Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One of the Girls

With the coming of my recent birthday, I was a little melancholy. In another life, I was used to my birthday being surrounded with much fanfare. It always included awesome gifts and/or a huge party. I knew that wasn't going to be the case this year. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure if that was a good or a bad thing.

One my co-workers, Micki, asked me a couple weeks previous if I would like to go out to lunch with her the day before my birthday. I gladly accepted. As the days went by, I had other friends at work ask me what I was doing for my birthday. I just said, "Micki is taking me out, but I'm sure you could come." I expected Micki would arrange for other people to come, also. On the big day, Micki came to my cubicle.

"Are you ready?" she asked. I kinda looked around, expecting there to be a crowd.

"Is anyone else coming?" I asked.

"Nope. It's just you and me." She replied.

For a split second I was a little bummed. But then I thought about it. I love Micki, she had kind of been my "mother from another mother" during a pretty hard time in my life. Just the two of us having lunch actually sounded good that day. We headed over to the La Milpa mexican restaurant next to our office. I can't believe I didn't even think about what was going on.

As we walked in, I was pleasantly surprised to see a big crowd waiting for me. I was a little puzzled, though, as I realized something - there wasn't a single dude there. I was in for quite a surprise.

I have a habit of greeting women at work with "Yeah, girlfriend!" Not in a "you're my girlfriend" way, but in a horribly-done ebonics way. Like we're all sisters in the 'hood. I guess it's just an Otis G thing. You know, seein' as how I'm a gangsta and all.

Anyway, the aforementioned women decided it was time for me to truly become one of the "girlfriends". They took it upon themselves to gather up a collection of "feminine" supplies, that I'd need on the road to womanhood. This included women's razors, bath gels, soaps, shower caps, heel files... and a "Life's Instruction Book For Women" book. I even got my own purse made out of bubble wrap and rubber bands, filled with my favorite gummy treats. I was truly honored. So I thought it was only appropriate to honor the "cast and crew" of this little venture, starting on the left in the back going counter-clockwise:

Darla, who will work any department, as long as it starts with a P
Inga Binga, who is truly concerned about how long people sit at red lights
Mrs. Incredible, with or without the costume
Deanna, who could take out Crocodile Dundee with a hole punch
Mary Kate and Ashley, supplier of exotic string cheeses (and bailed before the picture was taken)
Roxanne, who I can't help but poorly sing The Police song to
Prestigious, who I think maybe hates that I call her that
JJ, thrower of fake moustache parties
Amber, who is going to be a movie star someday - or at least in an Olive Garden commercial
Tricia, who was my friend when I wasn't sure if I had any (and hates nicknames, much to my dismay)
Micki, who I'll someday sing karaoke with at the next Otis G's Lower Level
Otis G, oblivious
Aleeeesa, who by getting pregnant provided me (and her) a new life
Peppermint Patty, who catches my mistakes before anyone else sees them
Krystal Ball, master of glue-laminated beams (in available sizes)
Carolyn, who would have a corner office, if it wasn't a cubicle

Thanks, girlfriends. Although, I hafta admit - I looked through my new "instruction" manual for women. I had a pretty good laugh when I read:

"You must be intimate with yourself before you can be intimate with others."

Sorry ladies. After all, I'm just a guy. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Lifeline

When I found out that Blink 182 broke up, I was a little bummed. I remember reading a Maximum Rock & Roll magazine (the staple punk fanzine back in the day), and seeing an ad for their first real album "Cheshire Cat." I never bought it.

It wasn't until their album "Dude Ranch" that I was enticed to have a listen. It was amazing. The guitar riffs were catchy, the lyrics were memorable, and I could relate to them. In fact, Blink 182 was the inspiration for much of my guitar playing and song writing. The big difference, though, was that most of their songs were "love" songs (or generally referred to relationships with girls). I was always determined to never sing love songs, considering 5,678,233 of them already existed. Well, I guess there was one other difference - their songs were good.

It was cool to watch a bunch of punk-rockers come out with album after album, that sold millions of copies. And, different from many bands, their music got progressively better. But it always kept that punk rock feel. It was like they were maturing with me, as I got older. And we both tried to remember our roots.

As I started down the road toward my thirties, they came out with one of my favorite songs. "What's My Age Again" was exactly how I felt at the time:

The hits continued. I bought every album, and loved almost every song. It was a good thing that CD's don't "wear out". Out of nowhere, during another peak in their popularity in 2005, they called it quits. Tom, the guitar player for Blink 182, started a new project called Angels and Airwaves. I didn't pay much attention to it, knowing it probably wouldn't be as good as Blink was.

Mark (the bass player), and Travis (the drummer), started a new band called +44. It sounded promising, as they were keeping with the same punk rock feel. Their first big single, "When Your Heart Stops Beating", is pretty cool. I also think the video is very well done:

I continued to avoid listening to Tom's band, Angels and Airwaves. I'd seen a few blurbs about it on the internet, and it seemed like a bunch of crap. I actually felt a little bad for Tom, as most everything I saw talked about what a horrible singer he is. It wasn't until I got their latest album for Christmas that I decided to really give them a listen. Much to my surprise, I was drawn in.

It has a completely different feel. The tempo is slower. The lyrics have a deeper meaning. At first listen, I thought it was okay. Now, I think it's incredible. I kinda feel that once again, Tom has matured with me. He's still writing songs that relate to exactly what I'm going through in life. When I first heard "Lifeline", I was floored. It nearly perfectly describes something that I just went through. This isn't the official video for it (it's one that somebody made), but I dig the cheesy sci-fi visuals:

Unfortunately, I still agree with most about Tom singing live. It's not very good. But hell, neither is mine. Maybe we'll work on that together, as the years go by. Angels and Airwaves has already inspired me to write a completely new kind of song. It'll be posted here sometime in the near future.

This post is dedicated to my lifeline. Her name is Lorie.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


At times like this, it's a good thing you know where you're headed.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kicking Your Fears in the Nuts

I think most everyone has an instinctive "fear" of something. Fear of heights, fear of aliens, fear of pinto beans...

I've known a few people over the years that were scuba divers, who raved about it. Now, I'm a fairly adventerous person. I'll give pretty much anything a go. But going underwater? HELL no.

And it wasn't a fear of drowning, claustrophobia, or running out of air that bothered me. I was convinced that the first time I hit the deep, I'd run smack dab into a dead body. Dead bodies, in of themselves, don't bother me so much. But one that's been sitting in the bottom of the lake rotting for God-knows-how-long does. I'd imagine turning a corner somewhere, and coming face to face with a corpse. And it would be staring right at me. It would be a "Caddyshack" moment at the surface, where a Snicker's looking object would suddenly appear. Followed by a rush of bubbles, and a SECOND dead body. More specifically, me.

My buddy Farnsworth, who I've known since high school, had recently got into scuba diving. It was a natural for him, considering he has a house on Lake Coeur d'Alene where he spends most of his summer time. He'd been telling me about how cool it was for awhile, and I'd just kinda nod my head in agreement. I was glad that HE was the one who'd be running into bodies underwater.

This last summer, he finally popped the question. He had just got a bunch of new gear, and had an extra set. And was looking for a dive buddy. More specifically, me. Shit. I decided to put my fears aside and see what all the hooplah was about. So here we are. And by the way, Farnsworth calls me Cornstarch. I'm still not sure why.

And I'm still scared of spiders.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Talk About a Fish Out Of Water...

As a sidebar to my last post, after spending some time at the canyon I decided to head up the dirt road a bit. I came across this little roadside attraction. Weird.

This thing still looked fairly seaworthy, to just be left on the side of the road. Such is life. :) Okay, seriously, I'm moving on from that concept.

Now you know where I got my header photo from.

Reminded me of my first (and so far, only) scuba diving excursion. That'll be next time.

Such Is Life.

In my recent travels to Montana, I started noticing something off to the side of the freeway. It was in a particularly beautiful area, where there’s purplish rocky cliffs overlooking an amazing canyon river. And, much to my delight, there are not one, but TWO old bridges spanning the canyon. On the way home from my latest adventure, I decided to actually get off the freeway and see if I could figure out how to get to them. I pulled off I-90 at the Fish Creek exit and headed towards the river.

I’ve always been fascinated by bridges, especially old railroad ones. I love the idea of a bunch of steel, bolted together in a maze of skeletal trusses, which is able to support the weight of a freight train. This particular spot was a jackpot. Not only was there an incredible old railroad bridge, there was also a steel truss road bridge going underneath of it. Plus, the newer (sexier?) I-90 bridges were right next door. I parked my truck off the road, and decided to have a closer look.

The canyon there is breathtaking. And, surprisingly, there was a forest service campground right next to the bridges. Considering the road was inaccessible, and the temperature was around 14 degrees, I decided against pitching a tent. Instead, I climbed the bank of the old railroad grade to get a better perspective of everything.

As I looked down the deck of the old Milwaukee Road bridge, I had a slight inclination to re-enact that scene from the movie “Stand By Me”. You know, where the kids try to cross a river on a railroad bridge, only to have a steam engine roar up behind them when they’re only halfway across. But, I figured it would probably end up being more of a “jungle expedition” movie scene - where a board gives and they go crashing into the drink, hundreds of feet below. I decided against it. Oh yeah, plus it’s illegal. And there were several Montana Rail Link work trucks nearby. Dammit.

Instead, I sat on an old railroad tie to smoke a cigarette and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. A peace I haven’t experienced for quite some time now. I started to think about things. A lot of things.

I am fascinated not just by old railroad bridges, but old railroad grades. The old Milwaukee Road grade, which parallels I-90 from near Lookout Pass to…uh…somewhere east… is particularly amazing to me. How someone actually considered this route to be possible (or profitable!) astounds me. (Area specific history here.) Anyone who’s ever experienced the Hiawatha bike trail (which is converted Milwaukee Road grade) knows how many bridges and tunnels had to be constructed. Over the years, as I’ve driven to Montana for camping trips on the St. Joe River, I’ve observed that old grade and imagined the labor, expense, and time it took to build such a thing. And the excitement it provided as people zipped by in parlor cars, possibly seeing western mountains for the first time. What an incredible experience. And legacy. But I also wonder - how does something so labor intensive, so grand, so beautiful… suddenly cease to exist?

Such is life.

Suddenly, I hear a rumble in the distance. It was a Montana Rail Link train, approaching from the east on an adjacent track. It's interesting how one railroad is abandoned, while another parallel railroad presses on. With it’s own uncertain future, of course.

Such is life.

As I continued home towards Idaho, I once again observed that old Milwaukee Road grade. I watched it snake around the canyon, eventually curving away from the freeway near the Taft Area. Just below where the Hiawatha bike trail begins. And I thought about how something old and abandoned was remade - into something new and amazing. With a different form and function. And a completely new purpose.

Such is life. I hope.

For everyone.

And the otis G experience begins.