My wife left this note for me while she was in Vegas for a work conference. It was sitting on the armchair of the couch underneath the remote control where she was sure I would be sitting that very evening. Yes I do know how lucky I am!
It's no secret that I don't like having my picture taken. I've tried to be more tolerant of it because there are nearly whole decades that have gone undocumented in my past. What is a secret is that I've always wanted to have my picture taken by a top photographer. I want Annie Leibowitz to take a grainy, b&w, close up for the cover of Rolling Stone. The great photographers even have a way of making coked out rock stars look good. I wonder what they'd make me look like?
To go along with the photo I'd have to be interviewed so I attempted to interview myself for practice. It didn't go very well. You can read it for yourself below:
Mike: Sorry I'm late. There was this traffic thing. Mike: You didn't even have to get in the car to come here. Mike: I guess this is one interview where I can't lie. Truth is I'm a procrastinator. Mike: OK then do you want to get started? Mike: Do you have anything to drink first? I could use a Pepsi Vanilla or an IBC Cream Soda. Or a snack. I ate but didn't have dessert. Do you have anything sweet? Are you recording me with that thing? Mike: Do you have a problem with that? I usually record the interview and then transcribe it afterwards. Mike: I guess not. I just hate the way my voice sounds when it's recorded. Be sure to destroy the tape when you're done transcribing it. I don't want to see that thing for sale on e-bay. Mike: Do you really think anyone would buy it? Mike: Can we just get this thing started? Mike: Your call. What made you decide to start a blog? Mike: I have a really bad memory and thought that taking notes would help jog it in the future. Mike: But why something so public? Why not keep a journal? Mike: I'm not someone who loves the limelight but having a small audience seems to make it more likely I would keep up with it. It's also a good way to keep in touch. A blog is better than sending out random topic e-mail blasts to all my friends. This way if they are interested in what's going on in my life they can check in when it's convenient for them. Mike: What is going on in your life right now? Mike: The biggest thing is that my wife and I are expecting our first child. We're super excited. Neither of us had ever tried to conceive before so we didn't know if it would be difficult or not. Luckily we got it on the first try. Mike: How does your family feel about the upcoming baby? Mike: My parents could not be more excited. My younger brother and his wife are expecting their 2nd child in July so my parents are going from 1 grandkid in 2004 to 3 in 2005. Pretty good year for them. Mike: And you wife's family? Mike: Well she's the youngest of 4 and all of her siblings have 2 children each so they're all thrilled that she's finally getting started. All her nieces and nephews are happy to have another cousin too. Her Mom has always said that she had 4 children and wants to have 8 grandchildren. Ours will be #7 so she's on the way to her goal. Mike: What else is going on? How's the new career? Your a rehabber right? Mike: That's right. Things are going great. When I came to St. Louis 3 and a half years ago I didn't have a background in construction so I was really starting with less than nothing. I'm continuing to learn new things everyday. Lately I'm learning that I want to be a real estate developer instead of a rehabber. It's hard on your body doing all of the physical labor. I'm getting too old for this. Mike: How old are you? 40? Mike: Very funny. You know how old I am. Mike: So how does one become a developer? Mike: It's mostly just a matter of finances. Currently I save a lot of money by doing as much of the work myself as I can. As a developer I'd still find the project and take care of things with the bank and come up with plans, but I'd hire others to carry my plan out. Hopefully I'll make enough money selling my current project to finance my next one and be on my way towards being a real estate developer. Mike: Do you have any free time these days? Mike: Yeah, I'm loving my free time right now. I know it's not going to last. Not once the baby comes. Mike: So you aren't looking forward to the baby coming? Mike: You're lucky I don't knock your lights out for saying that. This baby will be the most important thing that will ever happen to me. I'm just saying that I'm enjoying my current lifestyle before my new and improved life begins. Mike: I understand. So what kind of exciting, spur of the moment things are you and your wife doing while you're awaiting the new baby's arrival? Mike: Mostly watching tv. We watch a lot of tv. Jen didn't even have a tv when I met her. She owned one and a little vcr but she only pulled it out once in awhile to watch a Woody Allen movie. Mike: So you corrupted her? Mike: I'd feel worse if she didn't love it so much too. Mike: What kind of shows do you watch? Mike: We watch a lot of reality tv. Mike: Like the Anna Nicole Show and Growing Up Gotti? Mike: Those shows bring the whole genre down. We watch the Mark Burnett shows like Survivor, The Contender and Amazing Race and we keep up with American Idol and some others. Lately we've been watching Supenanny and Nanny 911 like it's our homework. We don't want to raise one of those monsters. Mike: So reality tv is your guilty pleasure? Mike: No, truthfully we have guilty pleasures within the genre. I really like makeover shows. I like to see progress being made in an hour. I'm also embarrassed to say that I look forward to America's Next Top Model. It's a well crafted show. It's flawed though because the winner doesn't really become America's next top model. That's why I'm looking forward to the show later this year where they pick the next cast member for Saturday Night Live. That's a really great prize to win and we can watch that person develop over time. Mike: Do you watch any script based programs? Mike: We used to watch 24 on dvd but we're actually following along as it airs this season. I'm also looking forward to the American version of The Office. It looks like they did a good job of casting it to make it believable. They didn't cast David Spade as the assistant to the regional manager or anything. Mike: So that's how you spend your free time? Mike: Not all of it. I have this blog don't I? I also spend a lot of time listening to and researching music on-line and in magazines. I collect silk screened rock posters. I do a lot of things. I was just trying to give you a snippet of what my life is like. I didn't want this thing to go on too long and get boring. Mike: I'm afraid it's a bit late for that. Is there anything you wanted to add before we wrap this up? Mike: Yeah, apparently it is incredibly easy to call yourself a journalist and interview people these days. Mike: Well it looks like just about any jackass can get interviewed. Mike: I think it's time I leave before I do something I'll regret. Mike: That's the most intelligent thing you've said all day. Mike: Can I still get that cream soda?
Magazines: I have 2 problems with magazines. 1) I like too many of them and buy multiples constantly. 2) I don't love any of them and cannot find the one that really appeals to me. I'd like to find a men's magazine without bikini babes on the cover (Maxim) or guys with rock hard abs (Men's Health). Most of the magazines are filled with articles about very expensive 007 gadgets (all tech magazines), how to get super abs in 7 days (Men's Fitness) and ultimate sports cars (Car and Driver). What I'd like to find is a magazine like the women's magazine Bust. It's a non glossy mag with an interesting, non-judgemental, inclusive perspective that covers a wide array of topics. I want a magazine that covers the music and movies that I'd be interested in without devoting a lot of space to video gaming or what fashion experts recommend for Wall Street tycoons (GQ). Give me a magazine that is cool but not so hip as to make me feel like a loser. Give me a magazine that matches my lifestyle. Is that too much to ask? Can you make that happen for me?
Here's a theoretical table of contents: p 11 How to get motivated to finally finish that project you started ages ago p 17 Really great shoes available at your local mall that you can afford p 23 Great bands you haven't heard of that are just like all of the other bands you love p 30 Super cool movies coming to your town and NOT just NY and LA p 47 Electronic gadgets that will not only change your life but you can afford p 53 Babes we love (these would just be different babes than FHM, etc.) p 61 How to get a 2nd date even though your first impression was terrible p 67 Ways to offload all your work and still make friends and get promoted p 72 The right way to tie bandanas with Wille Nelson p 77 Careers that take no prior knowledge, pay well and nobody else will think of
Vacant and underutilized buildings near the Saint Louis University campus. This building has my name written all over it.
Rehab: I spend a good amount of time exploring neighborhoods and business districts in St. Louis looking for the next boom area and my next project. From time to time I come across a building that just needs to belong to me. The above building is boarded up and full of junk and needs to be turned into a coffee house for the students at SLU. It has 2 different sides on the first floor that could be used for a coffee house on one side and an acoustic music venue on the other. From what I understand this building is very near the projected Biotech district along Forest Park Parkway. That could make this building very expensive given it's proximity. The 2 upper floors could be offices or apartments which would then subsidize the mortgage payments. Seems like a workable deal.
Music: Brendan Benson's The Alternative to Love came out today. I picked it up this morning and have been listening to it all day. Recently I've been listening to Low's The Great Destroyer, Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake, it's Morning and Keane's Hopes and Fears. Lot's of good stuff out right now. It'll take me some time to sort through it all and see what is good ear candy now and what the classics will be.I haven't been a big fan of Low but am enjoying this album quite a bit. I've been wanting to put together a theme album of songs about California and they have a song called California which fits in nicely. I didn't think I'd like Keane much. It's a little smoother and sort of wimpier than what I like. I don't listen to macho music at all but just music that's a little more raw and underproduced than Keane. I find that it's a really listenable album though. The kind that I can put on and play repeatedly and it just sets a nice tone for the room. Not exactly like background music, more like mood music for regular days.
Baby: Jen is in Vegas at a work conference this week with most of her co-workers and still hasn't told any of them about being pregnant. It's getting harder to not tell her friend Shelly who is also expecting. She called last night to say that one of her co-workers may suspect. He picked up her drink and sniffed it. It was a Sprite with a slice of lime which looks like her usual drink of vodka and tonic. I think he's on to her.
We're still up in the air about finding out the sex of the baby. We'd like to wait and be surprised, but don't know if we can. My Mom says it'll be a surprise when we find out from the doctor. My Mom isn't known for being patient.
Bald:I've seen these ads around town and thought they were for the Final Four in April. It took my wife to point out to me that they are both mocking bald men and making ridiculous claims that their shampoo will keep you from going bald. It's not as blatant a statement as some have made but it is saying that BALD is BAD! Baldness is a hereditary trait and freaking out about it, spending a small fortune on medication, surgery or a hairpiece won't change the fact that you will go bald if it's in the cards for you. Hey Madison Avenue stop making people feel bad about something they can't control. I'd like to see a campaign for skin bleach that turns African Americans into Caucasians. "It'll take away all your problems. Just use new Skin So White!" Puh-lease. I may have to spearhead a boycott. People have no control over their skin color, sexual preference or hairline. Deal with it.
Baby: Apparently Ashton and Demi are also expecting in October. I hope that doesn't take away from the media exposure we were expecting.
Music: So tonight I blew off the Devil in a Woodpile show at Off Broadway. I wanted to see them, but didn't have anyone to go with me on a Wednesday night. Not only would Jen not enjoy the music much, but it is not an atmosphere a pregnant woman should be subjected to. I feel the same regret now that I did when Vic Chesnutt came to the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill a couple of months ago and I blew that off. I love Vic and haven't seen him for years and still couldn't get off my lazy ass. I went to see Vic at McCabe's in LA in 1993 all by myself. McCabe's is a guitar shop that has a stage in the back. There were probably 60 people there but it felt like half that. Michael Stipe was there. I got an autographed poster from Vic at the end of the night and walked away without saying a word for fear of saying something embarrassing. I could see him throw his hands up in the air out of the corner of my eye. I think I surprised him by walking away so abruptly. In the latest issue of No Depression with Vic on the cover he talks about the McCabe's shows. It seems that a bunch of influential people (Van Dyke Parks, Victoria Williams, Allen Ginsberg) were at those shows and getting into Vic at that time.
Getting back to the reason I have so much regret about missing a show is that St. Louis is a horrible city for live shows. I can't believe the number of acts that blow off this city. They go from Columbia to Columbus or from Chicago to Memphis and don't make a stop here. I don't know if there isn't the right venue or there isn't the right kind of music fan. I think lack of good radio may have something to do with it. I love KDHX as a public station, but they seem to have quite a few programs that delve deep into catalog roots recordings and not enough that play the music coming out right now. Maybe that's some sort of metaphor for this city with such a rich history. Do we live too much in the past? I guess I'm spoiled being from Detroit (that's right, spoiled). EVERY band plays in Detroit. I had to drive to Chicago last October to see the Pixies and they played 5 nights in Chicago. They couldn't do one night at the Pageant!? St. Louisans should be outraged. I guess you can't miss what you never had.
Baby: We went to see the OBGYN together for the first time this morning. She is really cool. Her heels and pearls kind of threw me off at first. 8:30am is a little early to be dressed like that, but I liked her a lot. There wasn't much to do but confirm that we are in fact expecting. When we were leaving she asked if we wanted to see the baby on the ultrasound. Her next patients hadn't arrived and the ultrasound room was empty. Jen is only 9 weeks along and they don't usually do that until like 12 weeks. We said "Sure!". It was crazy. I've only seen ultrasounds on tv or screen captures and could never tell what they were actually pictures of. When you see one in person though it's much easier. There is only one thing on screen moving and that's your BABY. We could see the heart beating, and the doctor pointed out little limb nubs that will turn into arms and legs and she pointed out eye sockets and a nasal bone. She pointed to a part and said to picture a little skeletal face here. That kind of freaked me out. A baby skeleton face sounds like a nightmare. Like some Casper the friendly skeleton. It was a really special thing to experience though. To see a heart beating was very emotional. It was very reassuring to hear that everything is going as planned and that we aren't expecting multiples or anything. That's a headache I would not be prepared for at this time.
Music: I occasionally think of band names that I would use if I could. Some pairing of words that just sounds right. Any time that I spend thinking about this is wasted time. I'm 36 and don't play an instrument or sing. It's ridiculous for me to make mental notes of future band names. Anyway I thought of the name The Spoilers. In sports a spoiler is a team that has nothing to win but dignity and nothing to lose but pride and they usually win in the end using grit and determination. I like that idea. A bunch of losers taking down the big guys with nothing in particular to gain.
In media a spoiler is when someone gives you information that could ruin a surprise ending. They'll hopefully put SPOILER ALERT before they give you that information. I've never been able to look away when I see spoiler alert. My eye is drawn to it. Maybe if we find out the sex of our baby I'll put in SPOILER ALERT and you see if you can look away. Now I just have to decide if it will be "the Spoilers" or just "Spoilers". Good thing I have some time to decide.
Music: Could I be any more excited about the new Brendan Benson album? Alternative to Love comes out March 22nd. The song "Alternative to Love" first appeared on the Metarie single. Brendan must have liked it more than he originally thought to rerecord it and make it the title track to his new album. The only other album I may be anticipating more in 2005 is the Jack White/Brendan Benson album they've been working on slowly over the past year. While I'm waiting I'm going to keep on listening to Ben Kweller On My Way and hope that time flies. Also on March 22nd the new Vic Chesnutt album and the Gram Parsons tribute DVD are being released.
Baby: We have our first visit to the baby doc on Thursday. I believe we get an ultrasound done at that time. I think it'll feel more real after that. I'm pretty nervous.
Rehab: I'm getting very tired of demolition. I am 97% done, but the last 3% seems to drag on forever. Gutting the bathrooms is particularly frustrating. They are small rooms with little space to move around and have a cast iron tub in the middle of them that I am unable to move myself.
Rehab: A new roof is going on my latest project today! The old roof has been removed and the decking is in better shape than anyone thought. Just the back portion of the roof where all the water has been pouring in is in bad shape. This is good timing. Monday I met with my carpenter friend, Steve, about doing my framing. It's not the kind of work that he loves to do but he has been very agreeable about doing it for me. I didn't want to start putting new material in the place until the place was sealed up from the elements though.
Urban Husbandry: I've been doing a lot of reading about urban planning and city renewal. It started when I finally broke down and picked up a copy of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Since then my reading list has included The Living City and Cities Back from the Edge both by Roberta Brandes Gratz and Comeback Cities by Paul S. Grogan and Tony Proscio. I hope to one day be able to put this knowledge to use. I'd love to become a developer that has influence on an area. I've got some locations in mind and some plans sketched out but it remains a pipe dream. At least for now.
Bald: I started clipping my hair in a close cropped fashion 10 years ago. I started shaving it completely around 3 or 4 years ago. My wife has never known me with anything but stubble and has never given it much thought. With me in her life however she has started to notice the constant badmouthing bald men get. People are always giving hypothetical descriptions of undesirable men as "fat and balding". It is like a generic slam that seems to go unchallenged in much the same way people take it for granted that Polish people are stupid (I also am 50% Polish and am sensitive to that as well).
I am hyper sensitive especially towards bald men in the media. When a bald guy has to don a rug to play a role it makes you wonder...why couldn't that character just be bald? What makes it so important that he has an obviously fake hairline. To do my part I'd like to occasionally point out my favorite and least favorite bald guys in the media. In order to be a favorite you must be proud of your baldness. That can include making absolutely no mention of it but just appearing bald in public. In order to be a least favorite bald guy you have to be bald and always try to hide it either by wearing a toupe or trying to deny it in some way. The rules are flexible in that someone can appear on both lists. Bruce Willis can make the favorite list for Unbreakable and make the least favorite list for The Whole Ten Yards.
Current Favorite Bald Guy: David Cross - Stand up comic and comedic actor David Cross rarely hides his baldness with the exception of wearing ridiculous wigs for comedic effect. He is as cool as he is funny and I like his politics. Current Least Favorite Bald Guy: Vin Diesel - Vin is a surprise winner because he almost always appears in public bald. He never hides it with hats or anything. Recently though it has been brought to my attention that he doesn't talk about his hair situation. It is a topic that is off limits. Who does he think he's fooling? I also saw a preview of his new movie Find Me Guilty and he wears a horrible looking hairpiece that may be enough to put him on the wrong side of this list forever. He asked for it so I will Find Him Guilty!