12.31.2012

I Spent A Year As An Utterly Clueless Soul

What a dumb year. Grumpy Cat, YOLO, Kony, awful music bringing about the certain end of entertainment, elections, too many crimes of violence...it genuinely was a strange year. That word alone obviously does no justice to the wild ride that 2012 has been. The world didn't end, which means we all have to deal with being humans for a little while longer before you know, the robots or whatever take over.

Also Kim Kardashian has a baby growing inside of her? Let me check. Yep, no one still cares.

Personally, I can't recall any one of my 24 years being as ridiculous as this one. I'm quite certain I made enough dumb decisions in 2012 to make up for being a rather well-behaved kid growing up. I guess I just wanted to catch up for all the chaos I missed. On top of that, monumental once-in-a-lifetime events occurred, which I'll get to in a minute. Despite all the tomfoolery, several good risks were taken. I fell short some times and succeeded other times. The turbulence of 2012 will never be forgotten and for this reason I would like to take a look at the past 365 days and cherish the moments where I was pretty stupid and others where I was utterly blessed.

Let's get to it!


SPRING 



Yep, that's my sister and I Tebowing after graduating from college earlier this year. I also managed to Tebow on stage shortly after I shook all the hands of the higher-ups. I've still yet to see that photo, but I suspect that it will turn up later in my life as incriminating evidence to prevent me from being more awesome than I currently am. LIKE THAT WILL HAPPEN.

I'm only going to look at this year in halves, not fourths or sixteenths or any other dumb numbers. That's because this year was split right down the middle - I spent half of it in at school in Texas and home in California and the other half in a cold corner of the country. These environments are the complete antithesis of each other, in more than one way.

Let me make this clear. I made most of my worst decisions of 2012 in the first half of the year. That may be shocking to those of you who know me now, but that tells you how much of a crazy person I am. I began this year looking back on a traumatic 2011 that was riddled with awful relationship issues, a suicide attempt,  and a subsequent diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder which resulted in the first medication I've ever had to take in my short life. Because of this, I looked at the impending final semester of my undergraduate college career in January and decided to stay the heck away from relationships because they burned me too much the prior year and I was graduating anyways, so what was the point? I wanted to focus on academics.

In short, that didn't happen. I proceeded to make the worst relationship decisions ever, prompting more trouble than I've ever been in when it comes to girls. Now I know that's vague, but it's not particularly a period of time I'm proud of. It's still hard for me to talk about it and even harder to come out here on the internet and mention it to the world, but I'm all about honesty and introspection these days. Let's just say I broke some hearts, used some people, was used by people and had my heart broken - and leave it at that.

Of course, on top of that - I graduated, which I guess is a big deal. It took me six long years (including five semesters as a freshman and being wholly unaware of this fact at the time), a transfer, and a change of majors, but somehow I managed to do it. I never got the best grades in high school but I pulled a few 3.8's and a 4.0 at ACU. Let's be clear: college is hard. Take the academics out of the picture and it's still rough. It's a turbulent time that can often be unforgiving. But it is also wildly rewarding and you really learn a lot about yourself. 

In addition to this, I literally did not know where I was going after college until the week before finals. As a history major not pursuing further education, I created approximately zero options for myself in the post-grad job world. After contemplating moving to Fort Worth with some of my best college friends, pondering on an education in audio engineering in places like Chicago and Nashville, and thinking of rotting away in the black hole that is Abilene, I decided to throw a curve ball and attempt to swing at it as well by moving to a place where I knew two people, had no job prospects, and no place to live.

Kids, don't do this. First of all, don't wait until the week before you graduate college to choose where you're going. Everyone will think you're insane. Of course in my case this was already a predetermined fact, but whatever. Do yourself a favor and be less unpredictable than me unless that's your style.

To put the highlights of the first half of the year in list form, I imagine it would look something like this:

- Getting to do a lot in the way or recording and writing my own music
- Trolling pretty much everyone on ACU's campus (ask for stories, they were swell times)
- Joining a social club of some of the best guys I've ever known - after years of resisting
- And of course, graduating with most of my friends and my sister and brother-in-law

Spring and early summer were silly times, but I must say they were nowhere near to the second half of 2012 in terms of general chaos and adventure. Lets take a look, shall we?

SUMMER/FALL/EARLY WINTER



Many of you know the story of my improbable decision to relocate to the PNW so I won't retell it, but from June 6th of this year until now, I've spent my time as a genuinely clueless person and loving every second of it.

Naturally, people don't make these kinds of decisions expecting a lack of backlash. To be blunt, I've had my fair share of it. I've been on several awkward dates, had around 10 job interviews (and 2 different jobs), switched churches 4 times, moved into a new place 4 times, had another suicide scare, endured the most frantic and hectic holiday season ever, and put my solo music project on an indefinite hiatus. Not quite sure how I'm still standing, although I have the feeling that someone bigger than me is watching out for me.

All that madness couldn't pull me down. I wouldn't be Jordan David Smith if it did - the roguish paragon of virility oft emulated but never equaled. Ponder on that. To bury the sad thoughts conjured by the previous paragraph, I'd like to point out the highlights in the same manner I did with the first half of the year:

- Making some awesome and truly ridiculous friends
- Finally being part of an awesome band
- Being a nanny (still wondering how that happened)
- Watching the Bengals go the playoffs for the second straight year
- Completely owning everyone to snag a fantasy football championship
- Just being in Seattle!


The move up here is something I will never regret. In fact, after spending a brief amount of time in San Diego for the holidays - where the high was usually in the 60s and the sun was out everyday - I still missed the PNW. Isn't that weird? Honestly, I blame science.

The brevity of this reflection doesn't come close to the story of my 2012. In fact, I've contemplated writing a book about it but I quickly learned that the story is still being written and I'm not far enough removed from the chaos to know where to start, let alone end. While the first half of the year was filled with several bad choices, a world-shaking decision and a monumental milestone being reached, the second half contained long stretches of discomfort and uncertainty, wonderful adventures, and a sense of trust in God that I didn't think I would ever have.

If there is any chance that 2013 is like this past year...well let's just say I'm not so sure I'll make it to 40.

Ok, that was my last bad joke of the year.

Probably not.

Cheers, everyone.

JDS

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UPDATES & SUCH

Well, I haven't done this in a while, have I? Consequently, some things have shifted around.

I finished reading The Hobbit in time for the film (which was awesome, by the way) and started Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian after thoroughly enjoying The Road earlier in the year. I quickly figured out that I don't really like books set in the old west and now have a choice between starting The Art of Racing In The Rain, The Snow Child, or The Bell Jar. Check them out here and here and here.

I've pretty much only been listening to my favorite music of 2012, metal and non-metal, with some random Metallica thrown in there.

Lastly, I'm excited for the fact that my team (the Bengals) and my family's team (the Redskins) both made the playoffs. Prreeeettyyy sure that hasn't happened in my lifetime. Also, a new year begins tomorrow. DUH. 

I suppose that about covers it.

12.28.2012

Top Ten Metal Albums of 2012

It's that time again. I know it's been a while since I've posted but it's safe to say that this has been the most hectic holiday season that I can remember. I went shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve for people that I love and ended up hating the whole of humanity because....just never go to the mall on Christmas Eve.

Also, I'm awful at gift shopping/wrapping/giving.

Anyways, I'm able to put that in the rear-view mirror and focus on this list. In a couple of days I'll be posting a reflection of the past year's events (just like I'm sure everyone this side of the Equator will be doing) but for now I just want to focus on the frivolous - specifically, I want to talk about METAL. For those of you that missed my list of top ten NON-metal albums of 2012, you can find it here.

2012 was a pretty awesome year for metal. Some of my favorite bands put out stellar albums and several newcomers entered the scene in glorious fashion. I don't want to give it all way, so let's get right down to business. Just like last time, I'll post the album art and a video for each entry because I know you're lazy.

Let the dissension commence!



10. To Speak Of Wolves - Find Your Worth, Come Home (Solid State)


I've liked Solid State records for a long, long time. Some of my all time favorite bands (As Cities Burn, Zao, Becoming The Archetype) have spent some or all of their time on the label. Solid State's To Speak Of Wolves' album blew me away. In fact, I'm listening to it at the moment and was reminded of how much I like it so I bumped the original #10 album off of this list (sorry, Gojira) and added this album. There are tons of feedback laden breakdowns and blistering riffs to go around. Plus Micah Kenard of Oh, Sleeper and Levi The Poet both make guest appearances. You've got to have some kind of talent to get names like that to help you out. Here's the video for their new single for the album:



9. Syqem - Reflections Of Elephants (Recordjet)





I have no idea how to pronounce this band's name and I also have no idea why there is an elephant on the cover, but that doesn't matter because this album caught blindsided me with its awesomeness. I mentioned in the introduction that there were a few bands who came out of nowhere and blew me away. That rarely happens. Syqem is interesting because of their fresh sound - they blend elements of djent and dubstep (yes, dubstep). Djent is a very hated-on genre these days seeing as it's played out and I normally can't stand dubstep. Despite having less-than-amazing lyrics (which is my only real complaint), the hybrid sound was enough to keep me interested for the whole year. Give them a listen and see how you feel:



8. The Safety Fire - Grind The Ocean (Insideout)





Look at that album cover. SO METAL, as is the album title. In all seriousness, The Safety Fire's new album suffered through what a lot of music does these days, at least for me. Upon its release, I literally couldn't stop listening to it, then I forgot about it and rediscovered it later and really came to appreciate the musicianship behind it. The Safety Fire is one of those progressive djent bands (barely djent) that relies heavily on strong vocal delivery and mathematically creative riffs. The vocals may not be everyone's cup of tea seeing as how they are all mids and no highs or lows, but the aggression behind them combined with quality of the clean vocals deserves a mention. I just like to tell people I listen to a progressive djent band from the UK. Check out the video for their song with yet another super metal-sounding name, "Huge Hammers":



7. The HAARP Machine - Disclosure (100% Womon)



Don't let the awful album art and weird band name scare you away. The High Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is some kind of militarily researched program, but that's another story. Despite the clunky name, The HAARP Machine made this list for the very same reason Syqem did: their inventiveness. They blend djent, thrash, and progressive metal and add a dose of middle eastern-inspired music with exotic pianos and sitars. It sounds weird, but it's the coolest thing I've ever heard. I gave every song on this album 5/5 stars on my itunes upon my initial listen and haven't changed the ratings since. Plus, their guitarist looks awesome. If you don't believe me, he's right here. Turbans are so metal. Here's the video for the ridiculous "Pleiadian Keys":



6. Intervals - In Time  (unsigned)




Intervals has a lot going for them. This is an unusual entry because of the following reasons: a) they are unsigned; b) this album is only an EP and thus contains only five tracks; and c) they're a completely instrumental band. Seeing as how it's such a short album lacking vocals, it was still one of my most listened to albums even though it was released so late in the year. This band only has two EPs to their name and both of them should be available for free digital download. Being rated as gotdjent.com's best EP of the year carries some weight. I just can't get over the guitars. Some of the most awesome riffs I've heard this year. Their entire EP(only 22 minutes long) is available for streaming as well:



5. The Chariot - One Wing (Entertainment One Music)



I could go on about this album for days. It definitely gets my vote for best album art of the year. When the art was revealed, I knew it was going to be a masterpiece, and I didn't even listen to The Chariot at the time. Much like Coheed & Cambria, I had lost interest in this band somewhere along the way. The difference is that I liked all but a couple of C&C's albums whereas I stopped listening to The Chariot after only one album - their debut. So yeah. Most of my friends love this band and I couldn't not listen to it (just look at the art again, wouldn't you want to?). I was pretty much awestruck by what I heard. One Wing gets my vote for the most intense and chaotic album of the year and surely would have been rated higher had I been listening to this band all along. I can't really say anything bad about this album so I'll just stop gushing about it and post a video:



4. Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - Tree Of Tongues (Mediaskare)




Every time I mention this band, I get weird looks from my friends. EAPZ is a band that also came out of nowhere like Syqem but they already had one album under their belt. I like to describe their sound as being a blend of Deftones, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Every Time I Die. Go ahead, try and imagine that combination. The clean vocals sound like Chino Moreno, the guitars remind of the mathematical chaos of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and the screamed vocals hint at Every Time I Die. I hope that explains it better. Despite all of this, EAPZ manages to create their own sound. This album's release was delayed so long (Mediaskare does that quite a bit, to the chagrin of their fans) that I broke down and downloaded it. Seriously, it was two months after the original release date. I'm not a terrible person. EAPZ was the first band I saw in Seattle and I'll never forget it. Their video for "Thorough.Modern" is probably my favorite out of all of these band's videos: 



3. The Contortionist - Intrinsic (Entertainment One)



The Contortionists' sophomore album was probably my most anticipated album of the year. Their previous Exoplanet was considered by many to be a masterpiece and a sign that this band was going to do massive things for the harder side of the music world. I enjoyed the heck out of Exoplanet for its blend of deathcore, djent, sci-fi inspired themes and progressive elements. Intrinsic was not more of the same. In fact, it was very different and The Contortionist probably lost some fans. For me, the best part was its brave jump forward and departure from a highly emulated sound into much more experimental waters. I don't like it when bands stay the same and put out the same album with a different title every two years (minus a few exceptions, one of which you'll see next). Because of this, I loved the clean vocals, more prevalent keyboards, and experimental elements of Intrinsic. I have to admit the album caught me off guard stylistically speaking, but that's not always a bad thing. Watch the video for their single "Causality" below: 



2. As I Lay Dying - Awakened (Metal Blade)




Call me a fan of the past, old-school, or a metalhead - I don't care. I will never stop loving this band from my hometown. In my opinion, As I Lay Dying has easily been the most consistent metal band of the last decade. They rode the wave of metalcore to the very top and just got better and better, never abandoning their sound but instead honing and sharpening their trademark sonic attack. Because of this, pretty much every album they put out is better than the previous one. It all comes down to personal preference. Awakened may not have the nostalgic feeling of some of AILD's older albums do, but I do have to say that this is their best release yet, which is hard to do because I wonder if they are ever going to stop getting better. Probably not. Also, I just saw them a month ago. They were INSANE. Seriously, we don't deserve them. Try and imagine fighting their vocalist. You won't. Here's their video for "A Greater Foundation":



1. Between The Buried & Me - Parallax II: Future Sequence (Metal Blade)




This is going to be a test. I don't know what to say about this album even though if I started I wouldn't be able to stop. There's just too much. BTBAM are the undisputed kings of the progressive side of the metal world. Most of my friends up here in Seattle don't like them, leading me to believe that all my friends don't have souls. This band goes over a lot of people's heads. I mean, look at that title. Some of the songs are well over 10 minutes long. Some people just don't have the time for that. But if you do, give this a listen. It is a magnum opus, a rock opera, an absolutely untouchable display of musical genius and prowess. Every time I see BTBAM I want to give up making music. Have you seen them? Then don't talk about them. You're not good enough. This album is far and away my favorite metal album of the year. It's still an exercise getting through it because there is just so much to it. It requires all of your attention. But if you don't time for that, here's the video for "Astral Body":



Honorable Mentions:

The Algorithm - Polymorphic Code
Becoming The Archetype - I Am
Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage

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That will do it for my favorite albums of 2012 for both the metal and non-metal worlds. We all have our own opinions and I'd love to hear yours. I hope 2013 has just as much BLISTERING METAL INSANITY as this year did. There are some big names planning to drop new albums and I'm eager to see what newer bands (Syqem, Intervals) have in store for them. I'll be keeping track!

PS - I'm haven't posted any real updates on my life the past few posts because like I said, I don't even know where to begin. But trust me, you'll get a massive amount of introspection in my next post in the following days.

Cheers, everyone.

JDS

 


12.17.2012

My Top Ten Albums of 2012 (non-metal)

 I've decided to make this as simple as possible. I love music, and 2012 was a fantastic year for it. It was so good that I'm going to have to do two different posts for genres because I hate leaving anything out. 

As far as this list is concerned, I share my thoughts concerning what I consider to be the ten best albums of 2012 (non-metal), starting with the 10th album. I've posted the album artwork and a video for each band because I know you're lazy and you know I'm awesome.

Either way, let the dissension ensue!




10. Circa Survive – Violent Waves (Self-released)


I’ll be honest, I’ve always enjoyed this band but I never really put a ton of time into paying attention to them. That being said, I thought their last album Blue Sky Noise was fantastic, as was their subsequent EP Lazarus. After some label problems, Circa Survive decided to release their latest album with their own resources without having to go through the limitations of a contract. The result was this album – which is a solid follow-up to Blue Sky Noise. While not as memorable as its predecessor, it delivers a suit of strong tracks that reflect Circa Survive’s creative freedom in the making of this album. And as always, Anthony Green’s vocals are superior to any other frontman in the post-hardcore world. I saw them about a month and a half ago and they were amazing live, new songs included. Here's the video for "Suitcase", the first new single from Violent Waves:






9. Deftones – Koi No Yokan (Reprise)



This band has been around for a long time, outliving the slew of nu-metal bands it was always unfairly associated with around the turn of the century. The White Pony album is considered a classic by many (myself included), and although I don’t think they’ll ever be able to top that effort – Koi No Yokan comes pretty close. Chino Moreno’s bitingly aggressive vocals are on full display in every song, reminding many exactly why Deftones has been able to survive so long considering many of the bands that started around the same time as them have long since faded into insignificance. Give this album a listen and you’ll agree that putting them in the same sentence as Staind, Korn, and Limp Bizkit is essentially blasphemous. My personal favorite track from the new album:


 


8. Further Seems Forever – Penny Black (Rise)


Further Seems Forever. They are perhaps the only band to ever release three different albums with three different vocalists and then break up. I was intrigued by the news that they were reuniting with Chris Carraba (of Dashboard Confessional fame) as their vocalist. This combination of musicians hasn’t put together anything for a decade since The Moon is Down. However – that doesn’t show on Penny Black. The collection of songs here flat out rock. I was sold right when I heard the lead single “So Cold”. My only nitpick is that the vocals are horribly overproduced, which is strange considering Carraba’s range. Either way, that doesn’t keep me from loving this song:




7. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Wichita)

 
First Aid Kit is comprised of the two Swedish singer-songwriting Söderbergh sisters. Try saying that five times fast. Gratuitous alliteration aside, all you had to say to me is “Swedish sisters”. Discovered by playing popular covers on YouTube, the sisters were eventually given a deal and now have a few albums to their name. The Lion’s Roar is laden with beautiful harmonies and catchy melodies throughout. It’s like Eisley with gloomier songs and more intoxicating accents. Everyone knows I’m a sucker for female vocalists who can harmonize. It’s even better if they are sisters. And Swedish. Did I mention that they were Swedish? This track will have you humming for days:




6. Accents – Growth & Squalor (Deep Elm)


 Hardly anyone has heard of this band and that makes me sad. Every time I see them post a status update on Facebook, only a meager handful of people “like” it. Again, I’m sad – because this quaint little project’s debut record is one of my most-listened to albums this year. It may be because label mates The Appleseed Cast are one of my all-time favorite bands ever. Either way, I want this band to get bigger and I want more people to know about them. You would be missing out on gold such as this:

 


5. Coheed & Cambria – Ascension: The Afterman 


Oh, Coheed. I used to absolutely adore this band. I bought their shirts, followed the sci-fi story woven into all their lyrics, purchased the accompanying graphic novels – then I sort of lost interest in them musically. Does that ever happen to you? It happens to me a lot. It’s like a band can’t really impress you anymore because their best efforts are behind them. But when I heard that C&C were making a new album with their original drummer and producer, I kept an anticipatory ear to the ground. I was not disappointed. The Afterman blew all of my expectations far, far away – reminding me why I used to love and follow this band so much. Seriously, this is the comeback album of the year. And the best news? It’s a double album, with the second volume coming in February – when I get to see them on tour for the second time. Here is the (weird) video for the title track:






4. The Tower And The Fool – How Long (Run For Cover)


 I discovered this band right after I discovered Accents, from the same place (absolutepunk.net). I’m glad I did. How Long is also one of my most listened to albums this year. I remember casually liking it at first listen until I actually sat down and really paid attention to the lyrics and music. Then I loved it. I have to warn you though – it’s probably one of the most depressing albums I’ve ever heard. Practically every song is laced with bitter undertones stemming from some sort of heartbreak – and not in the whiny Dashboard way. It’s anything but pent-up. I find that many of the songs convey emotions I’ve felt numerous times before; this band just found a better way of putting them into words. Perhaps that’s why I listened to this album so much. Check out the live version of "Scoliosis":




3. Now, Now – Threads (Trans-Records)


So I mentioned something in this post about liking female vocalists in the vein of Eisley. Enter Now, Now and their debut album ­Threads. This band displays a sound so big that it makes me wonder at the fact that they’re only a threesome. I keep using Eisley as a frame of reference for female-led bands (which may be unfairly narrow), but this is a completely different spectrum of sound. Now, Now is more atmospheric, dreamier in a somber way. However, they constantly seem on the verge of soaring to musical heights before they bring it back down to earth. At times, the vocals feel almost muted or subdued. I have to say, I love this dynamic and I can’t to see what they do in the future. Live version of "Threads":




2. Dry The River – Shallow Bed (RCA/RED)


Like some of the previously mentioned albums, I didn’t appreciate the beauty and genius of Dry The River’s debut until long after its release. In fact, I fawned over this band when they first came onto the scene, then promptly forgot about them for months, then recently rediscovered them. Now I can’t stop listening to Shallow Bed. It’s bands like this that make me so upset that watered down artists of the same genres (I’m looking at you, Mumford & Sons) get so much attention when acts that are clearly more talented such as Dry The River go mostly unnoticed. Tread into more ambitious waters, my friends – and give them a listen. The lyrics are some of the best I’ve ever heard. Not to mention, the vocals – my goodness, the vocals. Just watch this AWESOME video for “No Rest”:

 

 1. Freelance Whales – Diluvia (Mom & Pop Music)


October 9th of this year was a great day in music. Coheed & Cambria, Between the Buried and Me, and Freelance Whales all released new albums. For the non-metal offerings of the year, Diluvia is far and away my favorite of them all. This album is practically flawless in every way. It’s incredibly infectious, guided by quirky lyrics and outstanding musicianship. I saw them live a few months ago (find a way to do so) and all six members would play musical chairs with their instruments after every song and just switch off – the bassist would move to synths, the guitarist would move to banjo, the trumpeter would move to xylophone, etc. It was highly entertaining and a reflection of how talented and unique this band truly is. And of course, they are outstanding live. Here's their new video for "Spitting Image":




And there you have it. My completely unbiased and unabashedly awesome top-ten list of non-metal albums of 2012. Post all threats, suggestions, comments, and rants below.

Cheers, everyone.

JDS

12.08.2012

Six Months Of Being Clueless




May 31st. I am frighteningly close to getting cold feet about the entire plan, but I know if I don’t buck up and do it I will be regretting this for a very long time. Despite this, I maintain a healthy balance of fear and excitement. This dynamic is commonplace over the next several months.`

June 3rd. It’s time. I throw what meager belongings I have into my car the day before, which basically consisted of a few guitars, an ancient television (with a built-in VCR, if that tells one anything about its age), a pile of clothes, too many books, and other odds and ends. It’s too early in the day for my tastes, but I like to get a head start whenever I have a long day of driving to look forward to.

I carve a northward path along California’s spine, to coasts I’ve never seen before, names of cities I’ve only read about, unknown county lines, and the endless expanses of the so-called wine country. It’s much less scenic than I had anticipated, but anything beats the 1200 mile trip from West Texas to San Diego that I am so used to. Seemingly lifeless plots of land dominate either side of I-5 the further inland I go. It doesn’t matter. I’ve never seen them before. The newness is refreshing.
                
Sacramento surprises me. I pictured it as some dirty town in the middle of the desert. Instead, the state capital is the greenest city I’ve seen in a while. I book a room in a shady hotel in a small town about an hour north of the capital. An unhealthy Jack-in-the-Box dinner, sports updates on ESPN, and then it’s to bed.
                
June 4th. I take my time leaving in the morning, seeing as how I don’t have a particularly tough drive today. I am heading to Portland, a city I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. There I’ll be staying with my brother-in-law’s friend’s family just outside the city. It helps to have connections.
                 
The sky is wrapped in sullen gray. I haven’t stopped seeing forests since crossing the state line into Oregon. I’ve never been this far north. Glacial lakes and precarious mountain passages guide me into the heart of the state. At a gas station deep in the mountains, I awkwardly fumble with my wallet as an employee fills my tank for me. I could get used to that.

The rain comes early and doesn’t stop. Eventually I’ll become acclimated to this, I think to myself. The road is slick with rainfall by the time I reach my destination. It’s even greener than Sacramento; everything is aglow in verdant splendor. Water covers everything like webs.

The Strobecks are kind people. They ask me where, what, why – the usual queries. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out most of the answers, knowing I’ll have to repeat them time and time again once I get where I’m going. We have dinner at a Mexican restaurant and spend the evening watching movies and playing Wii. I hadn’t expected such comfort and hospitality from strangers. 

June 5th. The date rings around in my head from the moment I stir. I’ve been waiting for this day for a while. Everything would change today.
I am offered a large breakfast, some vague words of wisdom, and an invitation to return anytime. By the meal’s end, I am anxious to get on the road. I am less than 4 hours from my destination and I can barely contain my excitement at this point.

Today is bright as I return to the interstate, a stark contrast from the gloominess of the previous day. I don’t recall the names of any of the cities between Portland and where I’m going. I speed the last leg of the journey because I am on a tight schedule. I have people expecting me.

The trees become thicker; the spaces between buildings shrink the further I go. Names of cities I have seen on maps make their appearance on roadside signs. My anticipation rises with every passing mile. I am on my way to a new life.

It’s not long before I see it. The traffic begins, the rain returns, and large looming structures break through the fog on the horizon. I can’t help but smile as I push through the congestion, bringing the skyline of Seattle closer every minute. By the time I am driving through the tunnel beneath the city, it is impossible for me not to laugh. I did it, I’m here.

This is my home now.

*             *             *


Six months. Half a year. Twenty-six weeks and one hundred eighty-four days. That was the count this past Tuesday. I can’t believe I’ve been in Seattle half a year. The eagerness and uncertainty I felt on that long drive northward feels like an eternity ago. And yet, there is much left I have to learn and discover.

Seattle has been good to me, to say the least. Sure, I’ve taken several curve balls right out of left field since I’ve been here – but that’s to be expected when you pick up your life and throw it into a random corner of the country. Poor baseball analogies aside, I can’t say that everything came together right off of the bat (see what I did there?).

In fact, just the opposite occurred. In the first two months alone, I lived in four different places – a large house that used to be a parish with six other guys near the water in Edmond; an old house-turned-dormitory with eight guys lovingly called The Brown House; a dark room in the corner of an empty house in Shoreline with a drug dealer and several other undesirable tenants; a second stint in the Brown House; and finally a cramped apartment in a bad part of town in Edmonds. Technically, that’s five different places.

And those are just the living issues. I won’t even get into the canvasing job I had for a day, the several botched dates I went on, the parking tickets, the hospital bills, the lack of callbacks following odd job interviews, etc. Seattle provided anything but an environment in which I could comfortably cruise control through. To this day, that remains true.

Still, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What would have happened if I had moved up here and found a great home with great roommates right from the beginning? What if I landed a high-paying job that commanded the respect of my peers and family? What if the sun didn’t hide all the time and the depression didn’t ambush me like an assassin from well-concealed spaces? What if I had met a beautiful Seattle girl and we fell hopelessly in love with each other and manufactured dozens of little hipster babies?

I don’t care to know the answers to any of those questions simply because life never asked them.

That would be a boring story. Having the American dream handed to me in a turbulent time of life when I needed the benefit of it the most would be nice, wouldn’t it? I would be a fool not to choose the easy route if I were given a choice between the two futures. Even if that should be true, I would take the second option every time.

Why? Because life rarely ever hands anything to us without a justified cost of suffering. It comes when we need it, far past the point we thought we couldn’t endure. I don’t want to think about what would have happened had the provision that I needed all along had not come when it did. I refuse to stand still and take the easy way because that door is often shut and I would rather not waste time trying to kick it down.

I guess there comes a time as you get older when you realize that the “easy way” simply no longer exists. Every decision we make - from where we choose to live, work, or who we choose to love – they are riddled with countless combinations of potential consequences. You don’t need me to tell you that, you’ve felt it before. You’re probably feeling it now.

Obviously the good comes with the bad.

Despite all the mishaps and speed bumps that I’ve stumbled over since relocating to the Pacific Northwest (herein referred to as the PNW – I’m so cool), more than a few amazing things have happened. I’ll name a few of them.

I’ve traveled along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting since senior year of high school (that was six years ago, for all you young people). I’ve seen pods of whales break the surface of the Sound from the comfortable seat of a ferry. I’ve read novels in tide pools while hermit crabs danced around my feet. I’ve eaten crepes at a charming restaurant in a quaint waterside town. I’ve stumbled over driftwood and fallen off longboards. I’ve waved to Canada from a coast with my brothers. I’ve watched the sun set behind the snow-capped Olympics, from a cliff overlooking the Pacific, from the glass cage of the Great Seattle Wheel.

And I don’t believe any of it – absolutely every last detail – would have come my way if the easy choices were made. I had to make the difficult ones to see the beautiful benefits. I’m not trying to come across all flowery and endearing; life is a mess and there is a healthy chance that tomorrow I’ll get pissed off about something minute and my day will suck. But on the days when that doesn’t happen (or the days when I’m merely adult enough to avoid it), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not for the comfort of familiarity, the safety of staying still, or the assurance of a burden-free life.

That’s where I am. I am still fumbling around up here in the PNW and have been for half a year. I’ve loved every minute of it, even the ones I couldn’t bear at the time. For the first time in a while, I can say that I feel truly at home. I’m still just as clueless as I am when I first arrived, but I wouldn’t doubt that enlightenment is coming soon.

Perhaps then I’ll have to change the name of this blog.

Probably not.

Cheers, everyone.

JDS

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 UPDATES & SUCH

I am still working my way through The Night Circus by Erin Morgensen. It’s enchanting – and better yet, it’s her debut. Consider me a fan. 

Music-wise, I’ve been spinning everything from electronic djent to folk music to alt rock. There is a reason for this – some of my next few blog posts will cover my favorite albums (metal and non-metal) of 2012. I won’t list any spoilers here but I’m taking it very seriously. Don’t laugh at me.

Of course, I couldn’t be more excited about The Hobbit coming out next week. I am having a beard-making party with a friend as a part of my plan to go as a dwarf. Also, I’m seeing Looper tonight, which is kind of cool. Also I get to go home for five days. Also Christmas. I LOVE CHRISTMAS.

All right. Yeah, that’s all.