The ramblings of a Scotch/Irish/Welsh/’Merikan

Oh man. I’ve skipped middle age and gone straight to cranky old man.


Here’s what I should be doing right now.

1) Reading.
2) Practicing.
3) Preparing for H.S. drumline competition week.
4) Meeting with one of my professors.
5) Making a T-Shirt order for the H.S. kids.
6) Posting a response in an online class forum.

But these things take energy, of which I have none. Instead I’ve found myself hiding away in a remote corner of this campus that I did not know existed until today, drinking coffee, and waiting for May of 2016.

..and now I’m out of coffee.

Once upon a time I started writing a novel. I would say on a weekly basis I think about that novel 12-15 times. I’m not sure I’ll ever finish it because it serves the stereotype far better to be the person that has “started” or “working on” a novel, and not the person who has finished one. One of these days I’ll need to hunker down and get to work on it, assuming it is not the worst thing ever. I’ve not read it or looked at it in two years or so, so there is a better than average chance that it is total rubbish. Nevertheless, i’m still interested.

I think I’m near the art rooms. It smells like paint and parent’s basements where I’m sitting.  Also there are a tremendous amount of what I assume to be art projects hanging from the ceiling. There is the obligatory “massive painting of random colors that means something profound and retails for $4500” to my right. Needless to say, I don’t think I get art. I dig music, so that gives me partial credit, but I cant call myself an art lover. There is a side of me that thinks it would be a good idea to put Ewan to work making expensive art. His drawings on the refrigerator very closely resemble some of the paintings lining the hallways surrounding me. I’ll sign his name at the bottom and slap an outlandish price tag on it. Then we’re drinking Pina Coladas on the beach.

New life plan. Check.

There is a girl on a phone interview sitting a little ways from me. If I never hear the term “learning opportunity” again, I would be ok with that. Based on this phone interview, she will not get this job. She doesnt know how to speak with confidence, and, without even hearing the questions they are giving her, I can tell she’s giving the wrong answers. Poor girl. A product of growing up in a texting world. These high school and college kids never learned how to actually speak. They can text faster than I can think, but I’ll be damned if they can have an intelligent conversation with another human being.

Seriously. When we need to have a meeting with our High School kids for band, they have no idea how to contribute. They stare at you and wait for you to be done talking. Then around an hour later, they will text you with responses. I’m not joking. I have been texted by my kids at 11pm with some profound life question.  I’ll ignore the text and try to talk to them the next morning about it, and it is like talking to a split personality. They mumble, dont make eye contact, etc. Sad times. Texting = no people skills.

Rant over, old man hat off.

Also. There are a handful of people reading this blog from South America. I’m not sure how they arrived here, but they seem to be coming back. To my neighbors to the south, Hola!

Cheers! (Adios!)


A day in the life..

iPhone post.
I’m that guy.

Typing away feverishly on my phone. I have the face of a stern man; a furrowed brow, an intentional avoidance of eye contact with passers by. If I were wearing a suit and in an airport I would be perceived as doing some sort of business. If I were in front of my students I would appear to be taking care of some pressing matter pertaining to the advancement of music education at Oak Park High School. If I were wearing scrubs and walking fast one would think I was typing information to save lives.

As it exists today, I am at a picnic table on a college campus with a pencil in my mouth and sunglasses on. I’m wearing a collared shirt that is not buttoned all the way, showing a little chest. Only here is the persistent iPhone typer judged accurately. Someone walks by and assumes I’m dicking around on the Internet, killing time. It’s what the airport businessman, the doctor in scrubs and the teacher are doing too, we just like to think they aren’t.

I had to give a presentation today on some antiquated religion called Mithraism. It was the first time in my life that I had to create a PowerPoint presentation. It was silly, but such is college. I got to experience life as a Gen Ed college professor for a minute and that is not awesome. Most of the students in my class were wearing pajamas. Wake up! It’s 10 o’clock in the morning! They stared blankly as I faked enthusiasm to get a grade. No one responded to anything I said. They didn’t care. I didn’t care. One big fucking formality, then you get a degree. I dig the class though.

I moved from that class to my clarinet class (yep, I said it) where I listened to the 60 year old me talk about how much music education has changed and how they don’t make clarinets like they used to. I love listening to this guy talk. He’s hilarious. We all had our clarinets in hand, ready to play and by the time his lecture was over, class was done. I love it. These old guys have all the knowledge and these 20 year olds don’t know what to do with it.

After clarinet, I took an online sociology quiz. I have no memory of the quiz, the class info, the teachers name, what sociology is, or anything else. Needless to say, I got an A on the quiz.

Lunch break and off to play intermediate level drumset music. Then home to read about God knows what.



…and the four right chords can make me cry.


I used to do this type of blog on a regular basis, and I sort of forgot about it until tonight. Basically I like to share a tune that I’ve been digging, so here’s this installment.

“Jesus, Jesus” by Noah Gundersen

Holy crap. This one is brutal. If there is one thing that I appreciate, it’s honest lyrics. I was sitting in a buddy of mine’s office and he played this song. I choked up more than once. It’s a guy struggling with things and singing a little song to Jesus.  Not the church friendly kind, but probably more legit than what we’re singing in a lot of churches. Specifically:

Jesus Jesus, there are those who say they love you,
but they have treated me so goddamn mean
And I know you say forgive them for they know not what they do
but sometimes I think they do, and I think about you

As a guy who as traveled the church circuit in America extensively, I’ve come to appreciate the laments of the people far more than I appreciate the false joy. This one hits the nail on the head.

Dig it, friends.


God told me to get a calf tattoo.


My favorite thing that has happened today = someone got to my blog by typing “diabetes research” into google. I’d call that a win.

Has anyone ever actually purchased anything due to spam email? This thought crosses my mind often.  I get hundreds of emails that I never open, but surely someone is opening these emails and thinking, “why yes, I do want to refinance my mortgage. Maybe this fella who sends the emails can help.” Its supply and demand. If spam emails weren’t working, we would stop getting spam emails. I’d love to meet one of these people though.


It seems to me, after a significant amount of time in the summer sun recently, that male calf tattoos have made their way into society. I must have missed this memo, but as it turns out, the thing to do these days is get some wild tattoo on your calf, then change your walk in such a way as to draw attention to said tattoo. Sadly, your options for tattoos are limited to one of the following; 1) Flaming skull with blue and/or green background, 2) cartoon character gone wrong, i.e. bugs bunny with a revolver or 3) the always popular naked chick. Naked chick usually has either devil horns or a devil tail. I’m not excited for the day when Ewan asks me why the man in front of us at the store buying Keystone Light has a picture of a girl showing her privates to the world on the back of his hairy leg.

Ah parenting.

Lately Ewan has been telling us that God told him to do things he knows he is not supposed to do. Hilarious. Tonight he said “Dad, God told me to watch PBS Kids on the iPad.” Other times it’s “God told me I could have more jelly.”  I’ll of course need to squash this Republican spirt arising in him, but for the meantime it’s quite funny. I usually say “are you sure God told you to?” and he responds with an extremely confident “yep, God told me to so now I have to.” Lets hope he grows out of this before he turns 18 and God tells him to get a calf tattoo.


I like the sound of my own voice, didn’t give anyone else a choice


I’m sorry for having gone dark so soon after pushing this boulder up the hill again. I have a love/hate relationship with this blog you see. Everyday I think of things to “blog” about, or I get worked up about some idiot GOP member and want to vent via blog, and everyday, I choose not to.

I’ve narrowed down the reasons why I choose not to blog, and they are as follows:

1. I’m not as narcissistic as I used to be. This is not at all a slam on legitimate bloggers, but I know that I used to be WAY more concerned with what I have to say than I am now. 

2. I really like to read.  This deters from blogging because I like to read long-ass novels. Currently I’m working my way through all 900 pages of David Copperfield. When I have free time, I choose to read rather than blog usually. 

3. I lose my filter when I blog, and that filter is likely what keeps me in positive relationships with people around me. You see, deep down on the inside, I think a lot of terrible things. I’m not proud of that fact, I’m just speaking the truth. I have (and Amanda would tell you different) mastered the art of my verbal filter, which has kept my friends enjoying my presence.  My typing filter has not learned the skills that my verbal filter has learned, and therefore I tend to blog things that I don’t actually want people to read, which brings me to my next point.. 

4. I’m not thrilled with the sound of my own voice. I have a decent anecdote from time to time, but for the most part, I’m quite uninteresting. 


now, despite my tendencies to ignore this silly blog, I really would like to keep up with it. I started college officially this week, and already the thoughts are flowin. I’ll keep ya updated. 


….to sleep no more.


Me and Sleep, we’ve never really seen eye to eye.

As far back as I can remember, I have found it extremely difficult to fall asleep unless I’m crazy tired. Tonight is one such night. I’ve recently conceded defeat and decided to try again later.

The stages of not being able to fall asleep.
1.Excitement (i’m going to bed at a decent time)
2. Worry (I hope it’s not one of my “don’t sleep” nights)
3. Hungriness (this too shall pass)
4. Sweaty legs (but the fan is on?)
5. New song lyrics randomly pop in to head (i’ll remember in the morning) <—-you never do.
6. Heart racing (When did i have my last cup of coffee… after 2pm.. NOOOO!!)
7.Checklist (did i close the garage?)
8. looking at the clock to see how much time has gone by since the last time you looked at the clock and then counting the time until your alarm goes off in the morning, and thinking that if you fall asleep in the next 5 minutes, you’re still good. (self-explanatory)
9. Extreme rage at your body (“I’m not getting up, screw you! I’m falling asleep!”)
10. Defeat. (I wonder if HuffPost has updated in the last 45 min?)

Here’s the worst part. I’ll be sleeping like a log around 6am, when Ewan jumps up and wants to ride his bike outside. The part worse than the worst part? Tomorrow is Amanda’s sleep in day. Yes we have designated sleep in days. You folks without children wouldn’t understand, and you’re probably feeling better than we child rearing folk every day.


The accountant with shingles


My wife had shingles a few years ago, and since then, I’m convinced that every pain in my side is an early warning sign.
All that to say, my side hurts right now, and it’s likely shingles.

I just had my first performance with the college percussion group. Two thoughts. 1) wasn’t as bad as I thought to be the old guy. 2) college kids haven’t learned how to handle pressure and not choke in front of an audience.

Performing classical music written on paper is so much more chill than performing a song you wrote in your gym shorts while drinking coffee and contemplating your own existence. If people don’t like your performance and you’re reading music, blame the music. When you’ve written a song and people don’t like it, blame your parents. Or just work harder and write a better song. Lazy.

Songwriting is for the birds.

So is classical music.

Maybe I’ll become an accountant. I can wear a tie.

Your mom can wear a tie (college humor. Get used to it. Ha! )

And now, a brief history of the next few years.


I realized that a fair amount of my friends were not fully aware of my new endeavors in the life of higher education, so I thought I would briefly clarify what I’m up to these days.

Roughly two years ago, the tour life came to a bit of a slow period. That happens from time to time, but this time it seemed to be elongated. I didn’t have a job, or gigs and that generally doesn’t amount to a happy wife.  Also it means that you can’t pay your mortgage.

Out of the blue, I got an email about a high school looking for a percussion instructor. Now, I had been working at another high school as a clinician, but this was a job. Like a job, job.  Full time, playing drums and teaching kids how to do the same. I was, as the kids say “down” with that job.

So I took it, I loved it for a bit, then I hated it with most of my soul, then I came to the happy middle.  There I remained for two school years. In that time, I had a gig here and a tour there, and what became more apparent in my life is the bizarre and horrifying reality that I was starting to dig the teaching job more than the tour life. How could this be?!

In the words of Elaine Benes “oh it be.”

So I found myself in the familiar waters of uncertainty and doubt, mixed with a little bit of depression, and a splash of  existentialism.

In November of 2011 I had coffee with a mentor of mine who also happens to be a professor of percussion at a local college. I always love having coffee with him because I leave that place convinced that I can change the world.  He shot me straight. The convo went a little something like this:

Dennis: “You’re doing the job of a teacher, you just need the credentials to make it legit.”
Me: “I have no intention of going to college, let’s not start that talk”
D: “You’re starting to love teaching aren’t you?”
Me: “Yes, but I’m trying to hate it.”
D: “Have you figured out what you need to do” (at this point I have a faint memory of him waving his hand in front of my face, and all but saying these aren’t the droids you’re looking for..but the memory escapes me)
Me: “I should probably go to college, huh?”

So thats that. I’m not totally convinced of anything at this point, but I’m starting to piece together a few truths when they turn up.  One is that I think I am, at least for this chapter of my life, supposed to be a music teacher. Another is that I’ve not felt so emotionally stable (at least in my head) since I can remember. <—-that sentence will likely give my wife anxiety. I’ve not been incredibly rock steady in the depression department, so for her to hear that this may be as good as it gets may or may not be a huge bummer for her. The poor dear!

So college is happening. I know that much. The rest is unfolding as I go. I want to chronicle it as much as possible because I think some funny and interesting things are going to happen as I go. We’ll see.


A lot of people go to college for seven years..


Today I stepped in a college classroom as a student for the first time. Here are some reflections on my day. 

-College kids are not early to things. I was told I needed to be somewhere at 2pm. I got there at 1:40 and did not see a soul until 1:59.

-Somewhere along the way, I have lost the energy to run up to another man and push him as hard as I can into a wall while he pushes back with all of his strength. This is popular with the young men in college these days. 

-Apparently it got cool to wear headphones?! Big headphones?! Inside?! I can’t think of a song on my iPod that is so great that I simply must hear it even though i’m in a room full of people. 

-28 and 60 are the same age if you’re looking at life through the lenses of an 18 year old. Receeding hairlines do not help make a distinction. 

-Ce Ce’s Pizza is still considered a desirable restaurant to college kids. (I ate dinner there, and feel like butt now.)

-“Your Mom” jokes will always be funny. 

-I find myself able to stand still and listen to instruction, even though I’m holding drumsticks. Its got to be my age. No percussionist alive and under the age of 25 is capable of keeping his or her hands still while holding drumsticks. I noticed today that i’ve achieved a milestone. I was proud. 

-I drove 40 minutes to school and teared up listening to Garrison Keilor.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that I was the only person in the class with that experience on the way to school. 

-Beer is a funny punchline when you are 20.  I asked if anyone needed a refill at CeCe’s and one of the kids handed me a cup and said “Heineken.” He got a big laugh from the table. Here’s what I now know about this kid. 1) He’s never had Heineken because no one actually likes that beer. 2) He has probably been drunk twice. Both times on some sort of flavored vodka, i’m guessing…. Peach? Both times of inebriation, he lied about how much he drank when he told his friends the next day. He told them he had 1/2 a bottle. He likely had 3 or 4 sips. 

..but i digress..

-Old college professors are the smartest people alive. I’m glad I didn’t go to school when I was 18, I would have missed out on the wisdom. 

-College kids have a tremendous amount of respect for tattoos. And rock and roll. As a man who has a fair amount of both in his life, I was welcomed in to the tribe almost immediately. I got a lot of “is it awesome being on the road with a band…” type questions. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth, so I just responded “fuck yea.” 

-College kids have a tremendous amount of respect for marriage. I told them I wasn’t staying on campus for drumline camp because I wanted to see my wife at night and a thought provoked silence filled the room. Finally one of the older kids (23, 24?) says. “Dude, thats awesome. That’s what I would do.” 

Yep. I’m a college student. So here’s to four years. I got through day 1 and that seems to be an important day. Now to learn the ways of the college student.  Should be an interesting ride… 



…check, check, is this thing on?


Hmm. I flick on the light in a room that has been used primarily to store old boxes, pictures, letters, poems, and ideas to change the world.  The cockroaches flee from the sudden light. I step over broken picture frames and ticket stubs. I have to brush cob webs away from my face.

I see an old player piano in the back corner of the room. Brightly colored, full of lovable pre-written songs sure to evoke both joy and sorrow, as music does. I’ve seen this piano many times as I’ve piled stacks of nonsense atop its bench. Receipts, high school transcripts, owner’s manuals, junk mail.  Anything that doesn’t have a home but I can not bring myself to throw away. You could call it noise. 

Often I think, “yes, today is the day I sit down and enjoy what this piano has to offer,” and just as often, I sit down and do something else. As I see it today, I’m drawn to it. In need of the creative outlet it fulfills, desperate for an opportunity to be creative. Probably, if i’m honest, desperate for an audience.

I continue the miles long walk across the boarded up room, pulled toward the player piano, unconcerned about nearly anything else. I stand in front of it. 

“Hello you son of a bitch.” I say out loud. I have equal parts love and hatred for the thing. Now that I stand before it, it is ugly, a waste of time, a toy, incapable of making true music.  I pity the player piano. Look at it, it is nothing. It wants a piece of my soul because it can not exist without me. I don’t owe it anything. 

I turn to leave. I’ll just find another stack of paper to put on the bench so there is no room to sit down. I’ll find an “app” for it. I’ll fill my time with other things, things that are easier but do not give me what I know, or i think i know i need. 

I sit down. 

I place my hands on the keys. 

I push. 



“Such is life” i think to myself. Rather than verbally assault the poor piano, my best friend, I laugh. Much ado about nothing. I trace down the chord, realizing that the piano must be plugged in if it is to perform. I’m on my hands and knees, in the dark of the room, surrounded by cobwebs and having just trudged over what very well could be a former life. Faces of friends smile on pictures wrinkled and forgotten. Stories that don’t matter anymore are clinging to be remembered. I am holding the chord, looking at the pronged plug that is begging to go to the outlet, begging for life. I am the great decider. I can walk away, or I can plug the thing in and see if there is another round left. I sigh. I plug it in . The lights come on, and the motor hums the old familiar sound. 

Look out kids. 

The blog is back.