Mixtape #15: Rainy Day Music

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Rainy Day Music:

1) Your Letter - Mint Julep
2) Shot In the Back of the Head - Moby
3) David's Lamentation - The Good Players
4) House of Cards - Radiohead
5) Van Occupanther - Midlake
6) Charlie Darwin - The Low Anthem
7) Love Comes to Me - Will Oldham
8) Born - Over the Rhine
9) Save Me - Aimee Mann
10) Staralfur - Sigur Ros
11) Sweet Song - Blur
12) Heart's a Mess - Gotye
13) Wonderwall - Ryan Adams
14) Mad World - Gary Jules
15) Another World - Antony and the Johnsons
16) Baby's World - Chris Garneau
17) Jezebel - Iron and Wine
18) The Book of Love - The Magnetic Fields

Mixtape #14: Book Notes

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Book Notes -- a collection of songs about books and authors:

1) Novel Writing - Monty Python
2) Wrapped Up In Books - Belle and Sebastian
3) Paperback Writer - The Beatles
4) Shakespeare's Sister - The Smiths
5) Type Slowly - Pavement
6) Frodo (Don't Wear the Ring) - Flight of the Conchords
7) The Book I Read - Talking Heads
8) Bedside Story - Badly Drawn Boy
9) Sylvia Plath - Ryan Adams
10) Saul Bellow - Sufjan Stevens
11) Bookworm - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
12) How's About Telling a Story? - Devendra Banhart
13) Write On - Sleeping In the Aviary
14) Write Your Story Now - Kevin Devine
15) Walt Whitman's Niece - Wilco
16) Emma, Dear - Drew Moody
17) Engine Driver - The Decemberists
18) One Short Story - Xavier Rudd
19) Bixby Canyon Bridge - Death Cab for Cutie
20) My Favourite Book - Stars
21) The Book of Love - The Magnetic Fields
22) Bookshop - Monty Python


My Lack of Friends

I was watching It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia today -- the episode where the gang decides they're going to go on a manhunt for more friends. To aid them in this adventure, they create flyers to pass out, as advertisements of themselves. At one point, Dennis says something along the lines of, "I'm in my late 20's -- where am I supposed to meet new people? These flyers do all the work themselves." Then I recalled something my friend, Jeff, told me last year: "I got married, woke up one day and realized I didn't have any friends anymore."

Well, I'm not in my late 20's -- I'm merely in my mid 20's. But already I'm discovering the truth of these statements. I'm suddenly waking up everyday and realizing "I'm going to spend this entire day by myself. I'm going to wake up alone, do my daily life stuff alone, eat dinner alone and go to bed alone."

Every night for the last two weeks I have been feeling incredibly lonely; I think this is largely due to the fact that I have spent every night of the last two weeks alone, in my basement. So, I suppose my feeling lonely is partially my fault. However, the flip side of this argument is that I have no gas in my car and no money in my bank account -- thus, I am unable to purchase the gas necessary to fuel the car that will take me all the way out to DeKalb, where the majority of my friends reside. So I guess that makes me a victim of circumstance. Could any of my DeKalb friends come to Yorkville to see me? Yes -- I suppose they could. But it seems as though unless I make the effort to invite myself over to their houses and drive up there, nothing happens. C'est la vie?

Distance and personal conflicts seem to be intruding on my relationships lately: I broke up with my girlfriend because of distance and the fact that she has no time for me (not her fault, but...); a good friend of mine, Mary, lives way down in Mississippi; my best friend, Caitlin, hasn't had time for me since the day I met her -- always, always, always busy or simply not wanting to hang out; my new friend, Amanda, is not only busy, but also recently decided to revolutionize her life by giving herself more "me time;" Josh usually only calls me if he needs me to do something for him; my friends, the Nashes, just had a baby and both work full-time, so they have no time; my friends, the Leighs, also just had a baby and are usually busy hanging out with other people...

I could keep going, but I'm depressing myself.

Now, granted, I'm probably just feeling sorry for myself. And if anybody I know even reads this shitty blog, they'll probably say, "Well YOU never call ME! YOU never visit ME!" In fact, I know that will happen (providing, of course, somebody I know reads this shitty blog -- which I doubt very much). And, yeah -- they'll be right. I suppose I COULD call them and invite myself over every single night. And I suppose I COULD spend $50+ per week on gas just to have a social life outside of my basement.

But I'm so tired of being the one that has to initiate this stuff all the time. I'm so tired of schedules and meeting times and dates -- whatever happened to spontaneity? Why can't I just call someone up and say, "Hey -- come over to my house"? Is this what being an adult is? Does adulthood suddenly mean everyone gets married and forgets all about their single friends now that they have their married friends? Does adulthood mean relationships are the first to go when embracing "responsibilities"?

If so, I say, "Fuck it." That sounds like a shit existence and I don't want anything to do with it.


My New Song

In case any of you haven't heard it yet, my new song, "Prince of Peace," is currently streaming here.

Mixtape #13: Earth Songs

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Earth Songs:

1) (Nothing But) Flowers - Talking Heads
2) There Is a Mountain - Donovan
3) The New Pollution - Beck
4) Earth - Imogen Heap
5) Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean - Paul Simon
6) The Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie
7) Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) - Marvin Gaye
8) Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell
9) Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth - Neko Case
10) After the Gold Rush - Neil Young
11) Mother Nature's Son - The Beatles
12) Hand Me Down World - The Guess Who
13) Citizen of the Planet - Simon and Garfunkel
14) Where Do the Children Play? - Cat Stevens
15) Disappearing World - David Gray
16) Golden Earth Girl - Paul McCartney
17) No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature - The Guess Who
18) There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
19) After the Garden - Neil Young
20) Nature Anthem - Grandaddy


My Divine Encounter

A couple weeks ago, I worshipped for the first time in almost two years. Granted, I have been to churches a couple times since I left my home church, Campus Missions International, but I never truly WORSHIPPED since then -- at these churches, I was merely going through the motions and playing "Church." I simply went because I felt like I should, or, because it was the "right thing to do" -- whatever that means, I went because I was invited by a friend, I went because I had nothing else to do that particular Sunday morning; but I never went to actually experience God. I never went to worship.

So, two weeks ago, I decided it was time to go back. I had been meeting with my old pastor, Tom May, all summer long, talking discipleship, spirituality and relationships. After about four months of talking, I decided I wanted to go back to church. Now, church and I have a strange relationship -- I realize that I am a part of The Church, but I really don't identify with church. I understand the importance of friendships and relationships within The Church, but I never felt that I had to build said friendships and relationships within church -- I've always felt that I could be "outside the box." I also understand the importance of going to church to learn from sermons, but I can learn just as much in my own personal time.

I've never really enjoyed going to church. I think it's because, as a kid, I was forced to, and the church we went to was an insane cult. When I became an adult, I realized I didn't have to go, so I stopped, but then later started going again. In my most recent church experience (two years ago), I was beaten up badly by a few people in the church and I was so hurt by the situation, that I left again.

But when I went two weeks ago, I felt like I had come home. I felt like the prodigal son, in a way. In fact, as soon as I walked in the door, the person that I had the biggest falling out with rushed up to me, threw his arms around me and hugged me for a solid couple minutes, all the while telling me how great it was to see me again. It was great to see him too. We had reconciled last year over breakfast, but after this night, I felt like the bridge that was torn down had finally been fully restored. After the night was over and I had talked to almost everyone there, I felt like I had restored a lot of relationships. I felt that CMI was a safe place for me again. So I decided to return for good (or until I'm called elsewhere).

Sadly, I couldn't go last week because I was out of town, but I made sure to go last night. Throughout Saturday, there were a few times when I was thinking I didn't really want to go after all, but I fought the urge to stay home and do nothing. And it made all the difference that I went.

Let me preface this story by first saying that for the past couple weeks, I have been growing increasingly disconcerted with my state of unemployment. Last week, I had two interviews at Target and was turned down. I was turned down by TARGET. How does that even happen?? And THAT was the first interview I've had since March, when I was turned down by Schofield Media Group. I'm still up for a position with the Chicago Dental Society Foundation, but I have still yet to hear from them. Needless to say, I am growing more and more discouraged about the entire situation. Plus, with my recent breakup and family troubles and feeling lonely and battling depression, I've been going through a rough patch. So, last night I drove to church, praying the whole way for my life. I kept repeating over and over, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." I have found this prayer to be incredibly comforting as of late.

CMI services are notorious for being long, drawn out productions. The worship portion lasts at least an hour, the preaching lasts at least an hour and the altar call typically runs upwards of an hour or more. But last night was different -- last night, the worship portion lasted about two and a half hours. The preaching didn't start until 8:45 and the service starts at 6. The reason the worship lasted so long was that one of the women started prophesying over the congregation and speaking about claiming the victories and promises God has for us. She then asked for everyone who wanted prayer and desired to claim what God had for them to come forward and nearly everyone in the church started pressing in around the platform to pray. I was one of them.

I prayed for a bit and wasn't really feeling anything, so I prayed some more. And more. And more. I started pressing into the Spirit and fighting everything around me and tearing down the walls that separate me from God. I wanted to have a Divine encounter. Two people I had never met before came up behind me while I was praying and laid their hands on me and started praying with me and for me. Then, the woman gave me the most cryptic prophecy I've heard yet in my life: "God is saying, 'Your calling hasn't changed.'" Upon hearing that, I burst into tears and wept for half an hour. When I collapsed to my knees, about a quarter of the congregation gathered around me to pray for me.

After I dried my face and finished up my prayer, I was greeted by the woman who called for the altar call. She said that God was speaking to her about me in particular and she wanted to know if He was speaking to me as well. She said, "I'm going to ask a question to God and I want you to repeat it and listen to see if He says anything. Then we'll compare our answers. The first question is, "'God -- will You do this thing in my life?'" I asked and wept again when I received my answer. She said, "He said to me, 'Yes.'" I replied, "He said to me, 'I'm the one who is waiting for you.'" "Wow! Actually that's a great segues to my next question: 'What do I need to do to be in agreement with You?'" Again, I felt broken by the answer I received. She said to me, "He said to me, 'Come to Me,' and He was gesturing for you to come forward." I replied, "He said to me, 'Stop doubting Me.'"

Looking back, I'm perplexed by all of it. I mean -- I know exactly what God means by "Your calling hasn't changed." At the same time, I have no idea what He's talking about -- what IS my calling?? Ireland or employment?? I'm not so sure.

But it's great to know that I am once again FEELING God in my life. I am once again having encounters with the Divine that leave me craving more. I'm overjoyed, but discontent.


Mixtape #12: Venti: Chill Songs for Smooth Roasts

This mix was inspired by my new friend, Coffee Shop Girl (or as I now know her to be called, Amanda). The Village Grind (the cafe she works at and I frequent) plays absolutely horrendous music and she was told that some of the songs she was bringing in were too "rock and roll." I took it upon myself to create a mix of mellower songs for the shop, that she could play over the speakers while working. If the owner doesn't allow for that, I'll still have the playlist on my iPod!

With SO many mellow, acoustic songs in my collection to choose from, this mixtape proved to be a difficult one to compile. However, I think I've arrived at a pretty good collection of songs suitable for sipping coffee. At any rate, here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Venti: Chill Songs for Smooth Roasts:

(DISCLAIMER: I know "venti" is Italian for "twenty" and that there are actually 21 songs on this mix, but I just had an absolute dickens of a time trying to figure out which one song to cut. I decided I'd leave the 21st song on here -- for irony's sake, if nothing else.)

1) I Was Young When I Left Home - Antony and the Johnsons
2) Gold - Interference
3) A Few Honest Words - Ben Sollee
4) I Keep Faith - Billy Bragg
5) Everybody's Talkin' - Bobby Bare
6) Lay Me Down - The Frames
7) Ooh La La - Faces
8) Ghosts - Mark Geary
9) So Far Around the Bend - The National
10) You and I - Wilco (with Feist)
11) The Greatest - Cat Power
12) Heather, Remind Me How This Ends - Dolorean
13) Lord, Save Me from Myself - Jon Foreman
14) Something Else - Gary Jules
15) Dogs - Damien Rice
16) One of These Things First - Nick Drake
17) For Emma - Bon Iver
18) Decatur, or, a Round of Applause for Your Stepmother - Sufjan Stevens
19) At the Hop - Devendra Banhart
20) Dark As the Night - Doug Burr
21) Fresh Feeling - Eels


My Financial Disaster

Guys, I am in financial dire straits.

As many of you know, I have been unemployed since January, when I was laid off from my job in DeKalb. Sure, I worked over the summer at the swimming pool and eventually moved to home to save up money, but guess what -- somehow, the third part of that statement never happened. All of the money I made from the swimming pool? Gone. Then, of course, I got a random job, pulling rocks out of a pond at an apartment complex in Elk Grove Village. All of the money I made from that? I haven't even received it yet (yes, that job ended a month ago)!

This past Friday, I learned that my checking account was $180 overdrawn -- pretty bad. Today, I learned that my checking account is now $234 overdrawn -- even worse. Oh yes -- I also learned that my cell phone bill is $389! How did that happen? I can't even imagine. You better believe I'm going to fight that as much as I can. The good news is that I put my Sallie Mae student loan on a forebearance that lasts until November. The bad news is that when November rolls around, they're going to send me a $500 bill. Awesome.

I'm hoping my unemployment will be able to cover a lot of this -- I'm just going to have to stretch my payments out and make every dime count. That means The Drew will not be buying second hand books anytime soon.

Everyone, I need you all to be in prayer as much as I will be in prayer this week. I'm up for a position with the Chicago Dental Society Foundation as an assistant to their director of marketing. While this job won't solve all my problems, it will definitely help. Their board of directors will be meeting this week to discuss the position and conduct interviews. I am hoping and praying and believing I will not only be given a call, but will be hired.

If not... Well. I won't believe it.


My Album Covers

Here are two of the album covers I'm working on. All I need now is the songs to fill them up...


My Weather Reading Dilemma

My favorite poem, The Charm of 5:30, by David Berman, opens with the line, "It is too nice a day to read a novel set in England." When I read that line a few years ago, I immediately understood where Berman was coming from and what he meant by it. While I was majoring in English at Northern Illinois University, I decided that I wanted my focus to be in British literature -- particularly from the Victorian era (a la Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy). Sadly, this choice of focus turned me into a bit of a downer.

The grey skies, the rain, the love loss, the death, the class struggle, the factory chimneys, billowing the smoke of workers' dreams during the Industrial Revolution. Everything about this era of literature festers with heartache and dismay. And this is exactly the type of mood I hope to avoid when the sun in shining, the breeze is gentle and the kids are shouting happily in their front yards. No, this type of reading is usually reserved for days that are best for staying inside and wondering why everyone else isn't doing the same.

Of my top five favorite authors (1) James Joyce, 2) Ernest Hemingway, 3) John Steinbeck, 4) Charles Dickens and 5) (it alternates)), only Steinbeck is worth considering on bright, sunshiney days like today: Joyce is a complete downer who writes about rebellion and religious abuse. And even then, his writing is so experimental and difficult to get through that one hesitates to ever read him, regardless of weather; Hemingway is a beautiful writer and a master storyteller. Unfortunately, his books make one want to lay down on the floor, in the fetal position, and just scream; Dickens is a fantastic wordsmith, but a definite killjoy. He treats his characters like shit for half of the book, then drags them THROUGH shit for the second half. At the end of a Dickens novel, you sigh, exasperatedly, and think "Thank God I'm not THAT guy."

Poor Pip...

Steinbeck also has his share of flawed characters and despair, but the sun is always shining in his novels, so you never feel TOO bad for the characters. "Man, the Joads have a long road ahead, but at least the weather is great!" Joblessness and homelessness doesn't seem too bad when you're kicking around in the California sunshine.

Sadly, most of the books in my library I've either already read or are weather sensitive; and, since I most appreciate autumn weather, most of my unread books are complementary (Victorians and Moderns). I have discovered, though, that unless it's an Irish author like Frank McCourt or Pete McCarthy, memoirs are fantastic complements to great weather. For instance, today I began reading A Working Stiff's Manifesto, by Iain Levison -- a story of one frustrated English major's search for meaningful employment (which happens to be the situation I find myself in). It is one of the most bitter, but most hilarious books I've read in quite some time. Even in the coffee shop, I found myself laughing out loud at the many dead-end-job horror stories Levison chronicles. Not surprisingly, I was in a chipper mood for the rest of the day and the fabulous weather only accentuated my cheerfulness.

Now, imagine if I had read Dickens...

Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning him-self to let it eat him away. - A Tale of Two Cities

Or Joyce...

He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life's feast. - Dubliners

Or Hemingway...

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. - A Farewell to Arms

Okay, even Steinbeck has a way of making you squirm in your chair and pine away for a happier existence...

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster. - East of Eden

Not on a day like today -- I wouldn't allow it. When the sun is shining and birds are singing, it is too great a day to allow yourself to be sucked into the neuroses, fears and pessimisms of my favorite authors, regardless of their ranking on my "favorite authors" chart.


My Road Full of Promise, My Head Full of Doubt

Ever since I was a boy, I've wanted to, one day, move to Ireland. It has been my unattainable goal, my unreachable destination. My eyes have had shamrocks and green hills and grey skies in them and my appetite for Guinness has been insatiable. There are times when I wake up, look out the window to a particularly overcast day and my heart swoons, "What I wouldn't give to be in Ireland right now, too ra loo ra loo ra."

My fascination began when I was eight years old. My class was having our international day fair and it was each student's assignment to build a poster board presentation for their country of choice. At that time in my life, I was fascinated with the Czech Republic because there's a large portion of my father's family from former Czechoslovakia. My presentation was decent enough, but nothing special. It seemed nobody else my age really cared about the former Soviet bloc.

One of my friends, Andrew Hansen, chose Ireland. If you had ever met this kid, you'd immediately know why: he was a tiny, pasty white ginger kid with the clearest green eyes and the brightest red hair. He was Irish Catholic, a Notre Dame fanatic and was one of the sweetest, most cheerful kids in the school.

For whatever reason, I decided early on that he would be nemesis and that I hated him. Obviously.

However, even I, in all my hatred for the Ginger Boy Wonder, couldn't help but gaze in wonderment at his glorious display for Ireland. It was heavenly -- the most beautiful pictures of rolling green meadows, and castles, and grey skies, and rosy cheeked people playing instruments in pubs and on street corners. He even had his mother bake homemade Irish soda bread for the class and he brought in a boombox that played a CD of Van Morrison with the Chieftains. And when I ate of the bread and drank deep the sounds of that album, my blood turned green and my heart beat with the rhythm of "Cockles and Mussels (Alive-Alive-Oh!)"

And, indeed, I felt alive. That was the moment I decided I wanted to live in Ireland for the rest of my life. Of course, when my grandmother on my mother's side informed me that my blood is MOSTLY Irish, that only added fuel to the fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few years ago, I was surfing YouTube and found a video made by my (now) friend, Kyle Holland.

My heart was so broken by the interviewees that I embedded to the video to my MySpace and urged all my friends to join me in intercession and prayer for the country. I was surprised, a few days later, when Kyle emailed me and asked me about my desire to move to the country. I was even more surprised when I told my pastor about the email and found out that my pastor actually had known Kyle for quite a while. They went to a ministry training called Maranatha! together.

That was in 2006 or '07. Ever since I've been assuring Kyle that I've wanted to come to Youghal (the city he lives in) and help him with church plants, by leading worship or whatever. Sadly, that has yet to happen. It seems that whenever I have the opportunity to go, the opportunity gets dashed against the rocks. Everytime I save up enough money to go, I have to spend it on something; whenever I have time to go, I get a job; whenever I earn time to take off work, I get laid off and lose all the money I'd been saving up on trying to survive. It's always something.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For the past week or so, Ireland has, once again, been on my heart and mind, so I've been praying for the country and trying to get caught up on recent news. Then, Ireland started coming up in everyday conversation with friends. Then, I started receiving an Irish e-newsletter in my email that I never renewed my subscription for and stopped receiving about a year ago. After all that, Kyle sent me a comment on Facebook that simply asked, "What are your plans now?"

Could all these occurrences by coincidences?

Ireland has never left my mind; I want to go there now just as much as I always have, if not moreso. However, now, unlike my teenage years or my college years, I have responsibilities -- I have bills to pay, careers to pursue and jobs to work. And, right now, I'm in the running for a very good job in Chicago. In fact, I'm the forerunner for the position. And this isn't just some job -- it's a legitimate career that has amazing pay and great benefits. And, if I got it, I'd be able to fulfill my other life-long dream of moving to Chicago.

And there, as the Bard says, lies the rub.

I am torn between two dreams.