Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rules Don't Apply to Me! (and other idiotic ramblings)

For Dee Dee:

Fish Stories. Life is filled with fish stories. Some are easy to spot. They revolve around conquests or accomplishments. Others are a bit trickier to identify. It seems to me that every aspect of manhood holds within it the ability to explode into some extravagant fish story where the hero could not have his wishes quelled by the realities of nature. However, the most annoying fish stories are those that you live, daily. There is a great C.S. Lewis quote that pretty much sums up this important truth. "Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."

For me, it started as a child. My Dad was infamous for this type behavior. Logic says that if you go to war with a filet knife and the knife wins, GO TO THE HOSPITAL. Not us Nolans. We would rather use duct tape to secure the wound with adequately sterile paper towels. The fish story here is that "Rules Don't Apply to Me." It was as if, through genetics, I had been granted a waiver from many of society's rules, not to mention common sense. I can track my application of this concept throughout my life, but will choose to ignore the fact that it usually correlates to a very embarrassing situation. So without further adieu:

My Dad, my brother Mann, and I all have a very interesting personality quirk: we obsess. Now, I'm not talking about some unhealthy obsession that controls our lives day in and day out. It's actually quite the opposite. It's usually something small and innocuous that we focus our attention on for a brief, but intense period. Examples include, my brother's love of all things tech. He always has a fantastic new toy. My Dad usually finds something like a local Chinese restaurant to obsess over. I do the same, except with Mexican food. However, I also find myself obsessing over things I hear on the radio/ipod. For those of you that don't know, I love my ipod. It might be the best purchase I've ever made if you relate dollars spent vs. time spent listening. The weird part is, I don't listen to a lot of music. I mostly listen to podcasts. LOTS of them. Right now, I'm subscribing to about twenty five different podcasts. I love talk radio type entertainment. However, before the ipod, I would spend my time listening to xm radio. It was during this time that a certain radio commercial grabbed my attention.

I don't remember the exact name of the product, but it was one of those cleansing systems. Basically, this thing claimed that after a few short weeks of use you would feel more energetic, drop a few pounds, smell better, drive safer, grow taller, and add +/- 40 points to your credit score! Wow, how could I live without it! One problem, at the time (2003) I was an E-3 in the Coast Guard making a cool $1600 a month. There was no way that I would be able to afford 344 easy payments of $34.95. ARGH!!! But there had to be a work around.

That's when I heard some fantastic news on a news talk show interviewing some random doctor. Basically, the host asked if these type products were all they were cracked up to be. He then repeated some of the advantages of a system cleanse, and even though he failed to bring up credit scores, he did mention one key piece of information. He stated that these new-fangled products were really nothing new. He went on to explain that any OTC laxative, when taken properly, would generally provide the same benefits. However, I'm pretty sure he skipped out on explaining what happens if you don't take it properly.....(editorial note: this story will NOT contain crude descriptions, it's a pretty safe read.)

I remember the scene well. Amanda and I standing in the laxative aisle at the Wal-Mart in Southport, NC. Amanda repeatedly shaking her head in disapproval as I ignorantly survey the ingredient lists of various products. "Oh look honey, this one has 150 mg of blah, blah." Her: "I don't care. Just remember, this was your idea, not mine." Finally, I figured that I should just go with name recognition. Ex-Lax. However, surely the garden variety "regular strength" would not provide the benefits I sought. If I was going to take this seriously, I had to step it up a notch. I skipped straight over "maximum strength" to "ULTRA." Let's face it, ultra sounds cooler (damn you creative marketing!)

So we returned home and I read the instruction aloud "1 Pill Daily." Nah, let's kick start the old girl and take her down the road a piece. I'll start with two. Amanda cautioned me as I swallowed them down. "Jamey, it's 8:00 p.m. you are going to be up all night." Hmm, small price to pay for digestive health. One problem, nothing happened. I stayed up till about midnight to make sure, but so far....nothing. So, I hit the hay looking forward to a great weekend with my new bride.

Now, I've never actually swallowed molten lava, but I think I have a good idea what it feels like. At 4:00 a.m. I awoke, in an almost out-of-body experience, to find myself curled into a ball screaming in anticipation of what was sure to be a re-creation of the diner scene from Alien. What had I done? Amanda slept peacefully, almost ironically, as I writhed around on the bed, and then the floor for the next half hour. Then the pain, without reasoning, subsided. HA HA! I had conquered it! Maybe I should've tripled the dose.

The next morning I woke up to a quiet house. Amanda had risen before me and was watching TV in the living room. As I walked in to the room she gave me a look that said "did you learn your lesson?" I played it off. "Nothing happened. I guess I'll just continue on with this psychotic regimen until I get some real results." So, I took more. We carried on with our day watching TV and planning the rest of our weekend. Situation: normal.

Now, to truly understand what took place next, you need to understand the lay out of town where we lived. Southport, NC is a very small town adjacent to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. It's a beautifully sleepy town that has one main drag. This two-lane street, with red lights expertly placed every twenty-five feet, to ensure that citizens were safe by making sure that you were never able to get your car past second gear. It could make a one mile drive last fifteen minutes. Southport also had another fascinating landmark: Famous Subs and Pizza. I challenge you to find me a better meatball sub anywhere in the world. It was sublime. So, around 11:30 we begin to discuss what to do for lunch. I wanted a meatball sub, but Amanda doesn't want to get dressed for the day quite yet, so we call in a pick-up order and hit the road.

As we pull into the drive-through I feel the tiniest twinge of discomfort. A reasonable person would have assessed the situation and turned the vehicle around. But, has anything in this story, as of yet, led you to believe that I am a reasonable person? So, we stayed. As a line formed behind us, and we were only one car from the window, I would like to quote my Dad: "Business picked up." I immediately slammed both feet into the floorboard of Amanda's car lifting my entire body approximately 6-8 inches off of the seat. My faced turned white as sweat began pouring down my brow. This is where time stood still. Logic tells me that the car in front of us paid, got their order, and drove away none the wiser. But my mind was telling me that they obviously knew of my distress, along with the entire restaurant staff, and were part of God's plan to teach me a lesson. I'm pretty sure I lived three, maybe four lifetimes before they moved.

By the time we reached the window, I was visibly trembling. My thighs were beginning to cramp and my eyes bulged like bull frog. I could barely speak as the girl at the window asked for our money. Amanda, who is nervously/hysterically laughing, hands over a check. The girl looks at the check closely and identifies that we are using new checks with a low check number. This meant that she would have to call the bank to verify the funds. I whimper.

By the time we get our food, I'm cursing. I peel out of the drive-through, body still lifted off of the seat and stare down the gauntlet of red lights that stood between me and relief. I somehow imagine that swearing loudly will take my mind off of the fact that I must somehow sustain this ridiculous posture for at least 5-10 minutes more. I can only imagine what some pedestrian thought as this little car comes swerving by, barely under control, being driven by a raving lunatic who is obviously having some type psychotic episode, while slamming on the brakes every twenty-five feet. We reach the house, and only one obstacle remains, the porch. Our front porch was a raised slab about two and a half feet high with no stairs. This presented me with two options, try to take a step, or sit and roll. Since my knees were involuntarily clinched together like a vice, the latter would have to suffice. So, I sat on the slab, like a lady riding side saddle, and rolled to my side to get to the front door. I made it.

News flash idiot: The rules apply to you! They always have. You don't always have to do things the hard way, just to prove you can do them. Sometimes it's best to shut up and follow instructions.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nutty as a Fruitcake

OK, so I started this thing for the primary reason of passing along some helpful information to my boys as they grow up. Over time I hope to give them good advice on a myriad of issues like: family, spouses, motivation, career, and maybe even fatherhood. But today, my focus is on a very specific, and hopefully helpful subject. "How to spot a crazy person."

It can happen anywhere. You could be stopped at the gas station, standing in line at the grocery store, or even dealing with family. But eventually you are going to run into a person who possesses a certain tick that will give you pause and cause you to think "Oh, I'm dealing with a crazy person." The key is not realizing this after six months of dating, or right after that new roommate moves in their last piece of furniture. Like a medical issue, early detection is the best medicine. Here is an example where I maybe missed out on a few early signals.

Amanda and I moved to Slidell, LA in July of 2004. As a young married couple, we were very fortunate to land in the neighborhood that we live in now. At that time, our subdivision was a small garden home neighborhood consisting mostly of elderly couples who chose homes that would require less maintenance in their later years. Sprinkled in were a few families. Mostly working people who commute to NOLA, raising their kids in a good school district. Our landlord is a wonderful woman named Mary. She was a recently re-married widow who is a grandmother, and would be vacating the house to move in with her new husband. She lowered the price on her house because she felt we were a nice, young couple she could trust. We were THRILLED. Amanda was 8 months pregnant with Jackson, and we quickly went to work painting a nursery and preparing for the incoming child.

As we were moving in, Mary excitedly introduced us to our neighbor across the street, Mark. He was, seemingly, a really nice man who worked for the Air Force. He was cordial, and quick to point out that we would fit right in due to the fact that Amanda drove a Honda Accord. He gleefully pointed to his pride and joy, and Honda Civic and the Honda CRV that his wife drove. Hmm, that's a little odd to be so excited about a brand of vehicle, but whatever, he seemed nice enough. So we moved in and life quickly jumped in to the fast lane as I started working at Marine Safety Office NOLA and Jackson was born. For you parents out there you know that those first few weeks/months of a child's life are a blur. You miss a lot of other stuff going on because you are a special combination of terrified and sleep deprived.

However, with all this I still noticed one thing.....his yard. It was a small, small yard similar to mine, that only would take about 30 minutes to cut and trim. The thing was, his yard was BEAUTIFUL. Now, I'm not saying well landscaped. There were actually very few flowers to speak of, but the grass was amazing. It was a very uniform 2.5 inches high, at all times. No seriously, at ALL TIMES. Once I noticed this, my spidey senses tingled and I started to pay attention a little more. This nut was mowing his yard, with his shiny Honda mower no less, usually about three times a week, sometimes more.

At this point I think some perspective is necessary. I love the movie "The Fifth Element." It's a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi movie from the 90's staring Bruce Willis. However, the real genius of the movie is the evil character played by Gary Oldman. He's a combination of smart/psycho that really makes the movie fun. At one point, he has a great monologue explaining why he is willing to create so much chaos. He pushes a glass off of a table and a few robotic machines fly in, out of no where, and cleans the mess up. He explains that work is created by chaos, and he plans to be there to profit off the chaos he creates.

Anyhow, watching Mark mow his lawn was like watching a symphony of psychosis centered around a menial task. First, he would move his precious Honda Civic from his driveway to hundreds of feet away, around the corner of our street. Then he would jog purposefully back to his house, not a minute to waste. As the garage door lifted, one could see that he had spent lots of money on various organizational boxes to makes sure his garage was tidy. Not just tidy, hospital clean is probably a better description. He would then spend the next two hours mowing a patch of grass no bigger than a racquetball court. He did not use a blower. Instead, he would first use a regular sized broom to sweep up the grass clippings in to a few manageable piles, then use a hand broom to carefully ensure that no part of his driveway was fouled by a spare blade or two. Ok, this was beginning to seem odd.

There are many other stories, like his wife not leaving the house when he wasn't there, so much so that she would chat with the neighbor through the screen door, or the fact that when he carved a pumpkin for his 9 year old daughter his back porch looked like a scene out of Dexter while the girl sat in a chair 15 feet away, not allowed to help. There's also the time that he hurt his ankle and was unable to wash his Civic 2-3 times a week as usual. I decided I would wash Amanda's Accord one Saturday afternoon, and a few minutes in, I noticed him watching me through his screen door. After a few more minutes, the creep limped out, orthopedic boot and all, to the end of his driveway, set up a folding chair, and said nothing as he watched me wash Amanda's car. But the one story really sealed the deal for me, was the Saints game.

I love the Saints, always have. But to this point, I had never been to a game in person. One day Mark rang our doorbell and offered me a free ticket to watch the Saints vs. the Broncos. I thought, well he's a bit eccentric, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I agreed, and then he proceeded to give me the instructions. This was the first of four iterations of said instructions prior to game day. I was to meet him outside at 9:45 on Sunday morning so that we would have plenty of time to pick up our other passenger, who lived in our neighborhood, and be on our way. So, Sunday morning rolls around and I'm ready to go by about 9:30. Just then, nature calls. I figure I've got a few minutes to take care of business and meet him outside. I should've carried one of those atomic clocks to the restroom. At 9:45.01 , he begins blowing his horn. Not once, not twice, but incessantly.

As I make my way out the door and to his car, which is now in the middle of the street, he has the window rolled down and is urging me along verbally (come on, come on, come on). It's 9:47. As I get in the car, he's freaking MANIC. The Civic, which was about 3 or 4 years old at this point, still has the plastic covering on the floormats. Not the paper ones you get from the car wash, the plastic ones you get from the dealership. I get in, he floors it. We pick up our other passenger and are on our way. Two of my friends were going to follow us to the game so we could park next to each other. No such luck. By the time we hit the exit ramp we are doing 90 mph on a Sunday morning. As I try to strike up pleasant conversation with this idiot, he does nothing but brag about how impressed I'm going to be by his special parking spot. Literally, 35 minutes of parking centric conversation. I'm staring in the side mirror trying to find my friends, as Mark negotiates traffic with the grace of a formula one driver high on crystal meth.

To completely paint the picture, our backseat passenger is a guy named Todd who is wearing a Saints t-shirt tucked in to blue shorts with blue dress socks and Jesus sandles. He never says a word. The entire day. Instead, he focused on his am/fm headphones, which are the audio equivalent of the Zach phone, as he listens intently to the pre-game show on 870 am. So, we lose my friends in traffic, like a cop and robber movie, and make our way to the stadium. Mark swings in to a lot, parks, and gives me a sly smile. Behind this smile he must've been imagining the awe in which I sat, as the master of all things parking lot related had clearly revealed himself to me.

He then fast walks. Men don't fast walk. Mark does. He looks like he's about to dislocate a hip as he walk/sprints toward the Superdome with me and Urkel in tow. We get to the game, and then the coup de gras occurs. On the first play of the game, Denver's running back breaks an 80 yard TD run. To which, Mark only had one logical response. He stands up and repeatedly SCREAMS "HERE WE GO AGAIN" over and over for about three minutes as he slowly removes his Saints jersey, like the saddest strip tease you could imagine, turns it inside out, and puts it back on. I felt sad for him. This was his non-verbal "screw you" to the Saints, who, after all of his manic preparation and masterful parking, had ruined his day with one simple breakdown in the secondary. My mouth was agape. After all I'd seen on this day, this man sat before me whimpering and sputtering non-nonsensically about Tom Benson and the coach for the remainder of the three hour game, until returning to his brilliant parking space, broken and defeated.

Mark was crazy. It wasn't his fault. Maybe it was chemical. Maybe it was a crazy parent, but neither mattered. I walked back in to my home that afternoon and quietly proclaimed to my wife that no matter what happened in the future, I would NEVER again join company with the psycho next door. Sure, I could've done a better job at spotting the signs earlier, but I was just relieved to have finally seen the tiger's stripes.

But one thing still bothered me. Where in the world did Todd find that ridiculous pair of headphones?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Humbling Pinhole (A Brief Tutorial of Nolan Luck)

Nolan luck: (noun) A phenomenon associated to Nolan heritage that clearly demands that seemingly easy tasks must prove to be nearly impossible, for no apparent reason.

To truly understand Nolan luck I must start by describing it's impact to my Dad. A few descriptive terms for Dad would be: funny, cynical, smart, a tad obsessive, level-headed, extremely patient, and extremely impatient. I say patient and impatient because like me, Dad is a little bit easy listening and a little bit rock and roll. I can deal with tedious things all day long, but I could also blow a blood vessel over a stupid, oblivious woman taking up more than half the aisle at Wal-mart. "HALF THE AISLE LADY, THAT'S ALL YOU GET!!!!

But most importantly, the trait that my Dad unknowingly passed to me was the ability to laugh at myself. It really is an incredible mechanism that allows me to face the ridiculous situations life presents without the top of my head popping off. Never take yourself too seriously. Nothing dooms you more than a perceived failure to measure up. The game never ends as long as you keep playing.

To really drive this point home, I'm going to do one of my favorite things: Tell old stories. Now, some of these stories may seem exaggerated or ridiculous. This is because of one of two reasons. 1. Nolan Luck puts you in ridiculous situations. 2. Some of these stories are from my childhood, and I cannot be held accountable for my imagination.

In high school, my world pretty much revolved around music. Band, jazz band, showchoir, get the point. I took it seriously.  Too seriously. Nothing, on a grand scale, is less important than a high school choir performance. Now, I'm not saying that it was not worth striving for, but mistakes happen. Well, during my junior year we had a review-type show worked out that would feature the showchoir, but would also include performances from the girls ensemble, the boys ensemble, and the madrigals. Now, for those of you not familiar with a madrigals group, it's basically a small, mixed ensemble that sing old songs while dressed in character. Yep, nothing cooler than the digs of the dark ages. It's like I was trying to repel the female sex.

One of the hardest things about a review show that changes sets, costumes, and groupings quickly is the ability to hit your mark as fast as possible. Song ends, curtains close, sprint off stage, have next costume ready at hand, change quickly, spring back on stage, curtains open. Not a lot of room for mistakes. So this particular year, my madrigals costume was basically a heavy black robe with a rope belt. GENIUS! This is basically the easiest thing to change into quickly.

On the night of the performance, things were going so well. I was dancing well, singing well, and pretty much feeling like I was on top of my tiny world. Now comes the humbling part. The crowd could probably feel the impending rush of Nolan luck woosh through the room like a hurricane. A showchoir song ends, and the curtains closed as I sprinted to the boys' side of the stage while ripping clothes off. As I picked up my robe, though, my brain scrambled and I was basically looking at a giant blanket. I could not, for the life of me figure out how to get the blasted thing on. Panic, cold sweats, and shaking hands also doomed this little operation. A couple of guys rushed to my aid to help me sort this out as I'm standing there in a v-neck t-shirt and a pair of tightie-whities that had been died a dull blue, due to poor clothes separating technique during the washing process.

I finally pull the robe over my head just as the stage hand, on the other side of the stage, unknowingly begins opening the curtain. I rush to formation without my handy dandy rope belt, robe completely open on the backside. We sing our song to a crowd that had no idea how fortunate they were to only see the front of our costumes. To my credit, I held it together well, considering my big blue butt was shining to everyone backstage.

Epilogue: Just to ensure that I would never forget that humbling experience, my Mother framed a copy of the program along with the now infamous blue underwear and presented it to me as a Christmas gift that year. I quickly switched to boxers....

Story two is a perfect storm of Nolan luck, in that the confluence of two Nolan's exponentially increased the negative impact of a situation. We traveled on vacation for two weeks every summer. It started small by taking a car-based road trip to Canada, via Yellowstone National Park. It quickly expanded to motor-home based excursions all over the country. Now, for those of you not familiar with motor-home ownership, I'll see if I can sum it up for you. It's like taking every modern and familiar home comfort that you have, shrinking it, throwing it on an over-sized chasis, and watching it all vibrate to pieces while driving down the road. Yep.  That, plus sewage hoses about sums it up. Still, I loved it. I mean really loved it. It was like a strange adventure where I got to sleep a lot during the day.

One summer we hit the Mid-West. I was probably 13. It was an amazing trip. Nothing says adventure like surfing on top of the motor-home, in a rain storm in downtown Memphis, making sure that the telephone lines would clear our A/C unit. The entire trip was awesome, until IT happened. On our way home, coming through Missouri, I woke up one morning from my couch based bed and stepped right onto wet carpet. Uh-oh. Doom overtook me because I knew what was coming next.

Nolan's apparently hate knuckles. We are constantly trying to destroy them, so we must hate them, right? Neither my Dad, nor I can doing anything mechanical without attempting to shave off a knuckle. It's ridiculous how I can grab a wrench or a pair of pliers and IMMEDIATELY smash my hand on something. Anyhow, I stared sadly at my poor knuckles, and reported to Dad that we had a problem.

Now when I say wet carpet, do not confuse that with "someone must've spilled a soda." Negative. More like, "oops someone must've left the sunroof open during monsoon season." One problem.  Our hip little motor-home was not hip enough to have a sunroof. We quickly assessed the situation and realized that the hot water heater, underneath the couch, must have a leak. We couldn't see the leak, or much of anything else under the couch. It would have to be removed. For those of you not familiar with a motor-home hot water heater, it resembles a propane tank for a gas grill, turned sideways and bolted into the motor-home through a square hole cut into the side of the frame. It's only capable of operating if it's seated into the frame, because the wires wouldn't reach otherwise.

Now, the kind folks at Holiday Rambler have really figured out how to build a nice motor-home. Apparently, the trick is to use HUNDREDS of the tiniest screws possible to affix parts together. Once those screws are tight, completely cover them in a sealant reminiscent of washing a pack of bubble yum in the pocket of a pair of blue jeans. The stuff was impossible to get off. So first thing that morning, before the heat got too bad, we pulled the thing out and searched for the leak. At this point, the process is very instructional in nature. Dad is showing me how to remove the gummy sealant without your hands sticking to everything, a la Clark Griswald, and how to find the leak using dish soap. My face beamed in admiration. His chest puffed with manliness. We then trekked to the local hardware store and Dad was guided to some really good leak stopping sealant that was sure to fix all of our problems.

We returned triumphant to the park, briefed Mom on the wonders of our newly purchased product, and began refilling the tank. By mid-morning we had narrowly averted crisis, and would focus our attention back to having fun! Wrong answer. Twenty minutes later, the monsoon returned. Thus began a demonic cycle of tank removal, sealant, refill, re-spill. All that warm-hearted Dad/Son crap was out the window. This was war. We were being barraged by tiny screws, gummy sealant, 100 degree heat, and mosquitoes. This lasted ALL day long. We must've removed that tank at least six times. We were confused, Mom was confused, the guy at the hardware store was confused, but mostly our poor carpet was confused. Finally, Dad admitted to defeat. Nolan luck was too strong. A three gallon water heater, and a pin hole had reduced us to sun burned, knuckle-less, piles of inhuman exhaustion.

The next day, Dad ponied up the cash to buy a shiny new water heater. We installed that thing with extreme caution. We looked like we were transporting fissile material. There was NO WAY we were going through that again. To this day, it only takes the mere mention of a water heater to cause my Dad and I to shutter at the lesson we learned.

Sometimes it only takes a pin hole to humble the proudest of champions. I take comfort in the fact that Nolan luck exist. Some things will come easy in life. Just know that there will always be a metaphorical lady in the aisle. Don't freak out. Just stare and marvel at the unreasonable amount of salad dressing flavors till she finds her way.

And, always cover your big blue butt.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blogs are like Tattoos

OK, so I've now managed to leap into the year 1998 and start my own blog. This decision has very little to do with a feeling of profundity or self-importance. My hope is that it more closely resembles a time capsule for my boys. I'm now well in to my thirties and realized that my almost shaman-like ability to avoid photos has left my kids very little to see of their Dad during his early adulthood. If I'm really hoping to impact them once they get older I might as well let them see how I approached the decisions life poses, from the mundane to life-changing. Who knows, they might marvel at how dear old Dad made life seem normal despite his tricky combination of neurosis, narcissism, and borderline self-destructive tendencies. I doubt it.

I've wanted to write for a very long time. Nothing formal. Nothing too deep. I think it comes from my background in music of simply wanting to contribute to the conversation. Jeez, now that I think about it, that summarizes a lot of my successes and embarrassing failures in life. I've always desperately clung to the fact that I should be a part of the conversation. This is more likely a greater sign that I've always been terribly afraid of irrelevance. Like I said above, narcissism.

However, let's recap my music contributions. Starting at an early age, I felt like one of those toy dolls whose string you would pull to hear a witty joke, song, or whatever. I started singing in public (church) at about age 5. I still remember the "side show" feeling of embarrassment I had when my Mom would drag the stool on the stage for me sit on while I sang. Blue hairs everywhere clamored with anticipation as I would squeakily repeat back the contemporary Christian hit of the day. Picture it if you will, tiny little pleated slacks strapped on with a braided belt straight out of the JCPenny's catalog, an incredibly starched button down shirt, and the uncomfortable pinch of a clip on tie hoisted on to a stool in front of 400 people. Smiling cheesily through the impenetrable fear, not of singing though, of falling off the damn stool. Who would ever forget the memory of such a fluffy bowl cut flying through the air to the gentlest of thuds. Thankfully, I was spared.

I guess that's always been my view of performing something that's not your own possession. It's self-indulgent and just a tad fraudulent. I realized this in college when I could not force myself to watch other people sing. We would go to our performance lab class, and a string of terrified undergrads would, one by one, sing through a selected piece to hopefully satisfy their voice teachers and not bring about unwarranted ridicule from their contemporaries. These were the most painful days of my college career.

I would stare at the floor for a half-hour as these poor guys and gals would "interpret" the required sheet music, with their chests' puffed and heads' held high. I didn't do this because they sang poorly. I didn't do it out of intimidation. I did it because I feared that the culture of competitive undergrads, and their ignorant and snarky comments had invaded my perception of performance. All I ever heard were mistakes. I couldn't help it. When you break yourself down for so long, shooting for perfection, how can you expect to not do the same to others? That's it, it was ruined. Time to close up shop and move on.

The pain subsided over time, and I began to cling to creators, of all kinds. Comedians, writers, thinkers, and especially musicians. I, however, never tried to create, only emulate. I also never got a tattoo. Now, I don't have any ignorant negative stance about body modification. I'm not a straight edge. Many cultures have marked their bodies for different purposes, be it religious, birthright, coming of age, or most importantly, self-expression. At least that's what 8 minutes of uninterrupted Discovery channel tells me. My issue is much more related to my lack of confidence in my own creation. I can't fathom an image that I would tattoo on my arm, that I wouldn't mock myself for five minutes after the ink dried. Plus, needles hurt.

This is also how I feel about writing music. It's a fear that I never want people to give each other knowing looks as they all simultaneously realize that I don't have the required originality needed to keep their attention. So, to stretch my creative legs and work out some of these demons, I've decided to blog.....Holy Cow Jamey, what a courageous decision! (loser)

See, the mocking begins already......

So, let's set some blog ground rules. That's right, my creativity still has to have boundaries.

1. I don't care about your negative opinion. This should be read as "Oh my God, please don't make fun of me!" Seriously, if you have something positive to contribute, by all means do so.

2. Caution: Language Warning. Now, occasionally I might use language in this blog that you may find offensive. So, what. I'm not using this language because I don't have a vocabulary strong enough to overcome it. I do it, because I think it's funny and can be eloquently descriptive.

3. Much like an advertiser I must put a disclaimer. "The views and opinions of this blog are in no way a reflection of the views or opinions of my wife, Amanda Nolan." hehe

There, that should do it for round one. Roll Tide!