I Must Do Something Creative

 

I spend a few weekends a month gigging out. It’s really fun, and I get to play my electric guitars loud…which I love. Every now and then though I get the itch to do something creative for myself. It’s a demand from my wiring, really. If left un-quenched, it can turn into an almost neurosis-level rattle that makes me insane. It’s like having a ball baring rolling back and forth inside the dashboard of your car with every turn you make. Eventually the want and need to solve the problem heats to the fire of a nuclear blast. In the past, this has usually translated into me writing/recording music.

So, this very thing happened a few months back and I decided I wanted to learn one of my favorite songs. Then I decide to make a video of me singing and playing it. This really isn’t something I do regularly, if at all, much less share it on the blog…but hey what can I say? I’m getting older and care a hell of a lot less what people think…but as a musician I still crave peoples attention…life is messy, right? Here’s me, exercising creative demons and covering one of my favorite songs, “All Night Long” by Peter Murphy.

 

The Road To Minimalism II

Since the last post we have been busy, each weekend, hauling loads of stuff to Goodwill. It’s pretty incredible how much we have accumulated.

For me, I think my minimalist tendencies started a few years back, when I looked around me and realized I had something like 20 guitars. Simply keeping all these guitars around in a little 800 square foot house in south St. Louis was a challenge in itself. What happened was I began to realize, even playing multiple gigs a week, I couldn’t possibly utilize all of them. I got to a point where I stopped going to vintage guitar shops to look around, realizing I had way more than I ever needed, or deserved really. I then began getting rid of them.

Now, does this mean I’m cured? Not by a longshot. Take, for example, my pastime of building guitars (I really just part them together). The pic below is of 2 such guitars I’ve made since we got to Phoenix. One is my beloved pine Barncaster, the other is a highly functional and very playable Strat. It was a blast putting them together, a fun and intricate process. The problem is….I have managed to replace buying more guitars than I need with building more guitars than I need.

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Pine Barncaster, Superstrat. Sorry for the shitty pic

So now the idea is to get down to just a couple guitars. I already have a 95 Les Paul that my father gave me for graduating university. That one stays with me forever….so the question now is what else to keep? Is 2 or 3 guitars overkill for someone that wants to be less burdened by their belongings? Does my gigging regularly justify it? Hell I have no idea. Still adjusting to this whole thing.

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My 1995 Gibson Les Paul, equipped with 2 high-output Seymour Duncan pickups

The other thing I have focused on lately is selling all the little guitar parts that I have accumulated over the years working on guitars. None of it is worth a ton, but when I added it up, $10-$20 a pop, I had at least a few hundred bucks just laying around. I sell all this (along with the guitars) on my Reverb store. I’ve already sold a ton of stuff this way in the last few weeks, and I have a lot more to get listed!

Shop My Store on Reverb

Another major we are moving toward minimalism is getting a stall at the Thieves Market in Tempe, on December 3. This will be a great way to get rid of a great deal of the vintage stuff we have laying around. Expect a full report here soon. Alright, JT signing off. Stay sleazy.

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#Opt Outside

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For Black Friday, rather than hustle and bustle through the stores, we made a few online purchases in the morning and then got outside.  We did our longest loop hike to date and got to see a lot more of the mountain in our backyard.

South Mountain is a city park, the largest in the nation in fact.  I was proud we made it through Fat Man’s Pass on the day after gorging ourselves at Thanksgiving.

One of the things we love most about Arizona is the opportunity to be outdoors.  Although we received a tent and two sleeping bags as wedding gifts, the tent still had its packaging intact when we arrived in the Valley of the Sun.  It’s been three years now (holy cow, is time moving fast!) and we’ve taken that tent all over the state and try to get outside and hike every weekend that it is less than 100 degrees out (that rules out a few months in the summer …) so I thought I might round up a few items that we use all the time and would recommend to anyone looking to get outdoors some more themselves.

REI Daypacks (similar here)

When we first moved to Phoenix, land of glorious weather and amazing hiking trails, we high-tailed it to REI to buy CamelBaks or some other sort of water bladder carrying system.  Luckily for us, a very smart REI employee advised us against the bladders.  Since we’re not running an endurance race or biking, there’s really no need for the hands-free water delivery systems, not to mention all the care, cleaning and maintenance those require so they don’t get moldy or musty.  I know they wouldn’t have lasted long with us.  Instead he steered us towards an affordable daypack (the cost for two was less than buying one CamelBak) and we have been so happy with our decision.  We get a ton of use out of our packs, whether for hiking or carrying around souvenirs at Desert Trip or packing clothes for an overnight trip.  Our packs have an inside tall pocket/divider so we set our water bottles in there during hiking and they nestle in place and don’t jostle around too much.  Speaking of water bottles …

Nalgene Water Bottles

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At first I thought these were kind of bulky and the lid can be hard to get open when you’re driving but the reality these are great for your daypack where you don’t want water dripping down your back.  We tend to keep these in the fridge ready to go all the time and I find myself even just grabbing it in the evening to hydrate as we sit on the couch.

When it is really hot, we add in these Sugar Free Electrolyte Tablets by Camelbak.  It helps stave off a little bit of heat exhaustion or heat stroke by replenishing you with electrolytes while out on the trail.  They mostly taste like some kind of sport drink (Gatorade or the like) but have no sugar and can go into your reusable (eco-friendly) bottles.

Coleman Propane 2 Burner Stove

This is great for quick breakfasts at camp when you don’t want to start up a fire but would rather get some coffee and some food in quick and then head out for your day’s adventure.  We also used the heck out of it at Desert Trip – JT was our camp chef, working from the back of the truck.

Coleman Stackers Coolers

We have two of these, both in blue.  Cheesy picture from the website aside, they’ve been great for JT and I because they are much more streamlined than some of the larger, bulkier coolers.  The lids come totally off for cleaning (each unit is two pieces, there’s no hinge or latch) and they stack together really compactly.  The great thing is this allows you to head out with two (or more) full coolers and consolidate down into one as you eat through the food.  That means you’ll need less ice.  Having multiple cooler compartments means you can also keep one for just beverages and the other for food.  If we’re only going camping for one night, sometimes we only take one of the coolers. All around this has been a great space saver and I tell everyone I can about these things.

Sofa Camping Chair (looks like our original is discontinued but similar here)

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My sister gifted this to us for Christmas last year and it has been a hit around the campfire.  Now we don’t have to pack individual chairs and it’s much easier to lounge (the seat is lower) and snuggle up to keep warm once the sun goes down.  It also has two attached bottle openers in case of an alcohol emergency …

Headlamps

We don’t use these as much for hiking unless we are going for a night hike but they come in very handy while camping.  We also use them on the dog sometimes as a collar with the light shining down so we can see what he’s up to on night walks.  Shenanigan isn’t quite “desert savvy” and we’ve had some close calls with cacti.  There’s also a Sonoran frog that can be poisonous to dogs so we want to be sure he’s not grabbing anything under the bushes.

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So here’s to happy outdoorsing!  If you have any gear you really like and would recommend, we’re still super new to this whole thing and would love to hear your thoughts.  Cheers – CT

 

 

 

How was your Thanksgiving?

JT and I tried to get some volunteers hours in Thanksgiving AM with the first annual Lost Our Home Pet Foundation’s Turkey Trot.  First we walked two min-pin looking chihuahua mixes, Simon and Minnie and then took a short spin with Shadow (who had already been on a mile and half walk but was still so wound up that we were afraid he might get away from us – that boy was strong!)  When we got home, Shenanigan could smell we had been visiting other dogs, so we took him on a nice long turkey trot too.

 

Once we had our good deeds behind us, we lazed around the house and did some of our cooking prep.  JT was in charge of the  turkey and I had tasked myself with some vegan side dishes.  The stuffing was easy – Stovetop (cornbread version) from the box made with vegan margarine (no different from real margarine – super processed and pretty gross to eat plain but at least they offer a soy free version), a veggie dish and the cranberries.

For my veggies side, I made a roasted brussels sprouts and cinnamon butternut squash dish with walnuts and dried cranberries (recipe here).  I’m usually not a fan of sweet and savory together but this really works and I’ve made it a few times now, all to good reviews.  The cranberries were something my dad would always make for family gatherings in Iowa.  I remember packing the food processor, bag of cranberries and oranges in the minivan for the schlep.  I don’t know that he had a written recipe he followed and I’m also pretty sure his had gelatin in it, so I’ve found a veganized recipe that still holds on to what I liked best about his version – the freshly grated cranberries and whole oranges (even the peel – recipe here).  In place of the gelatin, this recipe simply uses sugar (I toned that way done if favor of a more tart recipe) and raspberry jam.  I had an organic superfruit jam blend that also had cherry in it, really good.  My mother-in-law and her husband brought the rest of the feast with them, including a “wacky” cake for dessert and we were all set.

I love setting the table for nice meals.  This year I used a white flannel sheet I had bought at Goodwill’s half off day.  It was much less stress of worrying about wine or cranberry or anything else that might get on the table.  The napkins are the embroidered “T” napkins we used at the head table at our wedding, almost twelve years ago now.  The table runner was an impulse buy at Target and I think it is a Nate Berkus design.  It had a really ugly black tassel on the ends that I removed as it was too harsh of a contrast between the white, light grey and silvers.

I am thankful for a lot in my life but I do have to say how very thankful I am for our old dog Shenanigan.  He is so sweet and calm and sometimes silly and he brings so much comfort to our lives.  He was happy to see his grandma but also happy to lay on his “pillow cloud” in the corner and hang out with us all evening (one of the dog beds is usually under the table but since we had the tablecloth on, I added it to his pile.)  His face is almost all the way white now and his fatty tumor is so big that people ask if he is pregnant and I know our time with him is growing shorter every day.  We’re trying to enjoy every last drop.

JT and I just had a nice lunch of leftovers and are enjoying one of the few gloomy days in Phoenix to lounge around and relax.  I’ll be back later with our #opt outside events from yesterday and some gift ideas for the new-to-the-outdoors people like me.  I hope you all had a great time gathering and feasting with your friends and families.  Cheers – CT

 

Hope for the Future (of our master bathroom)

Well guys, instead of sitting around and repining the state of my world (and the world) again this weekend, I feel a coffee fueled master bathroom renovation is in order.  Here are some disgusting before images to fuel me towards greatness …

In the image above, you can see the bright white on the left from painting the master bedroom versus the fleshy beige and the side and back walls of the sink nook that we inherited from the former owner.  Be gone fleshy beige!!  And boob lights and ugly, too small bath bars that are unbalanced in the space.  Sigh.  My favorite part is the wonderful designer who transitioned the floor from tile to carpet at just the right place … to leave a little sliver of white wood base next to the tile base.  The devil is in the details.

See you on the other side! (Have a great weekend, call your legislators!)  Cheers – CT

The Roller Coaster

Even before the media spectacle we call an election happened,  I feel like I have been living on a roller coaster of  highs and lows for the last month.  The high of the highs have made the low of the lows even more intolerable and I am hoping for a more even and steady path for the next bit.  Let’s see if we can make that happen.  I’m pretty sure it involves living in a cave.

The highs:

  • Desert Trip, which JT already blogged about – wow!  To be together with some of our closest friends and to get that once in a lifetime opportunity to see all of those bands in sunny California – amazing
  • Coming back home knowing there was still another concert ahead of us – The Flaming Lips at the Arizona State Fair.  We rode some rides, ate a giant pretzel and saw the Lips in a small setting.  So amazing.  And the finale was “Do You Realize”, the song I want played at my funeral.  I cried.  So did the lady in front of me because I kept spilling my beer on her every time I got hit in the head with a giant balloon, which was frequently during the first two songs….

And Wayne Coyne launching this special balloon art installation into the audience ….

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Such a good show by a band that truly just wants you to have a good time.

  • A quick camping trip JT and I took up to Sedona.  We managed to get a spot in Oak Creek Canyon and it is unbelievably gorgeous – words don’t even describe the raw, natural beauty of this town.  We got in some good hikes, picnics and no sleep (still trying to figure out the camping mat/air mattress situation)

A medium:

 

  • A quick work trip to visit the mill trip was mostly in the high category.  We stayed at the Barnsley Resort in northern Georgia, where there are ruins of an old plantation house.  We ventured out one night with to-go sippy cups of some really good wine looking for Civil War ghosts but found none.  However the leaves were changing, which is not something you get in Phoenix and we went horseback riding one afternoon (Mr. Deeds was my steed!).  While the mill was so fascinating to see (we saw both the carpet sample mill which has all the different types of carpet machines used for sample strike-offs and the vinyl sheet good and plank good production lines), the comparison of my posh reality touring the mill after being put up in a private cottage on a golf resort with that of the mill production workers was not comfortable.  Neither was waiting in a crowded and anxious Atlanta airport the night before the election while CNN blared live coverage from our now president-elect’s last rally and everyone around was getting riled up.  Our flight attendants were late due to a connecting flight and we couldn’t board the plane until they arrived.  I was never so happy to settle in for a three hour flight before (and I settled down by watching “Love and Friendship” and “Sixteen Candles” as we sailed through the time zones on the way back home.)

The Lows:

  • A real rattlesnake in the backyard.  Specifically a speckled rattlesnake which the guy from the Arizona Herpetological Society was really excited about because apparently “you don’t usually see these in people’s yards!”.

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That led us to hiring a yard crew to clean out every inch of leaf litter and logs (left behind from the previous owner).  It took 4 guys around 4 hours with all this equipment to fill up a whole trailer with high sides.  We had originally been planning to tackle it ourselves on the weekend once the weather cooled down but after the snake incident, we knew we just had to take care of it as a matter of safety for our pet.  (More on that singular to come).

  • One of my favorite coworkers has moved on to a new design firm… Her last week kicked off with Halloween so I dressed up as her. (She was a snack basket.)  I don’t usually put a lot of detailed work stuff on here so I’m just going to leave that one at that – it sucks to lose a friendly face and cheerful co-worker with whom I’ve shared a workspace with since I started working in Phoenix. However I wish her well at her next firm and I hope that we will keep in touch.

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  • And the big one which I’ve been dreading explaining but should.  We had to take Rebel back to the rescue before we went on our Sedona trip.  While all was originally good between her and Shenanigan, once she grew attached to JT and I, she began to “guard” us, e.g. work very hard to keep Shenanigan from coming anywhere near us.  This was more than a jealousy thing, it had to do with some food insecurity issues and it meant we also couldn’t give her and Shenanigan bones, Kongs or treats anymore.  I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom one night and found Shenanigan sleeping in the hall because he was too afraid of Rebel to come into the bedroom, where his dog bed has always been.  So it wasn’t meant to be after all.  The rescue will work to place Rebel as an only dog where she can get all the love and attention she both needs and deserves.  And that is why I love working with no-kill shelters – they are truly looking out for the best long-term interests of the dog in every situation.

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    (The only reason the two dogs were so close together in this pic is because I was vacuuming and they couldn’t get upstairs.)  So while I know we are doing the right thing and giving Shenanigan the best life we can, especially as he is getting pretty old now, it still felt like we were bad people as we returned sweet Rebel to the rescue.

  • Another doggy downer is the distemper outbreak that hit Stray Rescue.  We volunteered for them for so long and still follow them on social media.  I think Randy Grim and his staff are angels on earth for the work that they do.  To hear that an infectious disease was sweeping their shelter was heartbreaking but I was also encouraged by their response – when distemper has hit other shelters in the past, they have often just euthanized all of the animals at once.  Stray Rescue operates on a case-by-case basis and based on the FB updates that Randy has posted, it sounds like  a lot of animals will be spared an unnecessary death sentence. If you want to and if you can, consider donating to Stray Rescue.  Even though we are now many states away, we sent in a donation right away.  These dogs and the people who heal them need our help!

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So that’s a news update for what is happening around Living Analog as of late.  This weekend is for rest, relaxation and recharging.  JT and I went to our local wine bar after dinner last night to get out of the house, talk over everything that has happened and drink some good wine.  The bar had citrus smoked olives which were the best snack I have had in a long, long time, so that raised our spirits a little (along with the spirits.)  Cheers to all and I wish for good fortunes for all our futures in the weeks and months ahead.

The Desert Trip

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Richard, Becky, CT and JT

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this concert was a once in a lifetime experience. I was obsessed with every one of these acts at some point of my life. I was 22 when I could not stop listening to Exile on Main Street. I was in my late 20’s when After the Gold Rush and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere made perfect sense in my life. I WAS LIKE FREAKING 10 when I stole my brother’s Dark Side of The Moon tape (sorry Shane(sucker)).

That’s why it may be surprising that when the opportunity came up to see this concert, CT was more ready than I was. Shit at work was stressing me out, we just dropped a ton of money on an AC unit….all that crap. Anyway, she convinced me.

The real miracle is we got our best friends Becky and Richard to come with us. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say they are a couple of our favorite people to walk the planet. SO…they fly into Phoenix, we load in the trusty Tacoma and we hit the dusty trail for Desert Trip!!

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CT and the loaded Tacoma

We were car camping, which gave you a 10X30 spot for your car and tent/whatever else, which was really cool. We stayed right on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club, and simply walked in each evening to see the show. The only thing that wasn’t fun was the fact that it was pretty much 100 degrees every day. Each day was a bit of a struggle to stay cool. Also, this place every other day is a Polo club, so the ground is trampled into a fine dust, which gets into everything/everywhere. Everyone there was filthy within the first few hours! All part of the fun.

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Car camping…photo credit Becky

All the mess aside, we were with our friends, and had a crazy blast.

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Here’s us with the stage in the background. To give you an idea of size, we were at the front row of general admission. There were about 40,000 seats between us and the stage.

Here’s a great shot that Becky took during one of the shows. There were a ton of posts everywhere, the size of highway light posts. Each one had a speaker array pointing each direction, and lights on the top. The sound was really incredible.

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Here’s me and my boy Richard in a candid moment

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Videos!

Neil Young was a huge surprise. He had a great band, and sounded stunning. His energy was on par with anyone I have ever seen, and everyone in our party was thrilled with his performance.

Next up we have the Rolling Stones, with one of my favorites: “Mixed Emotions.”

And here’s The Who with “Behind Blue Eyes”

It was a great time, which I will never forget. Sometimes it makes the most sense in life to drop a ton of money, throw caution to the wind and just say to hell with everything else, I’m doing this crazy-ass thing and going to have fun! Remember to live your life everyone.