobs!). Increase the penalty for illegally carrying a weapon. Track online ordering of weapons as if our lives depend on it. Because they pretty much do, now.

(Womp, womp Bill of Rights yadda yadda, I know…that’s like telling me not to wash my dirty face when pimples appear because I was born with smooth, spotless skin. When things change, we need to adapt with them, and I hardly expect that our Founding Fathers were predicting nearly 10,000 deaths a year via bullet when they drafted the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise, my face will look like a battle field and everyone will hate me and I’ll die a slow, painful death. Please understand this metaphor so I don’t have to explain any further. Pimples are gross.)

So keep the prayers coming – it’s a way to cope, it’s a way to send respect. But if whatever God you pray to heard us the first million times, things would have already changed. The only people with the power to change this is the government, unfortunately.

Allow hunting rifles. Allow law enforcement officials to have weapons. But every person with a power streak does not need to have a magnum tucked into their belt line.

What will it take? I’m honestly afraid to go to my local MLB game – the Oakland A’s stadium is in a bad place. Oakland in general is one of the most dangerous places in the country. Who’s to say the next game I go to isn’t infiltrated by a crazy, bullied kid like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with a machine gun well-hidden on his person?

That would open over 25,000 people in a very confined space to the threat of immediate and lethal danger.

Unless something changes at the top, people will continue to find ways to acquire weapons. They will continue to hold grudges and take it out on hundreds of innocent citizens in movie theatres, school cafeterias, shopping malls and office buildings.

So keep the prayers coming, but don’t forget to actually take a physical stand to gun violence. Help the effort on limiting violence by writing local congressmen, using social media to attack gun laws, until the general public’s wave of fear and disappointment washes over Congress and forces a chance that will keep our country safer than it’s ever been before.

Aurora will thank you. Columbine and Oklahoma City will thank you. Most importantly, ten thousand future strangers might thank you. Victims of real, unforgivable crimes that all shapes and sizes of Gods completely ignored.

Don’t simply accept, forgive and move on from this tragedy. Because it’s unacceptable. It must be stopped.

You can be the real life superhero.

Here’s My Number, So Color Me Maybe?

If you’re counting, that’s two Call Me Maybe references in as many blogs. You’re welcome.

This time I’m referring to a little less musical, a little more colorful reference. See yesterday, I went with a small group (a “team” if you will – which means we got to create a clever hash tag-related team name, plus saved us $5 each on the fee) to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to take part in one of the most rapidly-growing must-do’s in this country: The Color Run.

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Let’s use the term “run” lightly and the term “color” heavily. We walked at least 85 percent of the course, which was a 3.1-mile concrete jungle in and around the Candlestick parking lot. But we came out looking like we went for a dip in a vat of syrup at the Skittles factory (if they actually have an entire factory solely dedicated to Skittle creation, please send the location and hours of operation to me at once).

The Color Run is a 5K charity run with the simple yet accurate tagline “the happiest 5K on the planet.” If you’re hearing about it for the first time, we’re talking about a normal run, where you get a number to pin to your shirt, a starting time and a finish line.

The main difference is that volunteers line up every three-quarters of a mile or so with buckets and bottles and bombs full of colored powder that they mercilessly chuck at you as you come through each of the four “color zones.”

On our run, we went through pink, then yellow, then blue, then orange, before stumbling upon attacks of purple, green, red and turquoise after crossing the finish line.

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The Color Run isn’t timed – the only rule is to show up on time with a white t-shirt on. Needless to say, wearing something you don’t want to get dirty is a bad idea. Even if you managed to run around the color zones (I don’t know why you would want to…maybe you are just a soulless demon who hates color and love and happiness), there’s no way you’d avoid the masterful tie-dying that inevitably coats you at the post-race party.

Oh, did I forget to mention the post-race party? Oops.

The run itself was fantastic – my group had an amazing time, powder-bombing each other and giving out high fives like nobody’s business. But at the end, there was a stage with a DJ throwing all the extra color packets out into a mosh pit of rainbow-y, sweaty goodness.

You may be wondering if The Color Run is really worth all the hullaballoo. I mean, an entire blog dedicated to it??

You betcha. I’ve done the Bay to Breakers, which is unequaled in its epicness. But that’s all for fun. People get shmammered at six in the morning and dress in funny costumes. The Color Run, on the other hand is for charity, and culminates with the aforementioned post-race party.

Let me break down why you MUST do The Color Run if it comes to your area:

1. Nobody likes running. Usain Bolt doesn’t even like running. He’s just good at it.
2. Everybody likes tie-dye. It makes normal people into hippies in ten minutes or less.
3. Charity is good. Even if you don’t have multiple sins to atone for, charity is good.

So The Color Run is a brilliant combination of solutions to all three – the “race” isn’t timed, you end up a human rainbow, and your $50 ($55 if you don’t have friends, therefore can’t form a team) goes to charity.

And when you’re all done running, jogging, skipping or crawling through those color zones, you get to mosh for two hours just…because. I do have to warn you though. You will ingest floury substances through your mouth, nose, ears and eyes. But it’s all worth it.

I promise The Color Run didn’t ask me to write this, nor did I receive extra packets of chalky pink goodness to use at my discretion. I just had a really freakin’ awesome time at this event, and strongly encourage everyone to give it a shot.

But you have to promise me one thing – save the free packet of color you get upon registration until the mosh at the end. And when one of those booming, loud, techno/house/dubstep/whatever/aren’t those all the same things basically/club songs comes on…do what I did. Wait until the beat drops and then rip that packet open and look up!

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You’ll be engulfed in a cloud of rainbow powder between a sea of extremely happy, awesome people jumping up and down to the pure joy of music and color.

You can find more information on The Color Run by clicking this link. Sign up now!

Oh Hot Damn, This is My Jammmmmm

A close (okay, so we’ve never met outside of the social media sphere but I’m assured he’s a great guy and has a fantastic attitude and general outlook on life because I’ve seen his videos on YouTube…) friend of mine once said: Music *pause* touches *pause* the human *pause* heart *don’t fughettabout the epic Brooklyn accent*. 

It’s true. I laughed first, but when you really think about it…my man @EddieMata has a point. Music really does touch the human heart.

For example…

…just this morning I was running ten minutes late to work. No time for breakfast and already low on sleep, it had the look of “one of those days.”

And like an angel from heaven, BAM: Call Me Maybe pops on to the awful radio rap station I consider a guilty pleasure because of its knack for playing crappy songs that are easy to sing along to (and apparently a knack for cheering me up?).

Oh, you already know. That car was rockin’.

That is a silly example of my main point, but valid nonetheless. How about this?

Back in high school, I was having some bonding time with my Dad one night. By that I mean we were sitting on the couch at 12:30 in the morning, eating junk food and watching South Park re-runs and trying to out-fart one another (please don’t let this very accurate portrayal of our relationship sully whatever image you have of my family).

As soon as Kenny died, we decided to flip the channel – we went where most men have never gone before. We scrolled through the single digits of basic cable. And lived to tell about it. GASP.

Thank goodness we did. Because my Dad stopped on channel 9, where a poorly-done telecast displayed a doofy-lookin’ old dude strumming a faded old guitar on stage in St. Louis in front of an exceptionally mesmerized crowd.

His name is Tommy Emmanuel, and my Dad has now seen him live four times and even had a private guitar lesson. My Dad’s guitar is signed by Tommy (one of four Certified Guitar Players in the world right now), and we have every song he’s ever recorded on our iTunes.

See, my Dad has always loved playing guitar – he worshiped the Allman Brothers as a young lad in Southern California and saw his high school classmates Van Halen play before anyone knew who they were.

So when we skipped over that channel, the only bodily function out of either of us was a weakly-managed “wow.” Tommy’s music touches my Dad’s heart, playing the strings like his very own Les Paul.

As a writer/poet/blogger/podcaster/whatever-er, I also appreciate fantastic lyrics. That’s one way that music gets me. No, we’re not flashing back to dark days in high school when I tell you that one of the bands I enjoy listening to the most for their lyrical content, story-telling ability and poetic flow is Death Cab For Cutie.

I could (and hopefully will, someday) teach an entire lyric appreciation course in schools anywhere with the curriculum centered around Death Cab songs like Crooked Teeth.

My favorite rapper is Atmosphere, because he actually rhymes about things that are relevant. No lollipops, bananas or “whistles” involved.

Words are so powerful; we’ve seen it in speeches (I HAVE A DREAM!), books (Twilight Harry Potter, for example) and music.

I’ve spent the large part of my last eight years of life writing words that I consider meaningful. Writing classes, journalistic articles, scholarly papers, poems, short stories.

And I like to think I’m pretty good at all of the above. But putting those words to a melody and rhythm is so incredibly difficult. Trust me. I’ve tried.

Even people like Taylor Swift who get flak for their song-writing from music snobs everywhere deserve major recognition.

Go write a rhyming poem that actually has meaning and tell me it was not difficult. No seriously. Go right now.

That’s what I thought.

I love to write. I love to tell stories, create characters, put pictures in people’s mind…make people feel things. My heart is on-board. And there aren’t many things that touch my heart and ignite my writing more than listening to music.

Last night, I helped celebrate my Dad’s 57th birthday. We went to a jazz lounge named after the most popular Mario Kart character (if you had to think about the name of said lounge, you clearly were one of the weirdos who chose Bowser…shame on you), and watched the California Guitar Trio.

By the end of the show, I had a brand new novel idea and was already envisioning it as an award-winning movie before we got back to the car.

There are things in life that just push people to be at their best. Music is one of the biggest; dancers are inspired to dance because of music. Singers are inspired to sing. Artists are inspired to create. And writers can be inspired to write.

In crafts like these, your heart is your work. So my boy Eddie was right. Music really does touch the human heart.

Let the music inspire you. Unless it’s Rebecca Black. In that case, go directly to your nearest zoo. Thanks.

Random, Awkward, Shower-Inspired Epiphanies

I’ve been meaning to make this blog a weekly thang – a departure from the one-track mind I tend to publicly display via Facebook, Tweet, and Jam Shot. Because believe it or not, I’m not only…always…thinking about sports.

Yes, it fills a significant portion of my lobes. But I promise there is more going on in this head of mine. I’ve been told I can write, so I’m here to do so about topics that matter in the grand scheme of things.

You know. Dreams. Emotions. Travel. Charity. Drunken samplings of gnarly crustacean delicacies.

Just one problem. Writer’s block – the bane of my existence. And by “writer’s block,” I mean laziness, non-motivation, finger cramps, whatever personal problem you want to pathetically disguise behind a clichéd veil.

It’s no excuse. A writer who has “writer’s block” is like a singer who claims to have suddenly gone mute. Or a hitter in a horrific slump (I get ONE sports analogy…come on!). The only way to break out is to keep on writing, singing, swinging and throwing.

For some reason, I’ve been able to keep writing my daily-but-turned-to-weekly sports blog, and my assigned Bleacher Report articles, and my contributions to Three Up, Three Down (the next great baseball podcast, co-host and co-creator…at least that’s what I imagine the business cards will say when we hit it big), and even a piece here or there for Lasorda’s Lair.

Yet between all that and the shameless self promotion that just occurred (I’m really hoping there’s an opening at a major magazine and the Editor happened to peruse through that previous paragraph), I haven’t been able to just sit down and hammer out some thoughts on this digital piece of parchment…

…until NOW. And I really do have a couple of thoughts I want to etch into the blogosphere tonight.

While I was showering away a more-painful-than-usual two-mile run earlier tonight (I swear the wind was against me both ways…), I got into one of those awkward “why am I thinking deeply about life and such while scrubbing my armpit with a soapy loofah” moods.

Whatever the reason, I realized how much I miss college. Which led to me reflecting on the last five years of my life. Since the day I decided to go to Washington State at age 18 1/2, to today…almost 23 1/2…just, wow.

I mean, how else do I describe it? Do I sacrifice how I really felt to make it read better? Or keep as is. As it came to me when the memories started flooding in. I literally, audibly, muttered the word, “wow.”

See, I consider myself a decently lazy person. To the point that I’ve spent no less than 2,500 hours over the last five years watching a full game or match of baseball or football or basketball or soccer. Factor in 12,750 hours of sleeping and approximately 5,000 hours working over that same time span, I’ve spent nearly 50 percent of my 43,830 hours of life since age 18 1/2 doing things that require no more than basic physical functioning.

This doesn’t even include the infinite hours I’ve spent Tweeting, Facebooking, YouTube-ing, Sporcle-ing, Stumbling, and any other form of procrastination ending with “ing” that you can think of.

I’ve spent 5,000 hours answering phones, writing emails, asking for donations, taking payments, making trip reservations, washing dishes, serving food, tutoring fellow students, teaching baseball. Nearly 13,000 hours dreaming of whatever my crazy brain dreams of while sprawled across beds, futons, hammocks, hardwood floors, rocks, car seats and trampolines. And 2,500 hours cheering, screaming, analyzing, moping, stressing and moaning about any combination of the Dodgers, A’s, 49ers and Cougars.

You’d think I’d have time for nothing else. And sometimes it seems like I truly don’t. But when I stopped to consider – I was floored at the realization that despite half of my time being devoted to sleeping to recharge for work, to work for money, to pay for activities that make me tired again…I have done so many things without really trying.

Since turning 18 1/2, I’ve received two college degrees. I’ve been hired by the fourth-largest sports website in America. I’ve quit my job at the fourth-largest sports website in America. I’ve been named one of the Top 50 baseball fans in the country, out of 22,000 hopefuls.

I’ve traveled the Mediterranean by sea, Europe and Africa by foot, and America by car. I’ve visited New Orleans, and Boston, and Canada, and Mexico, and St. Louis, and Orlando, and Breckenridge, and Las Vegas, and Chicago.

I’ve snowboarded at Whistler, and sun bathed in Puerto Vallarta, and blacked out on Bourbon Street, and skinny dipped in Barcelona, and hiked the coastline in Italy, and witnessed evening prayer during Ramadan at a Moroccan mosque.

I’ve watched movies that made me laugh. I’ve read books that made me cry. I’ve written stories and poems made of fiction based on truth. And memoirs and papers of fact based on fiction. I’ve written things that made me feel good, and made other people cry.

My work has been published. Multiple times.

I’ve learned to like sushi, and wine, and traveling by train. I’ve even tried raw oysters and fried calamari (see, gnarly crustaceans!).

I’ve helped raise a puppy. I’ve sung Whitney Houston in front of 500 people at a karaoke bar. I’ve milked cows. Hell, I’ve even grown a beard.

I’ve ridden a camel. I’ve run a sub-five minute mile. I’ve gone shirtless in 23-degree weather. I’ve watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean, and not from land. I’ve survived a plane ride through bolts of lightning. I’ve mastered the most terrifying, exhilarating river rafting trip on this continent.

I’ve succeeded grandly. I’ve failed miserably.

I’ve changed people’s lives. I’ve had my life changed.

And most importantly, I’ve physically distanced myself from my family, yet never been closer to them. And in my movements, I’ve met hundreds of people from around the country and around the world and formed friendships and partnerships and romances that will never die.

All these things have come about from the sheer will of curiosity. A poster in my Humanities classroom caught my eye. A friend’s texted suggestion piqued my interest. A deep love for baseball forced me to make a video on a whim.

I’ve been to a hundred new places and met a hundred new people and learned a hundred new things and eaten a hundred new foods in that short, five-year span.

And it’s all been done on a tight budget. I can’t remember the last time the number in my bank account made me feel secure. I’ve had the wonderful support of my generous, hard-working parents and a lot of loving family and friends help get me to these places. To meet these people I’ve met and learn these things I’ve learned.

So. I’m not here to preach. Or throw morals at you. Or brag about my successes and find sympathy for my failings.

I’m here to realize that if a somewhat lazy, semi-penniless, totally average guy who literally spends half his life either staring at a TV, a work-supplied computer, or the back of his eyelids can do ALL THOSE THINGS in five years…

So can you. And I hope you do. Go meet people. Go see places. Go learn things. Go eat food. And drink drinks. As our elders say, these are the best years of our lives.

And now that I realize those former hippies were right all along, I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to try to make my life as awesome and interesting and memorable as the last five years have been. And this time it won’t take a random concoction of curiosity, luck and happenstance.

In five years, since turning 18 1/2, I’ve seen and done some incredible things. I call some unbelievable people my friends. People I never would have known existed, in places I couldn’t pronounce the names of, doing things I couldn’t dream of.

And if I can actually set myself down that path instead of just stumbling onto it from here on out…I may just knock out two or three full bucket lists by the time my next half decade passes.

Check back in with me in June of 2017. I’ll be 28 1/2 then. Five years richer, five years smarter and five years happier.

Hopefully, the writer’s block has subsided by then.

The 10 Best Things About Being a Dodgers Fan

1. Matt Kemp

You’ve got to start at the top. The current Dodger regime has gone through some ups and downs, but through it all emerged a bona fide star. Last season, Kemp rose out of the shadows and posted MVP-worthy numbers. He was one home run shy of a 40/40 season and about ten hits short of a Triple Crown. This winter, the ownership signed him to an eight-year extension, ensuring that Dodger fans will have a superstar to anchor the lineup and the outfield on a daily basis until 2020. Kemp has the swagger and skill to keep fans coming to Chavez Ravine; he’s already predicted an unprecedented 50/50 season this year.

2. Dodger Stadium

Speaking of Chavez Ravine, you’ve got to love Dodger Stadium. It’s situated above most of the city, so you get a brilliant view of the sun setting over the skyline in one direction, and the Santa Monica hills in the other. There is just something about the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium that is magnetic. It’s stayed current, but maintained its historic significance at the same time. And players commonly rank the field at Dodger Stadium as their favorite in all of baseball to play on.

3. The Dodger History

What more do you have to say than: Jackie Robinson. From the days in Brooklyn to the move to Los Angeles, the Dodgers franchise has been one of the most historic and valuable in any sport, ever. Not only did Robinson break the color barrier, but also by doing so, he played a large role in the Civil Rights movement in general. We’ve had Jackie, we’ve had Sandy Koufax, we’ve had Fernando Valenzuela. The list of players that starred for the Dodgers and made gigantic, positive impacts on the sport of baseball is endless.

4. The moments

Every fan can claim that a good part of rooting for their team is the moments that went down in history. But the Dodgers just seem to have a flair for the dramatic. There was Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988. And of course Steve Finley’s division-winning, walk-off grand slam in 2004 against the Giants. Or the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs to tie the game in the 9th, preceding a walk-off by Nomar Garciaparra in the 10th just six years ago…the Dodgers own some of the most incredible, crazy moments in baseball history.

5. 1988

Speaking of Gibson, the Dodgers’ last World Series title came in 1988. It was a long time ago, and they have won six overall, but for my generation, this is the moment we refer to. The magnitude of that Series was so large that it still resonates among the fan base. No doubt, we are all hungry for another one, but “in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened,” keeps us going.

6. Vin Scully

In case you live under a rock, the reference at the end of number five was the call by Scully on Gibson’s historic home run. Vin is the pride and joy of this Dodger franchise, entering his 62nd season as the voice of the team. Nobody calls a better game than him, nobody captures a moment better than him, and he is hands-down the greatest announcer in the game. Scully is in his mid-80s, and this Dodger fan would love nothing more than to see the boys in blue take home one last title for their beloved announcer before he retires.

7. Dodger Dogs

Oh, you knew they would be on here. If you haven’t had a Dodger Dog, you’re missing out on an essential part of baseball culinary history. These franks are so good that the Dodgers sold approximately two MILLION of them in 2011. The Dodgers are one of the only teams that serves such an iconic ballpark snack that it’s synonymous with the actual franchise. Dodger Dogs even spawned a chain of small restaurants in the Southern California area. If you’ve been to a game at Dodger Stadium and never tried a Dog, you should be ashamed.

8. Clayton Kershaw

We have Matt Kemp on offense, and the reigning N.L. Cy Young winner Kershaw in the rotation. He’s only 23 years old, but he has garnered comparisons to Koufax. Those are very deserved of a young man who wows crowds all over the big leagues with a blazing fastball and electric off-speed pitches. The sky is the limit for Kershaw, and that’s what excites the Dodger fan base the most. If he’s already got a Cy Young award, what else can he do throughout his career. We can only hope that he is signed long-term as soon as the ownership situation is resolved. Oh, did I mention, Kershaw outdueled the Giants’ Tim Lincecum to the tune of 4-0 last season? Any dominance of the Giants is greatly appreciated in Dodgertown.

9. The farm system

This has always been a strong point of the Dodgers. Personally, my memory goes back to the mid-to-late 90’s, when the team boasted five straight National League Rookie of the Year awards. The Dodgers’ franchise has won the award a staggering sixteen times, including another run of four straight from 1979-1982, and Jackie Robinson’s win in the inaugural 1947 vote. This team seemingly always has exciting new talent waiting in the wings, which keeps the fan base excited for the future no matter what. Most recently, Dee Gordon has provided a spark at the leadoff spot and we’re looking forward to see if he can be the next young Dodger star.

10. Rivalry vs. the Giants

This rivalry has taken a turn for the worst in recent years, but on the field, it’s the most ferocious back-and-forth in sports. These teams passionately hate each other. It’s been that way since their days in New York. From legendary brawls, to intense pennant races, to ripping each other in the media, these two teams mix like oil and water. And boy is it fun to watch on the field. Even if the Dodgers are having a down season, winning the season series from the Giants is considered a successful year. Ponder this: since 1901, the two teams have played over 2,000 times and the win difference is only 16 games. That’s what I call a rivalry, and these are the reasons I love being a Dodger fan.