Straight Outta Brunstucky

My sophomore year of high school was eye-opening. It was the year I joined the men’s choir. It was the year I met Jason, Eric, Tim, and Bill. It was the year I started playing D&D. This was the year I started reading Tom Robbins and Kurt Vonnegut. It was the year I learned how music questions and changes the world.

I came out of St. Ambrose after eighth grade liking the music that my parents liked. Billy Joel, John Denver, Peter Paul & Mary, Kenny Rogers, Simon & Garfunkel. All pretty mellow, and let’s be honest, pretty white bread. That’s fine, and that has its place…I still listen to this. But I’ll never forget when Tim popped a cassette into the boombox and played California Uber Alles by the Dead Kennedys. The drums, the driving bass, Jello Biafra’s crazy vocals; it blew my mind.

Each of my friends introduced me to a style of music I’d never heard before. James gave me old Genesis, Aldo Nova, and the Art of Noise. Eric gave me Marillion. Bill, Jason, and I got into Prog Rock about the same time: Yes, Asia, and ELP. There was metal as well: Iron Maiden and Queensryche. Tim, though, Tim gave me some of the stuff that made me realize just how powerful music can be. Tim introduced me to punk via Seven Seconds and the Dead Kennedys. He introduced me to rap, as well. Imagine a bunch of suburban white kids rolling through Brunswick, Ohio, in Bill’s pea-green ’74 Cadillac Coup de Ville listening to Straight Outta Compton by NWA at full blast.

Is this comical? Of course, it is. But it was NWA that opened my eyes to how different things were outside of our little Midwestern wonderland. It was punk that showed me how directly you could question authority and made me want to understand the social side of what they were protesting. I was a dumb, pretentious kid with no perspective, but suddenly I had a window to a bigger world, and I was hungry for it.

I’m not sure I made good use of that knowledge, but when I meet people who don’t have it, I pity them; their worlds are small, lacking in external perspectives.

And now, when my kids walk in on me listening to something expected, and they ask, “What is this?” I get a big smile on my face.

Transparency and Trust

In yesterday’s post, I made a comment about transparency being the opposite of trust. A good friend asked for me to expand on that. And here we are.

In my experience, trust is about a belief in the reliability of of someone or something. That someone is going to do what they say, or that they will act in a way that is consistent with what you know of them. And generally, this means that you believe this in absence of any evidence at that time. That is, you’ve seen the pattern and you believe the person will adhere to that pattern with you needing to verify, that they are doing so.

Transparency is observing the steps or process or actions of someone or something without obfuscation. It’s first-hand knowledge of a pattern or process.

This is what drives my comment about transparency being the opposite of trust. If you have to personally witness or verify someone’s actions, that’s not trust. That’s the opposite of trust.

I believe you can use transparency to build trust, and I believe that’s how trust begins. You observe someones actions, and once you are convinced they will act that way all the time, you can trust them. But saying, “I trust you” and then checking up on, or in the case of the office micromanaging, someone’s actions is not trust. Demanding total transparency all the time is not trust.

If you “trust but verify” you are not trusting. And so, in the context of my last post about the stress of work, there is often a big tension, when management says “I trust you” and then acts in the opposite manner.

Vacation of a sort

This weekend my wife and son and I took off for Cincinnati for a couple of days. The hotel is nearly empty and everything smells like strawberry disinfectant and bleach, which sounds unpleasant but is somewhat comforting.

Ohio is now under a mandatory mask order, and thus far people seem to be mostly obeying it. We’ll see how long that lasts.

We don’t have a ton of plans…let’s face it, there is not much to do that isn’t super risky. We heading up to Lebanon OH to go to my so so favorite used video game store, and the we’ll grab takeout from The Golden Lamb, the oldest continuously running Inn in Ohio. (The food is so good you guys. Check out the ham flights.)

Later tonight we’re going to hit Jungle Jim’s after the crowds have died down.

This is a welcome change of scenery. Not having third places (or even second places really) has been hard on me. I’m adjusting, but I miss hanging out in coffee shops, bookstores, etc. Or maybe I miss knowing I have the option to do so. Either way, the challenge of making the monotony of staying at home all the somehow special is really difficult. Getting out is a treat, now more than ever.

When Is It Okay

The country has been intense of late. This weekend, I spent some time trying to relax a bit by playing a video game. The game was Expeditions: Viking. I spent hours pretending to be a viking thane from 800 A.D. protecting his hold from outside enemies. it was a pretty good time.

There came a point in the game when I, as the player, was facing an unarmed opponent. And that opponent said, “I am unarmed. You would kill an unarmed man?”

This is a common theme in a lot of frontier/medieval games and stories. Only a man without honor kills an unarmed person. Only a coward shoots a man in the back.

And that brought me back to the police killing unarmed black men.

I have been struggling to get a handle on events. I understand intellectually but I’ve been grasping for the emotions. Compassion is good but doesn’t seem to be enough.

People talk a lot about white privilege, and again, intellectually, I get it. But it feels abstract. I prefer to think about white advantage. That feeling lands with me.

I’ve been chewing through how I could challenge my white friends and family when these questions arise. When the assumptions about race shifting into that abstract area that allows people to think about humans as statistics instead of living beings.

It comes down to two questions, which amongst some people will cause enough dissonance that it might get through. Maybe. White bravado and perceived honor vs. reality.

The first, “When is it okay to kill an unarmed man?”

The second, “When is it okay to kill an unarmed black man?”

And it’s goddamn travesty of morality and ethics that for some people those answers will be different.

The Plan

The pandemic has afforded Cat and I a lot of time to talk about where we want to to take our lives over the next 3-5 years. I’d like to share our plan with you, because I’m pretty excited about it.

A couple of weeks ago we leased a storage unit on the west end of Medina. We are going through the things we don’t need day-to-day and either get rid of them or pack them away. This is similar to the Minimalists’ packing party, and this is the first chance I’ve had to try it. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of living with fewer things cluttering everything up.

Sometime next year, likely the summer, we’ll sell this house and move into a 2-3 bedroom apartment. I never thought I’d be so excited to share walls with strangers, but the truth is that this house is just too big for us anymore. I’d rather sell it to a family that can use the space. When it was me and three kids, it was just right. But now it’s down to me, Cat, and our son (and the pets), it’s just too much. We’re all ready to try something new. We’ll stay in the apartment situation for as long as our son is living with us, which is somewhere between 3-5 years most likely. Additionally, apartment living will cut out home budget nearly in half, so we can be saving money or using it to ward the next stage.

While we are in the apartment, purchase the next step: a tiny house. We are looking at working with Modern Tiny Living out of Columbus, OH to get a variant on this model:

We’ve fallen in love with this. We are fortunate in that our jobs have been stable, and if they remain so we’ll be able to afford this without too much trouble.

The final step is…finding someplace to put it. At this point, we’ll be looking at purchasing land where we can put a gravel or concrete pad along with water and electrical hookups. We have a couple of fallbacks: our friends who own As You Wish Acres have offered to allow us to put it there and use it for a time, or we could always put it into storage. But if we can find a place to put it that we can use it, it’ll be our little vacation cottage until we can move in full time.

And then…once we pay everything off…I retire from my tech career as it stands and start a new chapter. 🙂