everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This World Was Lucky to See Him Born

My grandpa died today. I just received the phone call from my mother a couple of hours ago. For the last few days, I've dreaded the sound of my phone ringing, knowing what could be on the other end. It was a simple phone call & I didn't ask a lot of questions. "How are you doing?" "How's Grandma doing?" "Did you get to talk to him?"

My Mom said he was peaceful today, although he was incoherent. He died with his son, daughters & wife by his side. They were singing hymns to him throughout the day. I can't imagine a better way to die. I hope his restless mind was at rest. My grandpa's always been one to try to figure out how everything works, I trust that at the end he was at peace knowing that Jesus had taken care of it all for him. I can only imagine what he's seeing now in heaven.

After hearing the news, I stuck around work for awhile, perhaps selfishly distracting myself from the news, but you can only hide from things for so long.

I'd been given an incredible gift last Thursday. My mother called to tell me that he was going downhill & probably wouldn't live too much longer. I drove to Saline to find Gramps in good spirits, happy that his family was around him. When we took him into his room so he could lie down, he asked me to stay in the room with him. We talked about all kinds of things, as we have so many times before. I won't tell you what we talked about, that's between him & me, but I will tell you that it was one of the happiest hours of my life, one I wish I could go back to.

Later that night, as I was saying goodbye, he asked me if I would be back tomorrow. It broke my heart to tell him that I wouldn't. The way he was Thursday, I counted on him making it long enough for me to see him again, but unfortunately, I didn't get back soon enough.

What a blessing it must've been for Gramps to have his entire family around for his last days. I'm sure it wasn't easy for any of them, especially during the times when he was incoherent. The days ahead I'm sure will be just as difficult, but I hope we can be both admonished & comforted by the following bible verses:

"For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:53-58

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

La Familia 1-Kevin Davis, Eulogies for November
Harsher Winters-Kevin Davis, Eulogies for November
Dear Mrs Roosevelt-Woody Guthrie
Of Angels & Angles-The Decemberists, Picaresque
Passing Afternoon-Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days


Monday, February 26, 2007

Time Has Told Me

I've been here in Grand Haven for over a year now. A lot has happened since.

I was at a friend's house tonight. He just moved in a few weeks ago. He mentioned how much he thought the place felt like home, like no place he'd ever lived in. I can relate with what he meant. It's funny how places take on a sort of personality. No matter how you change them, paint the walls, tile the floors, put drapes on the windows, they still maintain their essence. Each place has a certain smell to it as well, which is usually an amalgamation of all of the people who lived there. Now, my place has yet to develop it's essence, as I'm the only one who's ever lived here. Hopefully the smell the place has isn't too bad 'cause there's no one else to blame but me for that one.

My old place had a personality, too, although I don't think I lived there long enough to effect it. I had sort of a love/hate relationship with that old shack. I loved the front window at night, especially when it was snowing. I hated it in the afternoon when the sun shined so bright & it made it so hot in there it was almost unbearable. I loved the side yard in the summer evenings, especially when it was just mowed. I wanted nothing to do with it in the winter months, however, when the trees lost so many branches & the slope & the snow or rain made it too slippery to walk across. I never liked the basement, the way the tiles were coming up & the way the hot water heater would sometimes leak, but I loved the little landing when you just walked up the stairs & their was a warm summer smell that wasn't new or fresh, but homely. You could go into the kitchen, or the back room with all of the windows that only got used if you were having fun. That back room was used for one of only four or five activities. You could throw darts, watch movies, listen to music, read or play old video games. It wasn't meant for anything else. The incense & the hazelnut & pumpkin pie candles I used to burn were probably my only contributions to the smell of the place that was born, like my parents, in 1950. I drive by the "Valley Below", as it was known every chance I get, like visiting an old friend. Now, I never did as much as I could've to fix up the old place, the roof still needs replacing, but the people who bought it from me have let it fall farther into disrepair.

The new place has more amenities. I actually like the kitchen, & whenever I have people over it's the place where everybody gravitates to. The "Schroeder Bar" (as it's come to be known) is usually covered with cd's from the past few days of work or driving. Other than that it's usually relatively clean. For a while, I didn't put any pictures on the fridge thinking that I would draw attention to the stainless steel. But a fridge just isn't a fridge without some pictures. Currently, there still remains the picture of Ella, Emily & myself having a tea party that Christie found, with me wearing a woman's hat & scarf, a picture of Ryan & me at Tiger's stadium, Quinn & Avery's artwork, & the Christmas pictures of my nieces & nephew. The living room is the biggest room in the place, & strangely enough, the least used other than the spare bedroom. The spare bedroom is referred to as "Ryan's Room", a holdover from "The Valley Below". The spare bedroom consists of a bunch of mismatched furniture, my old computer, my green workout ball & my old bed without a frame that lies in the corner. My bedroom is like none I've ever had. If I open the shades & look in only one direction, it looks as though I have nothing but woods behind me. Since my bed faces that direction, it's good enough for me. My upstairs bathroom is the biggest improvement over my previous environs. What I'm about to say will only enforce Christie's view of me as a "germophobe", but I'm going to say it anyway. There's something very comforting knowing that nobody's ever used my toilet or shower other than me (& my guests, of course).

Slowly, my place is gaining some personality. So far, it's seen about six or so parties. I would say a total of 30-40 different people have walked through the door. I've had two girlfriends since I've lived here. Barring any unforeseen tragedies, there will be no new ones. I've had about six or seven plants, including a Christmas tree, new coats of paint on everything except the stairway & the upstairs hallway. I've had friends move away & friends come to town & all sorts of other things. All in all, it's been a good time. It amazes me that when fall rolls around again, I will have lived in West Michigan for ten years. My how the time flies. How does that song go? When I was 27, it was a very good year?

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Poison Cup-M. Ward, Post War
Sadie-Joanna Newsom, Milk-Eyed Mendor
Mama, Won't You Keep Them Castles in the Air & Burning?-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder
Time Has Told Me-Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left
Pissed Off 2 AM-Alejandro Escovedo

Happy Monday, friends.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

If not for you, winter would have no Spring...

It was exceptionally warm here in West Michigan today. I think it even reached 40 & the sun is still shining. It was a first glimpse of spring, & even though I love winter, am happy to see it reaching close to the end. The nights are getting longer, I think it might still be light outside when I get home from work. There's only about six months left to go before the gigantic snow pile in our parking lot will be melted away (okay, maybe not six months, but it'll probably be April).

Christie hates winter, especially the snow, so I'm happy she finally gets a reprieve from the snow during her vacation. Although she always has a sunny disposition, I think she's happier in the warmer weather. In fact, I know she's happier in the warmer weather. She was born in spring (hey, that's a Bob Dylan lyric!) & I met her in the spring. I sure am happy about it, too.

Basically, this post has no point to it other than to post a picture of Christie, a pretty good reason if you ask me.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Spirit on the Water-Bob Dylan, Detroit, 2006

Mexican Blue-Jolie Holland, Springtime Can Kill You

I Got You (at the End of the Century)-Wilco, Being There

Here Comes the Sun Again-M. Ward, Transistor Radio

Sandusky-Uncle Tupelo, March 16-20 1992

Happy Sunshine, friends...


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake & hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise & dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere & lonely offices?

Robert Hayden

That sounds like my old man.

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Sunken Treasure-Wilco, Being There

Shine a Light-Alejandro Escovedo (song by the Rolling Stones)

Sway-Alejandro Escovedo (song by the Rolling Stones)

Just a Closer Walk With Thee-from "When the Levee's Broke"

Rock of Ages-Bob Dylan, Santa Cruz 2000

One of my favorite performers singing one of my favorite hymns. What more could you ask for?

Happy Sunday, friends!


Saturday, February 17, 2007

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now...

(a scene from my favorite movie about running a store, High Fidelity)

I don't know what's gotten in to me lately, but I seem to have a new zest for work. Towards the end of last year, my job was getting rather old. I was getting bored seeing the same old people coming through the front door & I was getting sick of doing the same old things. Something's changed over the last few weeks, though.

I worked from open to close just about every day this week, & it didn't seem to drag on like it usually does. I've been making sales calls to people more than I usually do, putting together informational packets for people who don't buy from us, going through reports & organizing them in a way that makes sense to me, organizing the back room & throwing away a bunch of old stuff we don't need, making purchases that will help out our profits for the next 3-4 months & a bunch of other stuff.

Maybe it's because I've got a new employee & I want to raise the bar & show him how smoothly things run. I think it's also because without somebody there who I knew could run things as well as I could (well, almost as well :)), I feel as if I need to step it up a bit.

People always dress things up & clean & polish their store when a superior comes by to visit, which is all well & good, but it seems more important to me to do the same when I get a new employee so he gets a sense of how high the bar is set & what he needs to do to get on board. Believe it or not, it's been fun training somebody new. I think I like teaching people how to do things. The important thing is not to say things like, "it's just because this is how we do it" but to explain why we do things the way we do.

I have a customer who has become a pretty close friend of mine. Towards the end of the year, he was thinking of quitting his business & doing something else. He seems to have had a similar rejuvenation, & now he's as busy as he's ever been (I'll take credit for maybe %1 of that, I gave him a couple leads). That's been fun to see, & it's fun to be feeding off each others' successes.

It's a new year & in this business you're only as good as your last quarter, & sometimes you are your own worst enemy. For example, we had a great year in 2005, which I was rewarded for, but in the next year you are expected to do what you did that year & improve by 13.5%. We fell a little short, but oh well. I think success comes not from making any one big great decision, but in making a bunch of little good decisions everyday. It all comes down to caring about what you're selling & caring about who you are selling to.

Now, I hope you don't think I'm making my job sound too important. I'm running a little paint store in little Grand Haven, I'm not reinventing the wheel, here. But how does that saying go, though? Do one thing & do it well?

My Back Pages

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin' high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
"We'll meet on edges, soon," said I
Proud 'neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
"Rip down all hate," I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Girls' faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor's tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
"Equality," I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I'd become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now.

Bob Dylan
Copyright © 1964; renewed 1992 Special Rider Music

Five Favorite Songs of the Day (well, some were from yesterday...)

I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine-Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding

Impossible Germany-Wilco, November 22, 2006

Shine-Daniel Lanois

My Back Pages-Bob Dylan, Summer '03

Muddy Hymnal-Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle

This album was playing in the back room today, & a customer came in & told me that I always have wierd music playing. I took it as a compliment.

Happy Saturday, friends!


Monday, February 05, 2007

When Your Rooster Crows at the Break of Dawn, Look Out Your Window & I'll Be Gone...

(the obligatory album cover of Dan's favorite Dylan album, Nashville Skyline, makes a nice picture of "see you 'round down the line, ol' friend, don't be a stranger")

I got an unexpected phone call today from Brother Dan. He was at the airport waiting to ship out to Kuwait, yet another transition before his final destination of Iraq. I can't imagine the waiting, as each stop prepares you for the next. If anyone can handle these things it's Dan, I can picture him cracking jokes to the soldier sitting next to him as he recieves orders. He asked me about the other Dan, about how the plane ride is going to be 25 hours (at least he has a buffer seat between him & the next passenger), he told me a way of sending him tunes without burning cd's. I don't know what all that computer mumbo jumbo means, but I'll figure it out. I'm not sure which cd's I'll be sending him, yet, but I'll sure have fun making them.

If you're interested in reading all about the goings on about Grand Haven's favorite soldier (he'll always be a Grand Havenite to me, no matter where he roams) you can read it here.

Take care, old friend. I'll save you a seat at the Shawmut.

Here's a poem that is reminiscent of the fire pit during summer nights on the tracks...

Cutting Loose on an August Night

Roll the windows all
the way down & keep it
floored until you can hear the doors
between the corn-rows bursting
open with the august hay
and the full force of the packed earth
being unpacked and shredded
up with speed as the center line
pours tracer bullets
at the bug-spatttered windshield
and the night's rush outshouts
static on the radio
where New York trails Cincinatti
and Oklahoma City's
cutting in to say high
tomorrow in the mid to upper
90s, low, and a full slate
of night action out there
like dusty fairgrounds
fierce under arc light roars
no runs, no hits, no errors, one
man left, and the entire north
winces, takes the snap-
shot of a cloud
formed like a horse's head,
and you are fixed firmly
in the cool pressure of the night,
the glare of the Philadelphia
and Boston games as sure
as constellations,
you're weightless
in the thick of speed, going
nowhere in all directions
at once, nothing but the pennant
race at stake.

Jonathan Holden

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Country Pie-Bob Dylan, Nashville Skyline
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?-REM, Monster
Standing in the Doorway-Bob Dylan, Las Vegas 2000
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt-Woody Guthrie
I know Gramps is a Republican, but this song always reminds me of him.
Shooting Star-Bob Dylan, Zurich 2003

Happy Monday, friends!


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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...