It’s been a while

Hello and welcome to my first post in quite some time! It’s been a crazy year to say the least. I can’t believe it’s already been a year that we’ve lived with this pandemic. I honestly feel very lucky. I’ve had some family and friends get COVID-19, but no one I know has died of it, yet. We seem to be nearing the light at the end of the tunnel to some extent. I know more and more people who have received at least one dose of a vaccine. I myself got my first shot a little over a week ago and I get my second at the beginning of April, on April Fool’s in fact. I got mine a little early because at the beginning of all of this, it was determined that I have kidney failure. My nephrologist at KU Med is great and has me on a drug that seems to be slowing down the decline. He doesn’t think I’ll need a transplant for five to ten years. But I will eventually need a new kidney. As many of you know, I’ve dealt with my share of medical issues, so this didn’t surprise me too much. It sucked learning about it at the beginning of a pandemic that put me at a higher risk if I did catch it, but other than that, it’s under control and pretty symptomless.

Again, feel pretty lucky. I’ve had several friends who had much more serious medical issues over the last year or so. I won’t name names, but they are all fighting and working hard to overcome. I admire them for sure. I don’t envy them. I realize that all of this is really just the beginning, it comes with getting older. Maura and I will both turn fifty (50!) at the end March. I remember when I thought thirty was old! I never really thought much past that when I was young. I don’t feel fifty, though I’m not sure I know what fifty’s supposed to feel like. I did hurt my back doing nothing in particular the other day, so maybe that’s what it feels like? Besides the kidney thing and maybe a few extra pounds, I’m pretty healthy. What do you call a dad bod if you’re not a dad? 

As I said, it’s been a crazy year. I’m grateful to have a job that allowed me to be flexible, I’m grateful that KCAI is doing okay. Enrollment was down a bit as many students decided to take a gap year due to COVID-19, but it sounds like many of them will be returning next Fall. I’ve never felt busier there than I have for the last year or so with so much remote work happening and other projects not taking a break. It’s been a good year. I took a lot on, but I managed to finish most of it – one of the biggest projects will be completed tomorrow, if all goes well! 

I look forward to getting my second shot, Maura getting her and finally being able to get back to something like what we had taken for granted for our entire lives. I’m sure many changes will be more lasting, and maybe that’s a good thing. I will certainly think about many things differently. I think it will take me a while to be comfortable around large crowds, especially indoors. Not that I was ever comfortable, but I was able to tolerate it. I do miss live music. We’ve seen a few live streaming shows – Gorillaz was awesome! –  but it’s not the same. I look forward to traveling, but again, I’m going to be a little more aware of the spaces I’m in and who’s around me. 

I know that we’re not out of the woods yet, but I do have hope that, as Biden said, family and friends will be able to gather by the Fourth of July to celebrate. 

What We Keep

First Bug Drawing

Last night Maura and I attended a reading, signing, and conversation hosted by the wonderfulNational Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Seriously, if you are anywhere near KC and haven’t been, you MUST go. Authors Bill Shapiro (the former editor-in-chief and founding editor of Getty Images FOTO) and Naomi Wax (whose work has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, and the Iowa Review) were at the museum to present their latest book called “WHAT WE KEEP, 150 People Share the One Object That Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning“. Bill and Naomi interviewed people from all over the country, from all walks of life, asking them about an object that has deep meaning and then publishes images of the objects along with the stories, in the person’s own word. At the event, they did a reading of some of their favorite objects and stories, then did a Q&A answering some great questions from the attendees about their process, how they chose who to talk to, etc. They started by talking to people they knew, then took an exponential approach, talking to people that they people they knew knew. They then decided to travel across the country, seeking out people that they decided might be interesting to talk to. During their travels, they came to Kansas City, heard about the Toy and Miniature Museum and decided they had to stop in to check it out – only for half an hour or so. Unsurprisingly they ended up spending four hours there, missing an interview in Iowa.

After the reading and Q&A session, they did a book signing – before the reading, they were making their way around the room to introduce themselves to everyone. It was so great to meet them and have a brief conversation with them before the talk and at the signing – this project is obviously very meaningful to them. So meaningful in fact, that the last segment of the evening was a group conversation where the attendees broke into two groups to discuss their most treasured objects. During the break, Maura and I were naturally thinking about and discussing what objects we would have selected. Bill led the conversation at our table. He gave us a few minutes to draw the object on one side of a card, then flip it over and answer several questions about the object and why we chose it. We then went around the table discussing our objects. It was very touching, hearing these intimate stories from strangers and sharing our own.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. At the top of the post, you can see the drawing I did, from memory, of the object that I selected. Here is the actual car: First Bug Original I don’t think I did too bad, for a non-illustrator. As I was listening to the stories in Bill and Naomi’s book, I was thinking what meaning this toy car has to me.

Many of you know that I collect toy VW Beetles. Well, this is the original. I have many more Beetles now but this was the object that started me down the path to becoming a collector. I had never thought about what deeper meaning might be behind that Bug, but as I considered it last night I realized several things that I have never fully acknowledged. It was given to me by my father, early in my high school years. I have never had a strong relationship with him. He left when I was pretty young and for the first several years after that we didn’t see much of him. I ended up living with he and his second wife when I was in high school. My father came home one day after work and surprised me with the Bug out of the blue. I’m sure I had mentioned my love for the VW Beetle and that I wanted to drive one someday (I still haven’t bought one and yes, it has to be a vintage one, not the new abomination). This was one of the only truly thoughtful gestures I ever experience from my father. It was a small thing, but it meant that he had heard me and more importantly, done something about it. The majority of what I learned from my father was what I didn’t want to be as a man or as a human being. Thinking about the history of this car last night, I realized that I had learned something positive from him after all. I learned that listening is powerful, and no matter how small the gesture, acting on what you hear even more so. It’s difficult for me to acknowledge that I might have learned something positive from my father, he was pretty worthless as an example most of the time.

It was interesting to talk about it so openly last night with a table full of strangers. As we were leaving, an older gentleman who we shared the table with approached me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and told me how much he appreciated what I shared. This, I believe, is what Bill and Naomi’s project was ultimately about. Everyone has stories, they simply used a person’s cherished object as a focal point to bring out some of these stories. It must have felt like a tremendous privilege to be able to talk to all of those people as they shared theirs. I can’t wait to read the book and experience more of them!

My Favorite Albums of 2016

2016 was a both wonderfully great year and a fantastically crappy year. I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary and also ten years at the Kansas City Art Institute. I learned a lot, both professionally and personally. Legends died. A dangerous idiot was elected president of the United States.

Regardless, music is enduring. Here is a list of my favorites from last year (screw the top ten thing, I have a lot of favorites!) Featured you will find two soundtracks that I just can’t stop listening to, two albums by one band, the final albums by two of my favorite artist who happened to end their time on Earth this past year, songs about love, songs about life, songs about songs, songs about humanity, and songs just for fun. In no particular order:

  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
  • Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker
  • David Bowie – Black Star
  • Mac Quayle – Mr. Robot OST
  • Yello – Toy
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  • Deerhoof – The Magic
  • Hope Sandoval and the Warm Intentions – Until the Hunter
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  • Jim James – Eternally Even
  • M83 – Junk
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Ramin Djawadi – Westworld OST
  • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop – Love Letter for Fire
  • Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
  • Thee Oh Sees – An Odd Entrances

Today is my one year Brainiversary!

One year ago today I went under the knife needle to have superglue injected into my brain to cut off the growth of a cluster of veins that had gotten out of control and ultimately could have killed me had it gone untreated.

Wow, that is a crazy sentence to re-read. It still feels pretty surreal. I’ve described the experience immediately following as how you might feel after a crazy frat party: I had a massive hangover (the migraines) and I had various personal body parts shaved (where they inserted the needles). At least no one drew a moustache on my face in sharpie, but that might have proven difficult considering.

Life has been pretty normal since all of that. I still get some migraines especially with pressure changes. They are under control for the most part, however. None of this would have been possible without the wonderful doctors and staff at KU Medical Center. What they are doing there truly seems like science fiction. The fact that I had brain surgery and it seemed no worse than a crazy frat party is pretty mind-blowing. Obviously, the migraines are worse than a simple hangover, but still.

My friend, the talented tattoo artist Chris Stubbs has designed this amazing sleeve for me partially in honor of my experience with the surgery:

brain_circuit_board

It’s going on my left arm and connecting up to the other tattoo on my shoulder, the Cephaskelamech. Work began on it a few weeks ago and I’ve got another appointment set up in mid April! I can’t wait to see this thing finished!

Top ten Albums of 2014

Listed in no particular order, maybe, probably.

  • St Vincent – St. Vincent
  • tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
  • Sallie Ford – Slap Back
  • Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
  • The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River
  • Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • The Pixies – Indie Cindy
  • Warpaint – Warpaint
  • Broken Bells – After The Disco
  • Tobacco – Utilma II Massage

Oh, is that more than ten? Oops! Oh well! There was seriously a LOT of good music this year. I can’t wait to hear what 2015 has in store!

One edit: I guess the Nick Cave was out last year, so I’ll sub the New Basement Tapes, which should have made the list anyway.