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Random Monday

It’s late.  Not overly late, but late enough that I should be in bed sleeping to wake up adequately refreshed for work tomorrow.  For some reason I can’t sleep though, and I decided to write.

Lately I’ve had a lot of ideas running through my head.  They run in no particular direction and without a known goal, but they run fast and are fleeting enough to fortget them in a few minutes time.  For this reason, I’ve been collecting some of these thoughts in a nifty little program called EverNote that I found awhile back and just recently discovered.  You should check it out if you, too, suffer from scurrying thoughts:

www.evernote.com

Anyway, since I’m apparently too scattered as of yet to categorize these little brain trinkets into something discernable, I will spare the reader (you, I suppose) the trouble of trying to dechiper tem now.  Maybe at a later date.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reading and writing.  I’m not exactly what I’d like to read and write, but I know my brain is heading in the direction of putting something together that is suitable for mass consumption (10-12 people will do just fine).  I just feel like I need to do something a bit bigger than what I’ve been doing as of late (which is not much of anything, as it turns out, when it pertains to writing words or music).  I have this amazingly terrible desire to reach people, as much as one human can reach another, with something meaningful and honest and true.  Whether that is entirely possible, I don’t fully know, but the amygdala in my brain seems to light up with intense passion whenever I think about it, and I feel that its the right thing to shoot for. 

I think this drive has to do with some inate desire that I have to understand people.  Maybe, its actually a desire to understand myself, but I think listening to others and having them define themselves is as close as I’ll ever get to understanding where these thoughts appear from in my own head.

Do you ever have a vision of how you would like your life to be, but realize about 10 seconds into it that its not possible?  I think a bit of that is going on now and its painful the truth might be.  My brain is making up for the hassle of thinking clearly by formulating nonsenical ideas to compensate for the very honest things that scare me. 

I’m considering posts about health care, volunteerism, capitalism, socialism, freedom, music, poetry, meaning, and life.  I have ideas on all of these things, and I believe that they might actually be worthwhile, but my thoughts on the aforementioned topics, or anything else worthwhile, are so fleeting that capturing the images that run through my head seems harder than beating Pacman((r)?).   Maybe I should just talk into a microphone and post that, although I dont know if anyone will actually be interested in listening (including me).  On the other hand, what are blogs for if they are not for opening one’s mind for the rest of the world to see, in all its raw and unpolished glory.

I’m not going to read this before I post it, because otherwies it would never be posted.  Maybe its because its late and I’m not really making too much of an effort to consolidate my thoughts into coherent sentences or ideas.  Maybe this is just how my brain works and I am being as honest as possible.  Maybe I just need to type things out to get them out of my eager head so I can go to sleep for a few hours before waking up for another day of racing thoughts.

Folk Rock Goodness

So I thought I’d start posting some of my favorite tunes every once in awhile for your listening enjoyment (of course, I’m not posting the actual songs, but a trip to youtube will help you with the listening part 😉

The first one I’ll post is a selection of my favorite laid back tunes for the heart and soul.  Some are more upbeat, some aren’t folk rock at all, but I couldn’t think of any other category for the bunch of them, so here it is.

  1. After The Gold Rush – Neil Young – Greatest Hits –
  2. Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez – Veneer –
  3. Black Sheep Boy – Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy –
  4. The Lights of Home – Bela Fleck – Fusion – (Couldn’t find this one on youtube)
  5. It’s Only Your Life – Kevin Devine – Daytrotter Sessions –
  6. Red Right Ankle – The Decemberists – Her Majesty –
  7. The Wind – Cat Stevens – Greatest Hits –
  8. America – Simon & Garfunkel – The Very Best of Simon and Garfunkle: Tales from New York –
  9. At The Bottom of Everything – Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning –
  10. Passing Afternoon – Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days –
  11. Long Way Home – Tom Waits – Orphans –
  12. Each Coming Night – Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days –
  13. Girl From the North Country – Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin Bob Dylan –
  14. Twilight – Elliott Smith – From a Basement On the Hill –
  15. Bleecker Street – Simon & Garfunkel – The Essential Simon & Garfunkel –
  16. To Take You Home – Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song –

There you have it, a list (far from exhaustive) of folky rocky songs that I enjoy when my brain is on its edge and I’m feeling a bit introspective.  There are far too many to mention, and 16 of these songs seems but a small sampling of my favorites, but I hope you enjoy checking them out and check back for some more playlists (hopefully I’ll actually make some more 🙂

-Matthew

Moments

I usually don’t write anything this early, mainly because it takes me all day to think of something decent to say (or in the case of this blog, a week or two). However, I just watched an amazingly beautiful short video created by a talented individual by the name of William Hoffman, and I thought I’d share it with you.

I saw the video, “Moments,” as part of a running series that has been meditating on death on WNYC’s RadioLab (an amazing show in its own right). “Moments” doesn’t need much explanation, other than you should watch it, so without further ado, here it is:

I hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful rest of the day.

Think happy thoughts 🙂

Well, I have been home now for a bit over a week and have neglected to wrap up my traveling experiences.  It has, no doubt, been a rather eventful week home, traveling to Delaware and then to Boston for some extra time on the road.  I had delightful times at each, but I feel that I must first discuss the end of my month (and a little extra) long journey.

For starters, it seems that I often have a hard time, or just neglect, finishing things.  I have a multitute of songs I write, but never finish, and myriad ideas that run through my mind but never come to fruition.  As with this blog, that I have neglected to write on for that past few weeks, I feel that I often find myself moving on to the next project before the one at hand is complete.

Whether this be a simple habit or a consequence of my rambling mind and all the things that swirl through it at any given moment, I think there is an inkling of unease with the concept of having an “end result.”  That is to say, I seem to cherish the “process” more than the “product,” and may in fact unconciously but very purposefully leave thoughts, ideas, and projects such as this one lingering as to not close the door on future progress.  If you never finish something, there is always the chance of returning to it, modifying it, adding to its life and movement.

I will return to this thought in a moment, but I must first touch on the last segment of our traveling.

I believe I left off in Minneapolis, so that’s where I will begin.  We spent two nights there enjoying the comforts of our friend Ian’s abode.  We spent the majority of time relaxing, as traveling was finally getting to us, but we did go out to enjoy some wonderful Pakistani food at a local market.  We also got to see Pawn America, one of the most commercialized pawn shops (and one of the most expensive) that I’ve ever seen.  Culver’s was another stop that we made in Minneapolis, and although I don’t eat red meat, I was told that the burgers are delicious 🙂

From Minneapolis we traveled to Chicago.  Although we didn’t have too much time there, we did have a chance to wander around the city and explore the parks and many art displays, which included towering digital displays with real faces shooting water out of their mouths (I know it sounds strange but I’m sure an image is available if googled).  Bret hung out with his friend Liz, who we were staying with, while I wandered off to meet up with a fellow couchsurfer, Mina.  We met at Buddy Guy’s Legends, a blues bar in the area, and enjoyed an open jam that was taking place.  I sat next to an older fellow wearing a straw hat drinking heinekins, and unfortunately neglected to realize that it was the one and only Buddy Guy before it was too late…quite exciting in hindsight!

After hanging out a bit there, we headed to another jazz bar to catch the last song played by an AMAZING three piece, bass, drums and guitar.  We parted ways for the evening and Mina drove me back to Liz’s for the night (thanks Mina!)

The next morning we headed to Cleveland, only to get there as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame closed.  Since we had no place to stay and we really couldn’t find anything else to do in the city, Bret called up a few friends in Pittsburgh who we met up with for a lovely dinner.  They let us stay in the gorgeous castle (literally) apartment for the night to rest up for our drive home.

The final day was all driving, but we did get to meet up in Hershey with a highschool friend Amisha.  She is in med school and has been out there for a few years, so it was really great to have a chance to catch up.  We enjoyed a great lunch and some wonderful, freshly made hand dipped donuts before heading home and completing our trip!  Here’s some stats for your information:

Dates: June 20, 2009 – July 23, 2009
Starting Mileage: 88,333
Ending Mileage: 98,677 (Total 10,344)
Average MPG: 31.06
Average Miles Per Day: 304.2
Average Cost of Fuel Per Day: $26.11
Total Cost of Fuel: $887.88
Average Cost Per Gallon: $2.66
Number of States we Traveled Through: 26

We as humans are constantly changing, modyfing and reinventing ourselves to change the story that will be told after we are gone.  The actions that we take now dictate the final product that will be left when we have ceased to exist.  As we are born, live, and die, so do the artistic masterpieces that we enjoy.  Artists have to face death everytime the last stroke lands on the canvas, the last note is recorded into memory.  This, however, breeds life for others, as memories are born again and again for all future to enjoy.  I suppose this is why I have a knack for not finishing things…I enjoy the process and don’t like to see it end.  This however, is necessary to enjoy the beauty of what has been created, to leave your role as “artist” and begin to see what you have created as “spectator.”  Finishing this trip was an accomplishment that I will not soon forget, and I encourage you to enjoy each and every moment of every journey that you take through life.

We’re coming up on the last few days of this amazing quest across the United States, and this will probably be my last or second to last post before writing from the comfort of my own home!  Right now we’re resting with Ian in Minnesota after a long day of driving, which started out with an early wake-up call to catch the sunrise over the Badlands.

After we left Colorado, we headed back on north and to the east towards Nebraska.  We caught some of the spots along the famous Oregon trail along the way, including Chimney Rock and two others that we followed a man in a truck who we met at a gas station to find (Jail rock and Courthouse rock).

Oregon1 Oregon2

We made it to Custer State Park late in the evening where we set up for the night in a Cabin at Blue Bell Campground.  This was probably the coolest place we’ve stayed all trip!  The cabin looked like a backyard shack that was just built, complete with a small deck and some benches.  Inside, two bunk beds awaited us along with a small table and nightstand.  We had electric, so we decided to watch some movies and catch up on some computer happenings (no wireless, but what can you expect in the middle of no where?)

(not a very good picture, but a picture none-the-less straight from my phone)

Cabin

We got wonderful sleep in the cabin, and we didn’t have to deal with the tent in the morning, so we got a somewhat early start and headed on to check out the rest of Custer State Park.  We went to the Wind Caves, but you could only go in if you go with a tour, and since we missed the morning tour and couldn’t stay for the afternoon one, we had to skip it…maybe next time.  Instead, we went to the Crazy Horse Monument that is being built in the Black Hills of Nebraska.  It was a bit pricey at $20 to get in, and the monument isn’t anywhere’s near completion yet, but we got to go into the museum and hear the story of why and how the monument is being created.  The work was originally started on a commission in 1948 to Korczak to build a monument honoring the Native American people.  Work is still being done today, and progress is slow due to the fact that it is completely publicly funded (no tax money, just donations and revenue from the site).  Here’s a few pictures:

Crazyhorse1 Crazyhorse2

After visiting Crazy Horse, we stopped by Mount Rushmore for a walk around the mountain and a few shots of the sculptures:

Mount Rushmore1 Mount Rushmore 2

Since we wanted to get to the Badlands in time to take pictures while there was some light still out, we didn’t spend too long at Mount Rushmore and instead headed southeast to the Badlands.  After a few wrong turns and a long trip on a dirt road, we made it to the main section of the park, which included beautiful overlooks and great views of the vast expanse that was once home to an inland salt-sea millions of years ago:

Badlands1 Badlands3Badlands2

After exploring a bit, we decided to head to the campsite for some food and to setup for the night.

That brings us to this morning (or technically yesterday morning since it’s 2:42 AM here now).  We woke up at 5:30 to catch the sunrise and some light for additional pictures of the park before heading east towards Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I have to say that there wasn’t a whole lot to see along the way, however, one great find which we were told to seek out was Wall Drug.  Located in the middle of no where, a small town named Wall is home to one of the craziest drug stores I think I will ever see.  Not only do they fill perscriptions, but they also have two restaraunts, an arcade, about 10-20 small shops, and crazy attractions.  You really have to see it to believe it!

WD1 WD2 WD3 WD4 WD5 WD6

(Yes, those are all from Wall Drug, even the dinasaur!)

After Wall Drug, we continued east to Minneapolis, where we are now.  Hopefully I will be able to update the blog over the next few days, possibly in Chicago.  If not, I’ll catch up when I’m relaxing at home!

Night 🙂

Colorado Happenings

Yesterday myself and Bret met up with Caitlin (who we met in Yellowstone) and ventured down to Boulder to visit our friends Nick and Brian there. We had some time to catch up and hang out before heading to our big event for the night…seeing Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Bird, and Death Cab for Cutie at Red Rocks Amphitheater! I’d really been looking forward to this show all trip, and since Bret is good friends with Ra Ra Riot, we were comped seats. Bret also got to go back stage during the show to hang out with the bands!!

Concerts are always an exhilarating experience for me, and invariably make me want to be on stage creating music that inspires and moves people in positive ways. Its been hard on the road to keep up with music due to our constant movement and lack of alone time to play around on guitar or record, but I’m definitely planning on setting aside some good-sized chunks of time to work on music when I return home. Music is something that I truly love, and the feeling that I get from listening and playing is something that little can compare to.

Here’s some pics from the show:

redrocks1

redrocks2

red rocks3

Our passes included the “aftershow” but we didn’t know what it entailed and we didn’t all have them, so I gave mine to a very thankful girl at the show and we headed home.

Today we hung out around Boulder, CO. Its a great little town with a ton of really neat restaurants and shops. An added bonus was the farmer’s market which happened to be today from 4-8. There was a plethora of local produce and wonderful fresh food that we enjoyed. We also stopped for lunch and checked out a neat tea house located in the center of downtown Boulder.

For dinner we headed back to Chris and Amanda’s house for a nice cookout. It was a great end to a wonderful time in Colorado. Tomorrow we’ll be venturing east towards South Dakota!

I’ve said it before, but I really must emphasize how hard it is to keep track of all the things that are going on, especially with a lack of time and internet access!  Right now, we are in Greeley, Colorado, close to Fort Collins, staying with our friends Chris and Amanda.  They live in a wonderful location, and since Amanda rides and trains horses, they have two horses, a few chickens, a dog and a cat!  We arrived late, but had some time to catch up and chat before bed.

The past few days have been great, and we’ve gotten to see some wonderful things!  We spent our first day in Portland exploring the city with Harvey, who is in a pretty big band called The Builders and the Butchers (he plays mandolin and banjo and is actually beginning a headlining tour in a few days!)  You should check them out:
http://thebuildersandthebutchers.com/

We took the MAX, which is the public transit train, around town to visit a few hotspots.  One was Powell’s Books, a huge independent bookstore with new and used books for very reasonable prices.  We also visited a few different independent music stores and a clothing store that buys and sells used clothes (Portland is a very “independent” do it yourself kind of town!)

Powell's

After a bit more exploring, we headed back to hang out with Harvey and Rachel a bit and then ventured out to see his friend’s band, Pancake Breakfast, at a local venue.  Portland has a huge music scene with tons of local artists playing original music.  It was great to see so many people at a local show, and everyone had a great time!  We stayed to see a few bands before picking up some donuts at the famous Voodoo Donut shop:

Voodoo

The next day we got an earlier start (driving is tiring and we usually end up sleeping late the day after a long trip).  Rachel and her Friend Kara took us around to a bunch of places around Portland and outlying areas.  Our first stop was a waterfall located about a half hour outside of Portland.  Here’s a few pics:

Waterfall1

Next, we headed to Mt. Hood, one of the active volcanoes in the area.   Because of the high elevation, some snow was still on the ground:

Mount Hood

We also visited Timerline Lodge, which is at the base of Mt. Hood and was used in the famous movie The Shining.  They had some memorabilia, but what was more interesting was the history of the lodge and people who participated in its development (it was almost like a museum)!  Anyway, here are a few pics.:

Timberline1 Timberline2

After Timberline, we headed back to walk around the city a bit more and ended up getting some food at a place called Montage where the waiters all have their own eccentric personalities and your leftovers are wrapped in aluminum foil sculptures!  I’d love to post some photos of it, but I didn’t take any, so the website will have to do just in case you ever decide to go to Portland! http://www.montageportland.com/

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Our next stop was Seattle where we stayed with Jana, who we met up with at Pike Place market.  If you ever go to Seattle, this is definitely a place you need to see.  It is right next to the water and has a slew of incredible merchants selling their handmade goods, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and amazing fish!

Pike Place1 Pike Place2 Pike Place 3

Jana was an amazing tour guide and great comrade to have around the city.  She took us to many of Seattle’s “must see” spots including the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the wonderful water fountain in Seattle Center,  and a bunch of other really cool things, including a really great statue of Jimi Hendrix outside of a popular local music store

Seattle1 Seattle 2 Seattle3

We also got to see the Fremont Troll (famous for its appearance in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You”) and Jimi Hendrix’s final resting place in Renton, Washington.  Our friend Mike was also in town, so we were able to finish out the day by meeting up with him at the Vessel bar in Downtown Seattle.

————

I realize that this is a long post, and I’m cutting out some major details, but as time is short and words are few at 2:00 AM, I must be brief.  After Seattle, we headed on to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The drive was relatively long (about 13 hours), but we made it ok and met up with couchsurfers Andrea and Patrick.  They were amazing, and ended up taking us to two neat night time locations in the park even though we got there late.  Since the two work in the park for the summer, they have lodging and were nice enough to let us stay with them.  We also met Cait, who offered us a hiking experience the following day.  We agreed and exchanged information and times and headed to bed after a long day of driving!

Our first full day in Yellowstone was spent exploring.  We saw such amazing and wonderful things, including up-close-and-personal Bison, waterfalls, hills and valleys, trees and meadows, and everything in between.  We also hiked up Bunson’s Peak, which is supposedly one of the best views of the park.  It was a tough hike for a beginner such as myself, but I made it!  Here’s some pics of the day:

HiBison! Yellowstone1 Yellowstone 2 Yellowstone 4 Yellowstone 5 Yellowstone 6

Unfortunately, Bret lost his wallet somewhere along the hike.  That definitely put a damper on his day, as did the continuous thunderstorms that we experienced throughout the night at our campsite at Bridge Bay, but we made it through and moved along the next morning to take a quick peak at Old Faithful erupting and heading towards Colorado:

old faithful

The drive through Wyoming was long, and most of it was relatively boring.  We did, however, pass through the amazing Grand Tetons.

Teton1 Teton2

We also happened to catch a wonderful thunderstorm that produced some unbelievable clouds and two full rainbows.  I unfortunately didn’t get great pictures of them, but just imagine the most magnificent rainbow you’ve ever seen and multiple it by two!

So now here we are, resting in Colorado.  Tomorrow we are planning on catching up on a few things, including a much needed oil change and a trip to Bret’s bank to deal with some lost wallet issues.  After that, we are heading to the Red Rock’s Amphitheater to see Ra Ra Riot, Andrew Byrd, and Death Cab for Cutie.  It should be an awesome show!