may 2022

I'm too old to go to festivals anymore. I was never big on them even when I was younger, but now I just have the patience or the stamina, and I haven't been to one in over ten years even though there are several in or within driving distance of Atlanta.

One of the problems with that is that many of the bands I like use the Shaky Knees music festival as their only stop in Atlanta. So when I start seeing spring tours announced in February and March, I always have to hold my breath when I see a May Atlanta date to see whether the band is really playing in town or whether they're just doing the festival.

This year, as usual, there were a bunch of artists I'd like to see but who didn't have any Atlanta dates planned besides the festival, including Destroyer, Nilufer Yanya, and Guided By Voices. But then when I was reviewing their larger tour schedules, I noticed a pattern: immediately before or after their planned Shaky Knees appearances, these three acts were playing the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill (GBV on Friday night prior to Shaky Knees, and Yanya and Destroyer on Saturday and Monday after their Shaky Knees sets).

So I impulsively decided to make a trip up to Chapel Hill on Thursday night, leaving on Friday morning to see GBV that night. I found a house on Airbnb that was about a 15 minute from downtown Carrboro and quickly confirmed the booking with the host, then went online to buy tickets for the shows (I also noticed Drive-By Truckers were playing on Sunday night, so I bought tickets for them as well, meaning I had a show four nights in a row).

I have lots of old friends in the Triangle area, but I hadn't explicitly planned anything with anyone, so when I got to my rental on Friday afternoon, I texted several people to let them know I was around and was able to hang out with a few of them over the course of the weekend, starting with my friend Marc. He's a huge GBV fan, and so I wasn't surprised to see him and his wife Virginia at the show.

The next day my dear friend Lydia, who I don't think I've seen since my last high school reunion in 2019, took some time out of her very busy schedule to hang out with me for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon. We met at Duke Gardens and just walked around and talked, and it was all very easy and familiar even though we haven't seen each other a lot over the past few years. It was incredibly restorative to see her, and I hope it won't be too long before I see her again.

Saturday night I went to the Nilufer Yanya show by myself, and it was incredible. I couldn't imagine she'd be able to successfully translate the studio versions of her songs to a live setting, but they were just as pristine and hypnotic as the albums. It was a nice ending to the first couple of days of my trip.

Sunday in Chapel Hill was fun. I slept in for a little while but headed out to the North Carolina Museum of Art to meet another high school friend, Laura. We didn't actually spend much time together when we were in high school, but we had a ton of friends in common, and I've gotten to know her a little better in the past few years.

I was excited to revisit some of my favorite pieces at the museum, but they were unfortunately in the midst of a big reorganization of the galleries, so several of my favorites were in storage during the redesign. There were still a few galleries with interesting stuff, but we spend most of our time there walking around the outdoor paths that lead past scattered large-form sculptural works. It was great to spend a little time with her and learn more about her life and catch up on news from our mutual friends.

On the way back from the art museum, I stopped by the Kraken, a bar owned by my friend Kirk and his wife Jody. The bar wasn't open until later that evening, but I had a couple of drinks with Kirk as he did setup and maintenance preparing for them to open officially. I say "officially" because the Kraken is very much a neighborhood bar, and while I was there three or four regulars stopped by for a drink and a cigarette, with Kirk unhesitatingly obliging them.

Later Sunday afternoon, I met up with my friend Marc, the same one I had hung out with at the Guided By Voices concert on Friday night. We got coffee from Weaver Street Market and sat at an outside table for an hour or two before heading over to All Day Records, a small record store nearby that is owned by a younger alum from our high school. It's always great to catch up with Marc—he is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about music, and a uniquely intelligent and empathetic person.

I had planned to go see Drive-By Truckers that night at the Cat's Cradle, but when I got back home after my visits with Laura, Kirk, and Marc, I collapsed in the bed and didn't get back up until we'll after the Truckers' set had started, so I just had a quiet evening in watching streaming shows.

On Monday, my last full day in Chapel Hill, my friend Tom came down from Richmond to hang out and see the Destroyer show with him. Hosting him was no problem—the Airbnb I found was a house that had two separate bedrooms. We went down to Weaver Street to get grab-n-go meals and ate at one of the outside tables before heading over to the Cradle for the Destroyer show. That concert was fantastic—I'd never seen him live before, only having really gotten into him over the past few years—and afterwards we walked back to the house to get some rest before checkout time the next morning.

I don't know if or how often I'll be able to make a trip like this again, but it was a really fun weekend that allowed me to clear my head away from the everyday context of work and the aftermath of the fire, as well as visit with some old friends and see some good shows.

Mother's Day weekend was pretty quiet—we went to visit my mom on Saturday, and then had dinner with Julie's mom at Scout, a semi-fancy restaurant right around the corner from the rental house in Oakhurst. There was an Atlanta United game on Saturday night, but I gave my ticket to one of my season ticket seat mates (which typically leads to him giving me one or both of his tickets later in the season so I can bring Julie and Will).

To make up for the fact that both me and my systems manager have essentially been working two-plus jobs for the past year with no additional compensation and no real recognition, I've worked out a deal with my boss that this will be a recovery summer for us. We'll focus on brining new hires up to speed so we can get back to our normal (and already taxing) workload by the fall. And while we will do all the maintenance work we need to do in order to prepare for the next recruiting and reading cycle that will start in August, we aren't going to take on any big new projects.

We're also going to work a modified schedule where we'll have lots of unofficial comp time to make up for the months and months of working into the evening and working over the weekends, beginning with a schedule this week and through June where we will only be officially available for two days a week, then moving to three days a week in July and four days a week in August before returning to our normal schedule in September.

I don't necessarily expect that we will get the full benefit of those planned days away from work. Because we are still onboarding the new hires, we can't both afford to completely ignore email, but I'm hoping that on the days off I'll be able to limit myself to checking email a couple of times a day to make sure there's nothing that needs immediate attention, as well as genuinely taking a few of them as true days out of the office.

I started watching Barry on HBO recently, and I'm not sure what to think so far. The premise is a hitman who's trying to go straight by becoming an actor, and I just don't know how to make that into even a semi-realistic situation that has anything other than a brutally dark ending.

I also still revert to thinking of Bill Hader from his SNL work, so seeing him as a mostly serious leading man is a little odd, even though many of his comedic brethren have made that jump over the years. But Henry Winkler is a delight, and Sarah Goldberg gives a compelling performance as Barry's love interest Sally.

Overall I've enjoyed watching it so far (I'm almost done with season one)—I just don't know how long this setup can persist without resolving into disturbing violence or non-credible fantasy (or both).

Over eight months after the fire and endless (and ongoing) arguments with our insurance company, we are finally getting to the actual rebuilding part of the process. The main floor of the house was demolished in late March and early April, leaving the foundation and basement intact, but due to waiting on permits to be approved and on checks from our insurer, not much has been done since then. But they are starting to build back on top of that foundation, and we seem to be entering the actual construction phase that we've been waiting on for so long.

They are giving us an estimate of October for when we might be able to move back in, but we have enough experience with this process at this point that we know better than to trust best-case scenarios (our insurer originally estimated that construction could begin in October and that we'd be back in our house no later than mid-summer; they didn't even offer us an initial settlement that would allow us to begin to select a contractor until December, and didn't give us a realistic offer until February).

Although we'd like to get back to our house as quickly as possible so we can start to rebuild our lives without being in the weird limbo of the rental house, we've asked our contractor to use a schedule that won't have them finishing over the holidays. If we're not going to be ready to move in before Thanksgiving, then we don't want to move in until January.

I suspect this is something we won't really have to worry about—my guess is that January or beyond is going to become the finish date anyway—but those big holidays are one of the few times we'll be able to fake some sense of normalcy during this in-between time, and we don't want our family traditions disrupted because we're busy trying to transition from the rental back to the house.

I recently finished the two novels in Lindsay Ellis' Noumena series, Axiom's End and Truth of the Divine, which tell an alternate history of first contact during George W. Bush's administration. They were enjoyable reads and were reasonably realistic in thinking about how a first contact scenario might impact the political relationships at a global level, but they really stood out for their focus on how these events would impact people on an individual level.

This is primarily done through the lens of the main human protagonist, Cora, who suffers from panic attacks and PTSD in the wake of her violent encounters with both alien entities and her own government. These issues would certainly happen to any typical person if they experienced events like the ones in this story, and yet we almost never see the short and long term impacts on mental and physical health that would realistically accompany these experiences.

Cora's attempt to deal with these traumatic encounters shape her ability to communicate with the aliens and the overall events of the books, and go far beyond the typical hero trope where, no matter how much trauma they experience, our protagonists are able to pick themselves up and prepare for the next battle with no substantial toll on their mental health.

While it's a series I enjoyed reading, especially for the somewhat novel incorporation of the psychological impacts on individuals, I don't know that it will be one that I revisit or that I'll remember the details of for very long. I don't know if there will be future books besides these two, and while I would definitely read another sequel, I'm also not pining for one.

We went to our first Braves game of the season last night specifically because of the promotional giveaway: a full-sized replica of the Braves World Series ring that the players received after their win last year, the franchise's first championship since 1995.

We got there early because we expected the line to be incredibly long. Which it was—an hour before game time, the line from the main gates on the north side of the field stretched all the way back to the other end of the Battery. But once they started letting people in, the line moved quickly and there were still plenty of rings left when we got to the front, so we took home three rings.

Back in the early to mid 90s, I was obsessed with baseball in general and the Braves specifically. I had a college roommate who grew up in Fitzgerald, GA, and grew up as a fan during the lean times of the 1980s. We used to watch games together several times a week (back then, almost every Braves game was broadcast nationally on Ted Turner's superstation, TBS). I went to Braves Triple A games in Richmond, and when I went down to visit my mom for spring break (she lived in Ft. Lauderdale back then), I'd always make a couple of trips up to West Palm Beach to watch Braves spring training at the facility they shared with the Expos.

So I was thrilled when the team won their first championship since 1957, which was also their first World Series win as an Atlanta team. I remember the winning game 6 so distinctly: 8 innings of shutout ball by Tom Glavine followed by a three-batter no-run ninth inning from Mark Wohlers, with the only run of the game coming from a solo shot from superstar David Justice. There was nothing quite like that 1995 team, and I was about as happy as I've ever been as a sports fan when Wohlers got that final out.

I've enjoyed actually living in the city of the team I root for, but my baseball fandom in general waned as we approached the early 2000s, and although it was fun to go to playoff games and see this group of players win another title for us, the victory didn't bring me nearly the same level of joy that the 1995 win did. But it's fun to have such an exciting team to watch, and to have high hopes that they will bring us another championship in the near future—even if I'm not as big a fan as I used to be, that younger version of myself is still rooting for this team as hard as ever.

I finally visited Fantasyland Records in Buckhead after having it recommended to me by other vinyl enthusiasts many times, and it might just be my favorite record store in Atlanta now. In addition to having a great selection of both used and new records, I also loved the setup and usability of their bins: the used records are in alpha order as usual, but in the front of each bin are the random artists from that part of the alphabet, so every bin is worth spending a few seconds digging through even if you aren't looking for records from the topline artists who have their own label/divider.

It's also very comfortable to peruse the bins. They bins are at a good height, there's nothing on the floor in front of them blocking you from standing right up against them, and they don't go so far back that you have trouble reaching/seeing the albums at the back. The aisles are wide so people don't have trouble moving around, and the owner at the counter is happy to engage in conversation about records or live shows if you want a little conversation. Prices are pretty good too, at least in the context of Atlanta.

On my inaugural visit, I found a bunch of things that have been on my wantlist for a while, including the Police's Zenyatta Mondatta (Police records are harder to find than they should be given just how many were pressed in the 80s), Duran Duran's Rio, Timbuk 3's Greetings from Timbuk 3, the Thompson Twins' In the Name of Love, and a signed copy of the UK release of Julian Cope's Saint Julian. A good haul and a great experience. I will definitely be returning.

On Friday night, we took Will to see the Icelandic band Sigur Ros at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, just inside the northwest corner of the Perimeter. My second live show in Atlanta was at that venue—David Byrne and St. Vincent performing the songs from their Love This Giant collaboration—but I haven't been back there since.

We were on the first row of the center balcony, which is pretty close to where we sat for the David Byrne show. There's a lot of slow majesty to Sigur Ros' music, and the emphasis during the performance is on the lighting and stage show, not the performers, so I was treating this as if I were going to the symphony or a musical theater production.

But unfortunately a lot of the rest of the audience were not. Many of the people around us were eating, drinking, getting up to use the bathroom, and talking (including one guy a few rows behind us who was either high or mentally disturbed who was having a loud monologue with himself and who wouldn't shut up despite several visits from the ushers) during the first half, to the point where I almost considered leaving at intermission because it was ruining the experience for me.

I'm glad I stuck around, though. We saw the loud talker being escorted out of the building by the police during intermission (not security guards, real actual cops), which I took as a good sign. And everyone around us seemed to have gotten their fill of eating/drinking/socializing during the first half, and they were all in fancy concert hall mode for the second set.

And when the people around me weren't actively being disruptive and I was able to sink into the experience, it was as sublime and transcendent as when you hear one of their albums in a quiet, meditative state of mind. It sucks that the first half wasn't as good as it could have been due entirely to the audience's behavior, but I'm glad the second half turned into the experience I was hoping for.

june 2022
may 2022
april 2022
march 2022
february 2022
january 2022

daily links
cd collection