Monday, December 22, 2008

My Journey Through JFK

I went to high school in Austin, Texas, and my brother and mom still live there, so for the Christmas Vacation, I decided to pack up my necessary possessions and braved JFK to return "home". But oh, I did not realize how much of a mess this would turn out to be.

Due to the huge snow/sleet storm on Friday (Dec 19th), my flight was already delayed for an hour when I arrived at JFK at 7pm Saturday night. This wasn't a big deal to me; I could live with getting into Austin at 12:30am or so. I did not, however, anticipate the series of events that would transpire that would make me much, much later.

The first unusual thing happened while in line for security. I was conversing with the young woman behind me about how the security agents were barking out slow and loud orders to us, like, "TAKE OUT YOUR LAPTOPS" and "NO LIQUIDS" as if we had our brains melted somewhere along the way and had reverted to child-like states. The middle-aged woman leading the security team would clap her hands together with each command, as if it would help better register the order with us. "Does she really think we are all this dense?" I asked the woman behind me. Well, apparently someone was, because when I turned around to look at the opposite security line, I saw a young man (no older than 25), with his shirt completely off, and about to strip down to his underwear. (!!!) I cannot help but fathom how this young man thought that airport security had gotten so intense that we all had to undergo strip searches to get on a plane, OR that he just accepted this scenario as truth and wouldn't at least think, "This is a violation of my being." Luckily, the security guards stopped him before he could embarrass himself any farther, and got him to buckle up his pants, and put his shirt back on. This was such a sign of things to come...

After grabbing some food and a new book to read on the plane, I finally boarded my flight to Austin one hour late, and settled into my seat, thankful to be on my way home. Well, 45 minutes later, we were still sitting at the terminal, dealing with a computer error that the pilot described as, "Nothing serious; just a signal we can't take off with. We're going to reboot the plane similar to how you reboot your computer at home." It's funny how that is the universal solution to all technological problems: restart and hope for the best. Finally, the pilot came out and said, "Alright, we've got problem one solved, now on to problem two." Uh oh, right? The pilot went on to describe how the flight crew had already been working for eight hours and the maximum that any crew cam work is 13 hours. Which meant, that if we didn't get off of the ground in 30 minutes, they would have to bring in a whole new flight crew to take us to Austin, which was not available at that time. We would have to wait for the 9:30am flight the next day to get to Austin.

"I'm gonna be honest, folks," the pilot said. "We have a 50/50 chance of going anywhere tonight."

It was like a suspense movie aboard the plane after that. I had terrible visions of having to get off of the plane, claim my backs, and return all the way back to my apartment to then just come back the next morning, thinking all this while we rushed to get to doors closed and everyone secured. We cut the line to get our wings de-iced, and then air traffic control allowed us to cut the taxi take-off line to get into the air literally four minutes before the deadline.

Once in the air and at crusing altitude (and after we had all breathed a sign of relief to actually be on our way home), the pilot came on with this funny, final message. "You guys...well, SOME of you guys must have been really good this year, because I honestly didn't think we were going to make it. Thanks!"

Some of us? I enjoyed that he was a realist :)

Needless to say, I finally arrived in Austin at 2am, went straight out to a Birthday /Engagement party that was still raging in East Austin, and sat in front of a fire pit with a cold beer and friends to de-frazzled myself from the past 12 hours. I'm so happy to finally be on vacation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sound of Marching Feet : Top 25 Albums of 2008

David Vandervelde -- Waiting for the Sunrise, #20 out of 25 at The Sound of Marching Feet .
For all of you music lovers out there, I'd like to point you to my brother's blog, The Sound of Marching Feet, where he has compiled his Top 25 Albums of 2008. Now, this is not your momma's everyday "Top 25" list. You will find no Beyonce or Kanye, no Britney Spears simply because she made a come-back this year. Not even a HINT of Coldplay. No, this list of albums stays mainly to the unknown, unheard, truly fresh and new albums from 2008. Some bands will seem familiar to some of you, but other bands are still trying to get themselves heard; to prove themselves to the judgemental crowds of independent music listeners that they're worthy of their time and devotional. Now, I do not agree with ALL of the selections my brother has on this list (mostly because I have not heard of atleast 6 of the bands), but that's exactly why I always love his choices, and why I will always look forward to this list at the end of the year. His ear has turned me on to so many amazing bands in the past (including bands like the Bowerbirds and Fruit Bats), that I don't have a problem looking at this list and seeing, say, Grails at #5 and taking a listen just to experiment. Try it yourself! I guarantee you'll find something new that you will love.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bon Iver w/ The Tallest Man on Earth @ Town Hall (12/10/08): REVIEW (revised)

Photo taken by Chris La Putt, originally from

::This is a revised post to my original::

Man, oh man, how I had been looking forward to this show. I bought my tickets to see Bon Iver way back in August, in a hurried rush when I only realized tickets were on sale minutes before, and then (once purchased) I nearly forgot about them, until my iCalendar finally clicked over to December and BAM! right in the middle of the 10th was their name in bold letters, with a series of exclamation points that made it look like the key had gotten stuck (or that I was a 5 year old and had just seen a pony).

Who could blame me? Bon Iver IS my very own pony: wild and untamed yet sweet and innocent; a dream... The show was so wonderfully melodic and soothing, I couldn't help but close my eyes at one point and simply sigh back into my chair, feeling the stresses of the day melt away under their harmonies.

Justin Verner (the mind and voice behind Bon Iver) was so humble to be in front of us that night, and only reconfirmed my feelings about him and his music. Verner (in interviews and through lyrics) has always reminded me of someone who could be friends with my older brother (protective yet fun), or of someone I always see on the streets of Austin, whom smiles unprompted and say, "Hello" in the most genuine way. Verner kept joking all night about his awkwardness during long pauses, as well as how quickly his (and his band member's) lives had changed since For Emma, Forever Ago came out. Truth be told, I had forgotten Verner had only put out this LP in '07. It seems almost impossible for me to imagine how a person can put out their very first album (raw and unfiltered, recorded alone), and then a year later to have the most amazing and rave reviews in all the magazines and to be on the tips of everyone's tongues, as they sell-out concerts across the world. And to imagine, that it was a dark and depressed Verner, sitting alone in a cabin in Wisconsin and completely done with life, who wrote these beautiful and heartfelt songs, who created these insanely unique and simple songs that now touch so many people and allow Verner to smile nightly and feels like the luckiest guy in the world. It's really quite the story, and you can't help but feel uplifted by it, and inspired to try to never give up.

A Few Notes (And Questions) to End With:
1) When Verner mentioned that he wasn't into encores these days because basically, Bon Iver didn't know enough songs to play one, someone in the audience started to rant really loudly about the economy and how "it's been a shit year and we New Yorkers have had to deal with enough..." I really wasn't sure if the guy was being positive or negative towards this "Encore" statement, but the audience cracked up nervously, and Verner played it off like a gentlemen. "Right on, man, right on {pause} I couldn't hear what you said at the end there, but it sounded passionate. You just made my day." haha

2) The venue was lovely (Town Hall on 43rd btw Broadway and 6th ave), but really, do that many people exist in this city who can't wait until a song is over to get up from their seats? I thought the idea of a sit-down concert would be nice (considering I don't really want to go crazy to Bon Iver anyway), but I'll never go to one again if the audience keeps disturbing everyone around them like they did at this one.

3) The Tallest Man on Earth played some AMAZING music, but never have I seen ego more embodied on stage than this man, and it turned me off. I asked my friend who plays in The Calm Blue Sea what was up with that, and he said, "yeah, we'd be humble as shit to open for Bon Iver. I don't know what his deal was."

4) How old is Verner's lead guitarist? 15? He's like a baby! Also, I've heard stories about this kid, that he's either Verner's younger brother, or was once his guitar student. Any authentication to this?

Anyway, it was a lovely, lovely, uplifting show. Their cover at the end of Lovin's For Fools by Sarah Siskind almost made me cry, and during The Wolves (Act I/II), they had the whole audience sing along and it was magical. I heart these guys.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Today was a typical busy Monday. Lots of meetings and photographic requests, as well as playful chatting and sarcasm with coworkers. One thing I can always count on at my job is that someone will say something during the day that will make me smile, crack up or just take me away from the stressful grind. Even more than doing something you love, I think that working with people you love is so important to a healthy life; they make even the most hectic days seem pleasant and fun.

That being said, I had a moment after work that made this Monday just so, so completely ridiculous.

After leaving work, I decided to trek over to Trader Joe's to buy some groceries (my personal storage of food at home has become completely barren after not having been home for dinner for several days in a row; AND, my coffee ran out this morning, which is just completely unacceptable, so this trip was necessary). So, I walked the few blocks over to TJs on 14th street to brave the crowds and grab some kind grub. When I arrived, though, I was surprised (and a bit depressed) to see there was already a line forming outside (very unusual for 6:15pm on a weekday). Now, I have never been one for lines (or the cold), but after conversing with myself about "the benefits of coffee" vs "being on my way home and warm", I decided to stand out in the cold and wait with the other few dozen New Yorkers for our sustenance. Its a funny situation one faces during these circumstances, in lines. You wait there, saying, "Only 5 more minutes, that's as long as I will stand here," yet as time passes, you don't move an inch and continue to wait. It's almost like a battle of wills with yourself, or to some extent you feel like you're being tested, pushed...battling this very Monday. "I've waited here for 15 minutes, so damn if I'm going home now." It's like you're battling the universe.

Needless to say, despite the existential battle of wills, when one stands for any extended period of time on 14th street, you see a variety of crazy sights. I saw a man walking in shorts and flip-flops in this 34 degree weather, a taxi almost run over a young woman who had a complete right-of-way, and an older woman walking about 8 dogs, pulling her every which way as she serenely continued on her path. The biggest of all incidents (and what promoted me to write this post) was an older man, probably in his 60s, who approach the front door of TJs and, after arguing extensively about how it was unfair for him to wait in the cold for 40 minutes to get into the store, attempt to literally push his way into the store past the young woman guarding the entrance.

I was not very shocked to see this site (hey, I live in NYC), but more disturbed about the nature of people, and how a simple LINE can bring about the worst in us. It's something to do with one thinking they have an inherent right over the next person (whomever is in front of them) that causes humans to crowd closer to the entrance, even when no one is moving, or to bum-rush the front door (as this man did) out of some kind of self righteousness. Why do we do it? What is it? Is it the feeling like we're being herded like animals into a store that is branded? Are we already annoyed at ourselves that we did not have the foresite to come at a more reasonable hour to purchase our groceries? Or is it more that here, in NYC, we sometimes go crazy from the rush? I feel that the later is very true, though it doesn't only happen here. Lines and "herding" occure across the world and do not do well for the human psyche. We don't want to be animals anymore; we are civilized humans...right?

Well, the security guard came out and literally made the man apologize to the young woman, who made her own strong point to the man by saying, "You have no right to touch me" before he walked away in a huff as if some injustice were just thrown upon him, cursing the woman and this "f-ing store". Is he right for being mad? Perhaps...

But in the same vein, we ourselves are only to be blamed for reducing ourselves to kind of animalistic behavior, willing to be herded to our food. F-it, I was in that line too, wasn't I?