Two shows in two days (plus some spit)

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. It was a pretty darn good one. Slept late then headed with Tara to ComedySportz for pizza and cake with my C-Spo office buddies. Always a laugh riot with that bunch, let me tell you. A restful afternoon was then followed by the Nickel Creek concert.

And what a concert it was.

The Vic is a great venue - large floor space and HUGE balcony with great sight lines. Tara and I got there right when the show was supposed to start and we wanted to have seats (we're old), so we had to go pretty high up. But we could still see all the action and everything sounded great. Kudos to you, The Vic, for being a classy old theater that's still rockin' it.

The string of fantastic (and fantastically weird) opening acts continued in this show with The Ditty Bops. They were a female duo that played very folksy, circus-y, "Triplets of Belleville"-y music. I say circus-y, mostly because the show pretty much had its own sideshow. There was this one dude whose only apparent job was to be weird. He started the show on stilts, then wore a tux to very formally play the windchimes, did a bit where he stomped out as a one-man band, juggled, and engaged in fake swordplay with one of the girls. Undescribably weird and inexplicably amusing.

Then came Nickel Creek. And wow - what amazing musicians these three are. The amount of time they've put into their art to have such absolute mastery over their instruments just blows my mind. And not only did they provide amazing renditions of their own songs (often with extended endings and instrumental jam sessions that frequently tore the house down) they covered Radiohead's "Nice Dream" and Britney Spears' "Toxic" (and it was 100 times better.) Just a fantastic show. I am far from a county or bluegrass fan, but this is one of those groups I recommend to anyone who enjoys music. Period.

I pretty much have a big crush on Sara, the fiddle player from Nickel Creek. (Yeah, I love a girl who plays fiddle.) So when they mentioned they love Intelligensia, a indie coffehouse here in Chi-town, I swing by there today, half just to see what the fuss was about and half just hoping to run into them. They weren't there, but apparently the place has a quota of one rock star at all times, because who should be hanging around but Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. I overheard him talking about Nickel Creel and told him I was at the concert last night. He then complimented my Sleeping at Last hoodie, I said I was a big fan of his, and we parted ways. So let it be known: Intelligensia is THE place for random rock star run-ins in the city of Chi-town.

At this moment, there are people gathering here at the apartment for the oddest reason. Joey Bland, an improviser here and Tara's good friend was on Jeopardy a while back and his episode aired today. A bunch of ComedySportzers gathered at 3:00 this afternoon to watch, but it was pre-empted by the WHITE SOX'S PLANE LANDING. Most pointless coverage ever. We cursed the network endlessly. Many even called the local affiliate to complain. After some time, we were informed that the episode would air at 1:40 am. So what do improvisers with no day jobs do? Gather at 11:30 for another watching party. It's exciting.

Anyway, tonight was concert central in Chi-town. Ben Folds was at the Chicago Theater downtown, Eisley and Switchfoot were at The Vic, but what did I do? I went to Beat Kitchen to see three pop-punk bands and The Rocket Summer. (I've seen Ben before, when he came to Drake. Plus, his tickets were expensive. Switchfoot just plain sold out.) And while The Rocket Summer was much better than Mattie gave them credit for, one thing made me very uncomfortable.

I was much too old for this show. And also much too male.

Seriously, the crowd was me and about 85 high school girls.

I know what you're saying - ideal situation for me, right? I should be in heaven. But I just felt creepy. I could have guessed that The R.S.' audience would skew young, but never did I think I'd be walking into a bona-fide teeny-bopper pop-punk event of "the scene." You should have heard the high-pitched crowd singalongs. Ugh. Just makes me feel dirty. I need to listen to my new Decemberists albums to feel better.

This is a long post, but I can't leave without a random Chicago story. There was a gross dirty guy on the bus I took to Beat Kitchen. At one point, he covered his mouth and spit on the floor of the bus. I'm gagging just thinking about it. I just find it funny that he's gross enough to spit on the bus, yet courteous enough to cover his mouth.

People, huh? They're the worst.


You say it's my birthday

Yeah, so it's my birthday today. I'm 23 la dee da. Very exciting.

Mom and dad tell me that 23 is not that old, but I certainly feel like it's a "not-so-much-a-kid-anymore" age. Especially with Amanda getting engaged and Gwen Dickey being pregnant (seriously, what's up with that?)

But hey, Nickel Creek tonight! Do grown-ups go see progressive bluegrass bands?

Actually, they probably do. In fact, Mom says she wishes she was going.

Well, feel free to tell me what you got me in the comments.


The old haunts

I noticed recently that there are not one, but two reggae clubs within a few blocks of my apartment. I pass one of them, Exedus II, every time I walk to IO. I don't know where the first Exedus is, but wherever it is, I assume it was forced out of somewhere else to get there. Too bad I'm not into reggae clubs. I'd be in heaven. Reggae heaven.

It is a widely known fact among those that know me that I am a pretty big wuss when it comes to scary things. Blame it on Mom for not letting Josh and I play with guns, blame it on Mom for not letting Josh and I play football, or blame it on Mom for not letting Josh and I run away from that killer clown, but no matter where you place the blame, I am not one of those people that enjoys the sensation of being scared.

And now Halloween is upon us and scary things are everywhere. Tara was telling me about her experiences in the haunted corn maze the other night and I mentioned how much I hate those kind of things. She took some sort of perverse delight in my discomfort and latched onto the idea of going to a haunted house. A professional one. In fact, this one. Statesville Haunted Prison.

People, I couldn't even make it through the flash intro to the website. That chainsaw-wielding clown running down the red-checkered hallway* with the strobe light gave me the jibblies like you can't imagine.

Seriously, I can't deal with haunted things. I couldn't even handle the neighborhood haunted house that the Bears used to do at their house every year. Heck, I didn't even want to do the one at the Groppel's Halloween party**, and that pretty much consisted of walking down a dark hallway with fog and putting your hands in a bowl of peeled grapes.

But this is a professional haunted house and Tara's all, "We should probably go," and I'm like, "No, 'cause I'll probably die," and then Statesville Haunted Prison will forever bill themselves as the place so scary, it killed a guy***.

Comment fodder: Haunted house experiences, good and bad.

*However, "Red-Checkered Rundown" is a great name for either a ska band or an improv troupe.

**Am I imagining this? I'm pretty sure the Groppels were involved somehow, but that makes no sense. Shouldn't they have hated Halloween? Jerseyville people, back me up here.

***Best tagline for a haunted house ever.


Decembers in October

I recovered enough from my case of the bird flu to go to a show at The Metro last night. Every day that goes by, I realize just what a great location I'm in. The fact that I can walk 10-15 minutes up Clark St. and be at one of the best music venues in town is super sweet.

Boy, Chicago sure is different than Jerseyville, huh? Am I right or am I right? Hey-oh!

Sidenote: Speaking of my location, I met the proprietors of Swan Cleaners (directly beneath my apartment, for those of you with short memories) and had them clean my new Salvation Army suit jacket. Definitely Asian and definitely the nicest couple ever. Mr. Wu even knocked a quarter off the price for me. (At least I think he did. When I went to pick it up, he said, "Okay, one jacket - $4.75...ah, $4.50. Maybe he just forgot or something. I like to think he gave me a break 'cause we're buds.) And he always smiles and waves when I walk by. It's awesome.

Anyway, let's talk about the show. The opener was Cass McCombs. As you might guess from their worthless incomprehensible shell of a website, they are awful. Three people, sitting down, playing sugary-soft NPR folk music. Maybe in another venue, they would be better, but last night about four songs into their set, I said, "Hey, remember when people were listening to you? Remember that? That was great." If you're playing The Metro and you're getting drowned out by conversation, you need to stop.

But The Decemberists? Wow. Amazing. Just a fantastically musical, fantastically weird show. It was pretty difficult to put into words, so I'll just say this. On their last song, the rhythm guitarist (dressed in Soviet Union army uniform, complete with hat) and the drummer (eerily reminiscent of Mr. Fester, the old A/V teacher at my high school) paraded through the crowd, one with bass drum, one with monkey cymbals, both with long, black Rasputin beards.

It was that kind of show.

Next week promises shows that will be much less silly, but most likely as good. Nickel Creek on Wednesday and Eisley/Switchfoot on Thursday, both at The Vic, which is literally three blocks south. Love it.

Comment fodder: weirdest concert you've ever seen. Ready...go!

P.S. And I'm not even sure this one qualified as the weirdest concert I've ever seen. Remind me sometime to tell you about the time I saw the Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players. Yowza.


Shoulder pains

Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone. Don't panic, I feel much better today. I just caught a rather nasty head cold that sapped me of all desire to exist. I hope I never say the words, "Ugh, I don't have the energy to e-mail" ever again.

As I was driving to Osco Drug today to pick up a box of Kleenex (because God knows I went through the 75 in my first box in the last three days), I noticed another interesting Chicago driving phenomenon that I wanted to comment on.

Back in Jerseyville, there wasn't much traffic to speak of. But there was one habit of Jerseyville drivers that was sure to cause some sort of road rage. In Jerseyville, a city of two-lane roads, if someone wants to make a left turn, you're stuck waiting behind them until they make the turn. But Jerseyvillians (Jersey Villains?) are not that patient. They have places to go and cows to tip. So they pass on the right. On the shoulder. But only some people did it, and the cooler-than-thou crowd (i.e. me and mine) decried the practice as hickish and unclassy.

In Chicago, EVERYONE passes on the right. AT BUSY INTERSECTIONS. And if you, for some ungodly reason, do not follow suit, YOU GET HONKED AT.

Is this dangerous? Of course. Illegal? Probably. Common, accepted practice? Definitely.

It gets to the point that you want to make a left turn and the guy across from you does too, you can't just assume it's safe for both of you to go, because the crazy people will probably start passing on the right as soon as the light turns.

It strikes me that this is yet another piece of information that should have been imparted to me by my roommate. (Failure!)

P.S. Dinosaur Comics, how offensive!


Ow! They're pointy now!

To any inquiries regarding my current status, I direct you to the following explanatory film.

Thank you and good day.


Taxi 54, where are you? Wait, those are two different shows.

Chicago thought of the day: There should be a clearer distinction between taxis and cop cars. The first few times I was driving around the city, I thought, "Geez, I need to be careful. There are cops everywhere in this city."

Then I realized I was mistaking the little availability lights on top of taxis for the flashing lights on top of cop cars. I realize that they are very different in terms of what light they give off when activated, but at a glance, they have very similar structure.

You'll have to excuse me. I've had very little experience with taxis. I think there were about 5 in Des Moines and nonexistent in Springfield. In Jerseyville, for some strange reason, you could get a cab if you called for one. I always felt kind of bad for the kids who got picked up from school in a taxi. Who makes their kid call a taxi to get home, especially in grade school?

So, lesson of the day: taxis do not equal cop cars, although in Jerseyville both are useful for transporting kids to their homes.


I watch movies when I'm pondering life choices

Recommendation of the day: Thumbsucker. There's a great independent film theater about 8 blocks south of my apartment and tonight I made use of it to catch this little beauty. Coincidentally, the Chicago Film Festival is going on at theaters around the city (including the one I went to), yet I chose to see a non-festival film. How sad is it that I go to an indie film theater and end up seeing a movie that comparatively is considered mainstream.

It's worth it to see Vince Vaughn as a high school debate coach and Keanu Reeves as a hippie orthodontist. Keanu plays the same exact character as every other movie - he's just finally found a part where that character fits perfectly. It's great, and yet it will never happen again.


Well, that was easy.

So...guy from the PR firm in the 'burbs called back today and offered me a position. Pretty decent salary, benefits, all that stuff. Same crappy commute.


I really didn't expect them to make the decision this quickly and I really didn't think I'd have to make a decision this early in my Chicago journey. Geez people, I haven't even been here a week! I figured I'd at least have time to look around, talk to a bunch of people and see what's out there before I finally just gave up and got a job at Panera's like my brother dreams about.

But they want someone to start pretty much right away, so it's not like I can take two weeks to sniff around for something else. Maybe two days. I have to call back on Thursday and tell them either yes, no, or I need a couple more days.

Man, I'm so torn. If this place were located in the Loop, I'd jump all over it. And I don't want to take it just because it's the first offer I've received, but on the other hand, I don't have any other interviews, let alone any other offers. I swear, I'm running out of hands for opposite points of view to rest on. Just that freaking commute...


Anyway, other accomplishments today include buying and mounting a bulletin board and decorating my room with my supply of album covers. All the usual suspects from my dorm room: Benny Goodman, Best of Bill Cosby, The Association, Free to Be You and Me...all the heavy-hitters made the cut. That, my friends, was no quandary.

P.S. Hey, who's excited for Video Games Live? I am! Man, this'll get the kids to love the symphony for sure!


I have to get a jorb?

Right, so...job. Need one. Kind of a big "to do" now that I'm in Chicago, along with "learn to use buses" and "don't get mugged." And I'm working on it. I am. I'm working on finding work.

I had a job interview this morning at a PR firm out in the 'burbs. I got it through a professor's recommendation, so I was pleasantly surprised (especially when I set up the interview in the middle of a round of mini-golf). So it took about 50 minutes to drive out there and the traffic is fairly infuriating. (But between today and yesterday when I drove out there just so I knew where I was going, I knocked out a bunch of backlogged podcasts. That was nice.)

They made me take a writing test, which was fairly standard. I felt a little rusty since I hadn't written anything in AP format for a while (God knows I don't use anything approaching correct style on here), but it went pretty okay*. Then I talked to some nice, laid-back people about the company and about
myself. Then I drove home. All in all, I felt pretty good about it.

Okay, so let's take stock.

PROS: Good company, nice people, good benefits, will be able to make a solid contribution right off the bat, probably a decent salary.

CONS: THE COMMUTE SUCKS TO HIGH HEAVEN. It would be at least an hour and 40 minutes stuck in a car every day. I really would hate that. Mass transit isn't really an option because Metra doesn't stop anywhere convenient, so I'd be driving every day,
feeling guilty for using gas like crazy and polluting the air. I know that's a lot of pros to one con, but it's a big con. But who knows, maybe they didn't even like me and won't offer me anything. I've got some other decent leads, so we'll see.

On the plus side, my roommates and I were discussing the fine art of interviewing last night, specifically when asked about your biggest weakness. Everyone does the cliche (because their profs tell them to) and starts out talking about a weakness, but turning it around into a strength. I bet every other person answers, "Oh, I'm a terrible procrastinator, but I'm really good under pressure."

We were thinking about how hilarious it would be if someone really answered that honestly and horribly. Examples:

"Honestly ma'am, my biggest weakness is that I don't actually do any real work. I just appear to."

"My biggest weakness is the LADIES! WHOO!!"

"I am actually a huge racist."

So we're going on and on about this and they're daring me to actually say one if I get 20 minutes in and decide I really don't want the position. I'm scared to death because I'm the one who actually has to interview and I'm worried that this will be all I can think about. Fortunately, I managed to push those thoughts out of my head and talk in a rational manner.

Although I had a really great one about a weakness for Communism.

So honestly candidates, what is your biggest weakness? I look forward to reading your responses in the replies.

*Pretty okay: my new favorite phrase. Second favorite: Burnsauce. Thank you, Dinosaur Comics, for changing the way I speak.


Wicked awesome...wonder if anyone's made that joke before...yeah, probably.

Hey, I forgot to mention that I saw Wicked with my parents on Thursday night as a sort of last hurrah with everyone. (Yeah, I know, Rob. I've had about 8 last hurrahs. That's what happens when people like you. Give it a try sometime.)

Anyway, I saw Wicked and it was indeed wicked. Wicked...awesome! It starred none other than Ana Gasteyer (of SNL fame) as Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West, which is a very challenging role, vocally speaking*. Now you know Ana has chops as music teacher Bobbi Moughan-Culp, but man, I never knew she could belt it like she did. That girl...she is making it work. How about it.

Speaking of people who are making it work...Wallace and Gromit. I found my favorite cheap movie theater today and saw their new movie for 5 bucks. Hilarious. I remember watching their short films on PBS many years ago and loving them. Imagine spending 5 years making a piece of art. Crazy...like a fox.

One of the things I was looking forward to doing in Chicago was finding a new comic book store, because I figure Chi-town had to have some pretty sweet ones. I was walking down Clark to say hi to my friends at C-Sportz yesterday...walked right by it. Chicago Comics. Best in the city. How about that. Went back today and bought a couple things.

Cheap movies and comic books**. I'm happy***.

*Vocally speaking is a hilarious phrase. I'm going to start a band and call it Vocally Speaking.

**Incidentally, I think "Cheap Movies and Comic Books" was the follow-up to Sunny Day Real Estate's "Guitars and Video Games." This has been your emo reference of the week.

***Also making me happy: the roommates hanging out in the kitchen last night and talking about everything from patent laws to loopholes in the gambling industry. This might not sounds hilarious, but it was. We also determined that the three best names for a new quick-dating service would be "This'll Do," "5 Minutes Won't Kill You," and "Drink 'til It Works." I'm telling you, we're like a thinktank in this apartment.


Tegan & cat

Holy crap, my brother started a blog? Awesome!

Sorry I didn't make a big fuss about your birthday, Joanna. Maybe if you got a Facebook account, Facebook could remind when it is coming up and I would not be such a loser. I do not see how either of us lose in that equation. Happy belated birthday. I miss you too.

I think I've discovered the reason people get pets, especially if they live alone. It's so they don't go completely crazy. People need something to talk to, and living alone makes you talk to yourself, which eventually makes you go bonkers. But if you have something to talk to (or at, really), then you go less bonkers.

At this point, I feel I should focus my thoughts by explaining that we have a cat in the apartment. His name is Niles and he is orange and ambitious. I talked to Niles today when it was just he and I in the apartment. Just little things like, "Hey, how's it going, buddy? Watch your paw there, I have to put the milk back. I'm leaving the room now, so I'll be turning out the light. Oh, that doesn't matter to you. You're a cat. You have nightvision or something."

Niles loves to come in my room. He loves to jump on my desk chair, although he is quickly learning that when he does that, the desk chair strangely begins to spin. He is nice to have around, but his fur does tend to get on things and he can make me a little sneezy, so I shut my door to keep him out. This morning, as I was waking up, the door opened and he jumped into bed and walked on my face to wish me a good morning.

I am convinced he has learned to operate a doorknob. This makes him as intelligent as a velociraptor. I am very worried.

I saw Tegan & Sara at the Metro tonight. They were outstanding and funny and Canadian lesbian twins. All of these adjectives describe them. I was most surprised by their opening act, Northern State, a hip-hop group of three indie-looking white female MCs. Most surprised, but not displeased. The Decemberists play there later this month and Mae plays at the House of Blues later this month as well.



Adventures in Chi-town

Turns out that leaving home is pretty hard when it's for real.

I've packed up my stuff and gone somewhere many times before, but it seemed so much more definite this time. So...final. Knowing that I'll probably never live in the same house as my parents again. It's weird. And it's tough. Suffice it to say that Mom and Dad weren't the only ones having trouble making it through the tradition Ryder family pre-move prayer circle.

But before I sound like a total wuss, let me say that Chicago is awesome. The place is rad, the roommates are cool, and it's freaking Chicago.

Tara D, the 'rents and I were eating dinner on the patio of a restaurant tonight and saw about 3 fire trucks go back and forth. Then, a guy stopped at a red light got out of his car, swatted something on his sunroof (bug getting in the way of his rays? It's nighttime, dude. Chill out.), and drove away.

I'm in Chicago. Let the adventures begin.


I no longer put the spring in Springfield

I always get nervous before a big change. Crazy, right? Well, this one is no different. I'm off to big things.

So long, Springpatch. A true patch of Spring you were.

"I drove to Chicago. All things go. All things go."
- Sufjan Stevens, "Chicago"


ONE MILLION (punches in the face)

Quick update on the Switchfoot album debacle: MTV is reporting that EMI CMG, who distributes Switchfoot albums to Christian retailers, is recalling all the discs because of a "manufacturing defect in the CDs' content-protection technology" that prevented users from burning copies of the CD or transferring tracks to a portable MP3 player.

Not sure I buy that it was a "defect." Seems like the program did exactly what they wanted it too. I bet there were many complaints from angry people and EMI quickly backtracked and apologized. So if I hadn't already figured it out, I could get a replacement. Fantastic. Take that, music industry!

Thanks to everyone who made my last weekend in Springfield so awesome. I found Serenity, lifted heavy things, dressed up and went to a silly gala where I was really hoping to start a fistfight, OC style, played some tennis, and lost at poker. Good times, everyone. Good times.

Now it's time to start seriously putting things in boxes. Two days and counting...


I will cry myself to sleep tonight

Holy crap, go see Serenity.

Do it. Do it right now. I don't care if you've never seen Firefly (the aforementioned TV series on which the movie is based), see it anyway. Josh never saw Firefly and enjoyed the movie a lot. It'll just mean you won't be quite as emotionally distraught when...bad things happen to characters.

Seriously. I am so upset right now, I can't even express it. And for a movie to resonate that emotionally...well, that's something.

But if I ever meet Joss Whedon, we are going to have words.

"I am a leaf on the wind. Watch me as I soar."

EDIT: I was vague on purpose, but in his comment, Scott gets specific and spoiler-y. So don't read it if you want to stay spoiler-free. It's okay, Scott. It's not your fault.