Top of the Pops: 2010

This was a really great year for new music. A lot of newcomers made a big splash, a lot of heavyweights made a comeback, two legends provided us their last words and their lost words, and a bunch of Irish artists (like Glen Hansard, Damien Rice, Liam Clancy, Sinead O'Connor, and Damien Dempsey) provided us one of the better compilation albums in recent memory. I usually do a top ten, but this year I think I'll do a top thirty, because I really can't decide who should be honored and who shouldn't. Without any further ado, here we go go:

31) The Promise - Bruce Springsteen (honorable mention as this was all recorded in 1978)

30) Permalight - Rogue Wave

29) How I Got Over - The Roots

28) The Five Ghosts - Stars

27) God Willin and the Creek Don't Rise - Ray LaMontagne

26) Brothers - The Black Keys

25) Come Around Sundown - Kings of Leon

24) Sea of Cowards - The Dead Weather

23) Women and Country - Jakob Dylan

22) Welcome Home: the Music of Ireland - Various Artists

21) I Speak Because I Can - Laura Marling

20) Ain't No Grave - Johnny Cash

19) Becoming a Jackal - Villagers

18) Together - The New Pornographers

17) So Runs the World Away - Josh Ritter

16) Go - Jonsi

15) Forgiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene

14) The Winter of Mixed Drinks - Frightened Rabbits

13) Transference - Spoon

12) This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem

11) The Monitor - Titus Andronicus

10) I Learned the Hard Way - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

9) Contra - Vampire Weekend

8) Treats - Sleigh Bells

7) The Age of Adz / All Delighted People - Sufjan Stevens

6) The Wild Hunt - The Tallest Man On Earth

5) High Violet - The National

4) Sigh No More - Mumford and Sons

3) The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae

2) The Suburbs - Arcade Fire

1) My Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West


Though I feel alone...

Day three in Evanston.

Loneliness is really starting to set in. Last night was really bad. I'm dealing with a lot of stress and this loneliness is only adding to the stress. While Aaron was in class, I sat in our courtyard, smoked my last cigarette, prayed to God for peace, and wept. I cried and cried and cried. It felt awful too—some cries feel good, and are cathartic. But this cry was not at all like that.

It was bitter, and desperate, and not at all relieving. If anything, I felt worse afterwords.

When I prayed, though, I immediately felt the Holy Spirit sit down next to me; He wrapped His warm arms around me and gently affirmed that I am not alone.

I am not alone. I am not alone. I am not alone.

"Though I feel alone, I am never alone. Though I feel alone, I am never alone for You are with me."

I miss Joshua—a lot more than I originally thought I was going to. As familiar as he was to me, he was my escape. I could run away from everything and know that he was going to be there more often than not. He is my best friend. My brother in almost every sense of the word. If I ever get married, he's going to be my best man. It's really difficult coming to terms with the idea—the fact—that I won't be able to see him every day, and sit on the porch, smoking cigarettes, and discussing the topic of the day. All of that is gone now.

I miss my brother, Joshua.

I miss Genny and Sara, Suzy and Chelsea, Ian and Elizabeth, Dan and Marlene, Jay and Noelle... I miss a lot of the people in Bourbonnais. I don't miss the town itself, but I miss some of the people in it. People that genuinely liked me. It's so hard to find people who genuinely like me and want me to be around them. I'm so used to people not giving a shit about me. Then I meet a bunch of people who like me, and enjoy being around me. And then I left them all behind. I love that I can keep in touch with them and that they all want me to maintain our relationships. I'm very blessed to have these kind of people in my life. Very blessed. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

I am blessed. I am blessed. I am blessed.

Though I feel alone, I am never alone for You are with me.



For the first time in nearly eight years, I seriously considered suicide today. I don't know why. I do know why, that is a lie that dare not dwell on for fear of glorifying it.

I have to admit, I think about suicide a lot. All the time, really. But it's always merely a passing a thought—it comes and goes very quickly; like that shadow of a thing you don't know, that you cannot know. You see it run across the wall in the night and there is no way to know what it was, where it came from, where it went to, or whether you will ever see it again.

Yeah. It's a lot like that.

Sometimes you don't even know whether you really even saw it at all. All that remains of that shadow is the faint memory that you saw it, and that it momentarily scared the shit out of you.

There are times, though, that the shadow doesn't move so quickly. When it invades your home, your bedroom, creeps its way into the most personal spaces of your life and just stands there, just silently glides across the room, dancing from wall to wall in the moonlight. There he is! There! He is staring at you from the corner of your room. He is in the doorway now, beckoning you to "come, follow" with his tree branch fingers. You pull the covers over you and violently shake your head to get it out of your mind, but this is no dream; this is not merely your imagination playing tricks on you. No, no, there really is a demon in your bedroom, and he really is trying to kill you, but he knows he is powerless over you, physically' so he attempts to lure you to your death by convincing you to take your own life. He will whisper to you, "life is meaningless; there is no Truth; there is no Life; there is nothing to look forward to; there is nothing at all." If that doesn't work, he will take a more personal approach: "Your life is nothing; your life is meaningless; there's nobody for you; you have no future." If you haven't followed him to the threshold of death yet, he will insult you, screaming over and over, "You are a loser! You are a failure! You are a mistake! Nobody gives two fucks about you! Nobody will miss you! Nobody cares about you! Everybody hates you! God Himself won't even save you! Why don't you curse God and die!"

Lies, lies, lies, all of them lies.

These are the lies I've been told everyday for a long time. I have seen that demon in the night, standing in the corner of my bedroom, in the doorway, in my closet, at the foot of my bed, leaning over me as I lay there, sitting next to me as I toss and turn in desperation for sleep. Not even modern medicine is helping my sleeplessness now. I took some sleeping pills the other night to fall asleep at a decent time, but sleep never came. I tossed and turned until five in the morning like I always do; I just felt more tired than I usually do as I tossed and turned.

Last night was the same. I was up until four when I finally nodded off—all too aware of the demon in my doorway.



I talked to my dad today. I don't talk that guy nearly as much as I should; but every time I do talk to him, I always wonder why I don't call him more often. He's a good man, my father. He's a great man. Probably the best man I've ever known (and I'm saying that as objectively as I can). I really can't think of another man who holds a candle next to my father, save for maybe Pastor Tom. He's honest, funny, kind, insightful, industrious, loves God... He's the man I hope to be. The man I hope I'm becoming.

Whenever I need help or advice, he's always the first person I go to. Always. And, usually, he's the last person I go to because after talking to him and hearing what he has to say about whatever situation I find myself in, I don't need to hear what anyone else has to say. Today was no exception.

I love that he doesn't think I'm crazy like a lot of other people probably do. Lately that's been my biggest concern—making sure people don't think I'm completely insane. It's not that I have an image to maintain or anything, it's just that if people start thinking I'm crazy, I'll start thinking I'm crazy too. Sometimes it feels like I am.

I told him all about the bizarre circumstances that have been surrounding my life lately and he was very understanding of it all. I was mostly concerned about the demon-in-the-house issue, but the first thing he said was, "Well, this is all familiar territory for you." As upset as that made me (because it's true), it was very comforting and validating. He acknowledged that this is something that I've been struggling with my whole life and he offered me some solid advice: "You need to get the hell out of there!" So true. He also thinks I should figure out a way to move to Chicago.

I found one opportunity up there at a coffee shop called Peets Coffee and Tea. Knowing my luck, I probably won't even get a call back; but like Dad said, what's the hurt in trying? And, of course, as soon as I found out about that position, I learned of an opening here in Bourbonnais that's full-time and pays $13/hr. Dad advised I should go for that one too. Again, "it never hurts to try." In the event that I got both positions offered to me, he said, "Well. Then do whatever the hell you want."

Solid advice.

I'm really glad I don't have to live up to my dad's expectations of me, like other people I've known. He just wants me to succeed—not wildly, but so much that I'm not homeless. My mother, on the other hand... If I don't end up a millionaire, she's sure to resent me.

I just want to be happy.



It's been two days since I last heard from Megan. Oddly enough, I'm kind of okay with that. Even after months of no contact of any kind, we have fallen into the familiar place of arguing about our relationship all the time. I'm wondering if our personalities were just made to clash? It's a shame to say because it seems so defeatist, but... I just can't do her version of a relationship; I can't do the long silences, the never talking on the phone, the never seeing each other, I can't deal with her infamous disappearing act. I just can't. Maybe it'd be different if I thought it would change anytime soon, but I really don't see that ever happening. She is just pleased as punch to keep me at arm's length, it seems. I'm tired of it though. Maybe I needed to invite her back into my life to fully be able to move on?

I was having an impossible time getting over her. My heart was so full of regret for the way things ended and my guilt was preventing me from fully moving on. Now that I've made my amends and we've made our peace with each other, and now that we're right back where we used to be—fighting all the time—I'm finding myself excited about eventually meeting someone else. Like Rod Stewart sang: "Someone like you makes it hard to live without somebody else."

I must confess that working in a coffee shop makes it very difficult not to notice attractive members of the opposite sex. Right now, for instance, there's a very beautiful woman sitting at a table next to the window, doing work on her laptop, and bobbing her dangling foot in rhythm to the music I'm playing and I can't help but wonder if I should talk to her.

Why do I fall in love with every woman I meet?

I haven't talked to Duggy much lately. I legitimately miss our talks. And I legitimately miss the way she talks. That Irish accent is deadly...

Mr. Raschka just learned that he needs to be in Chicago a bit earlier than he though; rather than Friday, he needs to be there Wednesday. I'm going to miss that kid a lot. I'm hoping that maybe I'll be able to find some sort of gainful employment up there so I can go with him.

Much like DeKalb, I can't stand living in Bradley. This town is eating me alive, destroying The Drew.

This is becoming a theme in my life unfortunately, but I need to escape. I've got to break free. In fact, I should probably start job hunting up there. I've been at work for almost five hours now, and we haven't had a customer in about three hours. It's really pathetic. I've just been sitting around, listening to the music and re-cleaning the same tables over and over. I'm bored out of my mind. Maybe if I had a job in the city, things wouldn't be this way. Maybe I'd be constantly busy, and making lots of money, and beating off women with a stick.

The grass is always greener, I suppose.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want this journal to be exactly like The Diary of Anais Nin. I should start reading her journals again, for inspiration.

It's just that whenever I write, my mind always blanks and I can't think of anything to write about. I think so little of myself that I find it hard to write about myself. I find my thoughts and emotions so uninteresting, that it bores me to write about them too.


My Journal

I have been writing in my journal much lately, a sort of feeble attempt to record my daily life. That is the reason I have not been posting on my blog at all. So, to keep my readership up to speed, I have decided that I am going to copy my journal entries here.

Now, reader be warned -- these are my personal journal entries. They are unedited, unrevised, and uninhibited. They are uncomfortable at times, overzealous at times, and completely ambiguous at times. But they are me.

So I'm going to start at the beginning, which only takes us back a few weeks:

It has been a full seven months since my last entry. I'm really no good at maintaining a personal journal. It's embarrassing, really. How difficult can it possibly be just to do a wee bit of writing everyday? I think I'm just too lazy. That needs to change.

An awful lot has changed since January... Let's recap:
  • I am now living with Joshua Riley in Bradley, Illinois. That move came in June
  • I broke up with Megan in March. That decision led to three months of heartache and regret, until I emailed her in July to apologize
  • I conquered a 17 year old goal and went on holiday to Ireland in July. I fell in even deeper love with the place and have been homesick for it ever since
  • I was hired in July at a local coffee shop called Higher Grounds as an event coordinator and barista. As usual, I love the job but can't stand the management. Maybe I just have a problem with authority
  • My love life is... All over the place. Right now I've got four women interested in me, but only two of them are possibilities for me—Megan, and a girl from Ireland named Sarah Duggan. Now that I'm working at a coffee shop and dealing with attractive women on a daily basis, I don't know if Megan or Sarah are the right ones to pursue
  • I have a new best friend. His name is Aaron and I love this guy dearly. Unfortunately, for me anyway, almost as soon as I met him, he moved off to Chicago to enroll in seminary. However, we're such good friends already that he told me he'd like me to move in with him. Now it's a matter of finding a job there so I can move
  • There is a demon living in my new house and it is trying to kill me
Now, obviously, these are all topics that need fleshing out, but I'd rather keep this entry purely re-introductory, just until I get back in the swing of writing everyday.

That's my main objective with this entry.


A Song of Repentance

I have your letter and it's memorized
from reading it over a million times
And I have your picture pressed between pages
of a journal composed of my crooked rhymes

And I have your smile burned in my memory
I've been haunted by ghosts of laughter and love
Because all this while, I've wanted you by me
as close as the rain and the Holy Dove

You were my woman and I was your man
and we had our moments, but we had our plans
Oh dreamer, dreamer; a dreamer am I
for just one more chance to drink in your champagne eyes

There are three things that my heart recalls
an altar, a ring, and a wedding gown
We painted our dreams upon the walls
and then scene by scene, I tore them down

I never meant to cause you no pain
and I never meant to cause you no shame
and I never meant to leave you out in the rain
I never meant to break your heart
no, I never meant to tear it apart
I shouldn't have ever let things get that far
I imagined you bawling when I saw the rain
and I thought about calling but was stopped by my shame
and all I could do was whisper out your name
And I never meant to put me before you
when I couldn't imagine me without you
when I couldn't imagine loving nobody but you
And I never meant to break all my promises
I never imagined three doubting Thomases
all lining up to press their hands into your side
No, I saw the scars and the stone rolled away
and I saw you victorious over your grave
and I couldn't stop myself from putting you back in your place
Now I'm praying to God to raise you back up again
and I'm praying that maybe one day you will understand
that I never meant to throw THIS all away...

Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 3

The plan today was to wake up bright and early and set out for Cork City, stopping in Blarney along the way. This, however, is not what actually happened.

Rather than following the itinerary I ever so diligently planned out, my mother decided that she wanted to instead drive down to Kilkenny to see Kilkenny Castle. I have to admit, I was a little put off by this—it's not that I minded going to Kilkenny; I didn't mind it at all. What irritated me about it was that I had asked my mother several times over the weeks preceding the trip what she wanted to see while we were there (since I was the one planning the trip, I wanted to be as democratic as possible, allowing everyone to see what they wanted to see). Every time I talked to her about the trip, she would tell me, "Andrew, this is YOUR dream vacation. Morgan and I are just going along for the ride. Plan the trip however you want to, and we'll be happy just to be there."

So I planned the trip the way I wanted to. And Kilkenny Castle was not part of my plan.

The other thing that irritated me about my mother changing my plans was that I had a set itinerary to see the touristy things that I really wanted to see (which, really, wasn't that much because I loathe acting like a tourist when I'm on vacation). The plan for Tuesday was to see the Blarney Stone. This, in my opinion, is the penultimate tourist attraction in Ireland—everyone traveling there should kiss the Blarney Stone. Everyone living there should kiss the Blarney Stone. It's just one of those things. It's kinda like how you can't go to Chicago and not take a picture of your reflection in The Bean in Millennium Park. It's just something you have to do at least once in your life. Going to Kilkenny, going pretty far off our route, to see this castle would pretty much disable us from seeing Blarney Castle. We'd have to see it the next day, putting us a half day behind schedule, which meant something else that I wanted to do would have to be taken off the trip. But we'll come back to that in a future post.

Kilkenny was actually a pretty cool place. It's one of the bigger cities in Ireland, though nothing like Dublin,

Galway, Limerick, and Cork; however, despite its big-city environment, it maintains a small-town feel. It's fairly bustling with a lot of corporate business and retail, and at this town's cultural center lays Kilkenny Castle—a beautiful, decadent (by Irish standards anyway) 17th century castle. After seeing it, I tried hustling the three of us out of the city to get to Blarney, thinking we just might have enough time to see the highlights of Blarney, but my traveling companions were taking their sweet time, visiting every single gift shop on the way back to the car. This would prove to be the detriment of the trip—in every town, my itinerary kept getting pushed further and further back because my mother and sister were wasting a really good portion of time that should have been spent driving on visiting every single gift shop. I kept protesting, "Guys, they sell the same stuff in every shop! This shop has nothing different than the one before it!" but my protests fell on deaf ears. So while they'd do that, I spent my time like a local, stopping in pubs to watch the World Cup and drink Guinness, then heading back outside into the rain, and ducking into alleys to smoke my Dunhills.

Since we didn't have enough time to see Blarney Castle after all the time wasted on postcards and souvenir t-shirts, I decided, "Let's just see Blarney tomorrow, and head to the Rock of Cashel today since we're out here anyway."  And that's what we did. I made good of a bad situation. Because I'm an improviser. Fortunately, the Rock of Cashel proved itself to be one of the highlights of the trip. I fell in love with the town, and the history surrounding it—such an utterly fascinating history. If you want to learn more about it, do some research! I'm sure you'll find your reading just as intriguing as I found it.

We rolled into Cork City, where our bed and breakfast was, pretty late that night (because, once again, my mother and sister wasted a solid hour in Cashel's gift shops). What also didn't help any was that this bed and breakfast was nearly impossible to find! In our travel voucher, all the directions we had to get to some of these B&B's was "Take the N17 and we're just off the main road." While driving around Cork City, the second-largest city in the Republic, those directions didn't help a whole lot. So we drove around the city for a little over an hour, just trying to figure out the road signs (which, I will get more into in future posts, are damn near impossible to follow). We stopped at an extremely American restaurant on the outskirts of the city for dinner (it was almost like a Steak 'n' Shake—really tacky), and asked for directions from the waitress but she had no idea where this B&B was based on the directions we were provided (coincidentally, our waitress had just moved to Cork City a few months ago from Naperville, IL, a town that I used to live in—small world).

She pointed us in the direction of a hotel where we could get more exact directions, which, considering the amount of difficulty we were having with this B&B, we found pretty easily. Again, the receptionist didn't know where the B&B was based on the directions we were provided, but could fortunately tell us how to get to the road indicated in the directions. She pointed us in the right direction and after an extended period of trial and error, I managed to find the B&B on my own—we finally got checked in around 10 at night.

We were all exhausted by the time we got there, but I couldn't fall asleep because I was so restless. So I walked around the neighborhood, smoking Dunhills and praying for the country and churches that I walked past along the way. I came back home after an hour or so and, still unable to fall asleep, played cards in the guestroom with the proprietor of the B&B. The gentleman was an older man, probably in his late 60's, named Oliver. We spent the evening talking about his life and his family and the country he loves so much; we talked about America and the city I love so much, Chicago, and how different the two cultures are even though we're both in the Western World and even though both cultures have had a tremendous amount of influence on each other. He was very familiar with America from his holidays here and the Americans that stay at his house, so we has able to speak fairly authoritatively on his view of American life. He spoke at great length about how Americans are so focused on rushing and hustling and bustling about and striving to be better than the Joneses, if you will. He didn't understand why Americans couldn't just sit still (he said this with a sigh of exasperation, as if he felt sorry for us—I believe he did feel that way, and it shamed me).

I had to listen very intently to understand what he was saying through his incredibly thick Cork accent, but after a couple hours of listening, I can tell you this about Oliver—he is a man that is passionate about life, about living life and experiencing as much as one can in the time God has allowed him. I learned a lot from him in the couple of hours we spent together, and I went to bed wishing even more that I could just stay there forever. After listening to Oliver talk about how much he was enjoying life by just living it, I dreaded my return to the States, where it's so easy to lose focus on just living life.

I think this is the lesson of the day that God was teaching me: don't get so wrapped up in doing, just be.


Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 2

After a seven and a half hour flight, and a six hour time difference, we arrived in Dublin around 10 in the morning. After getting our passports and customs papers all checked in, we headed over to Hertz to pick up our rental car. We got all the paperwork taken care of and paid our $1200 liability deposit and the kid at the desk led us out into the parking lot.

I was horrified to find that I'd be driving the only pink car in all of Ireland... It was a bright pink, four-valve Suzuki Alto. My sister and mother loved it. But, this car would prove itself to be the single greatest source of the strife I encountered during my week overseas.

Surprisingly, it only took me about an hour to adjust to driving on the right side of the car and the left side of the street. I really thought it would be incredibly difficult to figure it out, especially after watching the difficulty Chevy Chase had with it National Lampoon's European Vacation, but it turned out to be pretty easy.

You know—after I hit my first three curbs, lost a hubcap, drove in the wrong lane in downtown Dublin, almost got in a head-on collision with a double-decker bus, and accidentally dinged a parked van's bumper while attempting to parallel park. So, just within the first 45 minutes, I put our €1200 liability deposit in jeopardy. As if the missing hubcap wasn't noticeable enough, hitting the parked van put a long, deep dent in the car, just above the wheel well that housed the tire with the missing hubcap.

So if Hertz managed to somehow overlook the fact that the car only had three hubcaps, the giant dent just above the missing hubcap would certainly attract their attention.

I managed to put this dilemma out of my mind for a while ("outta sight, outta mind") and we hung out in Dublin for the first day. That night, we stayed at a bed and breakfast called Egan's House in Glasnevin—one of Dublin's nicer, upper-middle class neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we had no idea what Dublin was like or how it functions on Day One, so we spent a lot of time wandering around aimlessly, trying to figure out what we were going to do. After our first day of getting adjusted to the city, we discovered that the best way to see all of Dublin in one day is getting an all-day bus pass, then hopping on and off the bus at various attractions. The pass was only €10 and it was good for 24 hours; so you could spend an entire day hopping off at any of its 25 stops and back on the bus when you were done.

Of course, we didn't figure this out until after our first day; but it was good information to have for the last day of the trip, which we also spent in Dublin.

Anyway, my proposal was that our first order of business should be hitting up the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate Brewery. Ever since I first fell in love with Guinness, at the tender age of 19, I have always wanted to see the place where it was made.

The seven-story storehouse and museum are absolutely brilliant. Wonderful. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be and then some! In the museum, you learn about the entire history of Guinness and the Guinness family; even more impressively, you learn the entire brewing process. They tell you all of the ingredients, where they acquire the ingredients, how they make the stout, how they store it, how they ship it all over the world, how they advertise, how they've branded themselves for the past 200+ years, how 2 MILLION pints of Guinness are consumed in Ireland alone PER DAY...

Then, after learning about all of that, you make your way to a small bar where they let you sample a half-pint. Since my mother doesn't drink, I got to have her's as well, making one full pint. Then, you make your way all the way up to the seventh floor, to a place called the Gravity Bar—a bar with glass walls that overlooks the entire city of Dublin. And if you kept your ticket stubs, they treated you to a free pint of Guinness! So, I had mine; then I had my mother's; then I had my sister's. That made four free pints of Guinness.

Then we went back to Egan's House a little early, myself a little buzzed and all of us severely jet-lagged, and slept for 14 consecutive hours.

As it turned out, I would end up needing all the rest I could get to prepare for the stress Tuesday and each subsequent day would provide...


Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 1

Two days ago, I arrived back in Chicago after a week-long holiday to Ireland. As just about everyone who knows me knows, I've been wanting to move to Ireland since I was eight years old—it's been 17 years, and, until last week, I had never even been to the country.

I've finally conquered my 17 year old goal and put to the bed the restless, dreaming eight year old inside of me.
This trip promised to be an experience from its very ominous beginning. I had talked to my mother on Friday and told her that Joshua was available and willing to drive her, my sister, Morgan, and me to O'Hare to catch our flight on Sunday; she told me "great," but that she might ask my other sister, Gail, to drive us instead. I called her the next day and Sunday to confirm one way or the other, and she refused to answer her phone, so when Sunday afternoon came around, and Josh and I were left clueless as to what to do, I made the decision, "Just come with me and if Gail's the one driving, you can drive my car home."

We drove the hour and a half it takes to get from Bradley to Yorkville and I was met by my mother in the driveway; and she said, "What is Josh doing here?" Apparently she decided to have Gail drive us and didn't bother telling me. That's fine though; I just unloaded my bag, brought it inside the house, and waited for Gail to get home from wherever she was. While waiting, I reached into my pocket to give Josh some money for gas when I realized I forgot my passport at home. I ran outside and exclaimed to my mom, "Ma—I forgot my passport." She gave me an exasperated look and sighed, "Well, you gotta go get it, you don't have any other option."

Josh and I scrambled back into my car and set out back to Bradley. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to spare to drive all the way back there—it was 4pm and my flight left at 7:30. It would take us until 7pm just getting to Bradley and back since it's an hour and a half drive, so I told Mom that I'd just meet her at the airport. She said, "That's fine—call me with updates on where you are and stuff, so I'll know what to do; I'll have my phone on me." That's about the time Josh and I came up with a brilliant idea: let's get someone from Bradley to grab my passport out of my desk drawer for me and meet us halfway with it! So we called several people before finally getting a hold of his mother, Beth, who agreed to meet up with us (and thank God for that—she enabled us to shave an hour off our trip). So I grabbed the passport, jump back in my car, and we hightailed it up I-57 towards Chicago, driving at breakneck speeds to get there on time (or at least some facsimile of "on time").

After grabbing the passport, I realized that I forgot to grab my bag before we left my mom's house, which leads me to worry "Gee, I hope she realized to grab my bag when she left."

I call her... No answer. I call again... No answer. Again... No answer. I called her at least 15 times... No answer. I start flipping out.

Josh then asked, "Do you know anyone else in Yorkville that could look for you?" So I called an old friend, Jeff, but he was playing disc golf in another town. I called a couple other people that didn't answer. Finally, I got hold of Little Bretty Poo, a friend of mine who lives down the street from my mother's house. He told me that he could do it, but he was just getting home from Wisconsin and was still another 30 minutes away from our neighborhood. No matter what, we weren't going to have enough time to drive back to Yorkville for my bag, but at least if Bretty Poo could get over there, he could tell me whether or not the bag was there and give me peace of mind.

Thirty minutes later, he calls back and tells me that the bag isn't anywhere in the house.

Thank God.

Josh and I arrive at the airport at 6:45—45 minutes to get checked in, go through security, and get on the plane. Unfortunately, Mom didn't inform me where I was supposed to go; I didn't know the terminal number I was supposed to be in, I didn't know what gate we were flying out of, I didn't even know what airline we were going with. So I made my best educated guess and told Josh to go to the International terminal. I run up to the Aer Lingus desk because, as far as I know, they're the only Irish airline that flies out of O'Hare. When I get to the desk, I blurt out, "Checking in for my 7:30 flight to Dublin, the name is Andrew Moody." The guy at the desk gives me a befuddled stare and says slowly, "Well, that's impossible. We're closed for the night—no more flights until tomorrow. There's a flight to Dublin on American Airlines, but that leaves at 7:20—could that be the one?" "Uhhh. I assume so? Maybe?" "Well that's on the other side of the airport, so. You better hurry." At this point, it was 7. I had twenty minutes to get to the other side of the airport.

I sprint down the hallway, down the escalator to catch the tram that goes around the perimeter of the building and would take me to the right terminal. Waiting for the tram to arrives costs me five minutes and the tram ride costs me five minutes. It is now 7:10 and I have ten minutes to catch my flight. When the tram stops, I sprint as fast as I can to the American Airlines desk and check in. The attendant notices I don't have any bags to check in and is suspicious: "No bags...?" she inquires. "No, I don't have any bags. Long story," I reply between deep breaths." This reply, of course, makes her even more suspicious, so she informs that she needs to hear the story before she prints my ticket up for me; I tell her the story and she begrudgingly obliges to print my boarding pass up for me—this interaction costs me another five minutes. It is now 7:15 and I have five minutes to catch my flight. I run through security, where the guard greets me with, "No bags...?" "No bags." So he sends me to the express lane. It was express because it only had less than 30 people in it. Getting through, however, only takes a couple of minutes, quick and painless. It is now 7:18. I run like hell through the building to the appropriate terminal, and I see my mom and sister standing in line, waiting to board the plane and I shout, "Wait!!" hoping that the pilot, sitting in his cockpit out on the tarmac, would somehow hear me.

But I managed to get on the plane with about ten minutes to spare. As it turns out, something went wrong with getting all of the luggage loaded on the plane on time and the flight was delayed another 20 minutes. On the plane, I sat next to an old Irish woman who works with the Irish Catholic church; we talked at length about the spiritual condition of Ireland, and how I've always felt called to be a music missionary in Ireland. When I told her the story and how I managed to make the flight on time, she smiled and told me, "There's no such thing as a coincidence. It's apparent that God wanted you to be in Ireland right now—I can tell that He's going to use you in a mighty way."
This beginning was definitely a sign of things to come during the trip. There were several occasions where I thought I was up the creek in one way or another, but God provided each time. If you're a secularist, you could say that "the luck of the Irish" was on my side. However, much like the old Catholic woman on the plane said, "There's no such thing as a coincidence."


My Pulitzer Prize Idea

A few months ago, I'd estimate around October or November, I started noticing that my personal library was taking on a new form -- it seems that, over time, I have veered away from simply purchasing books that I want to read, and instead started purchasing books that have some sort of intrinsic value. For instance, I owned The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, so I purchased the rest of his collection: his short stories, lesser-known works from the early 60's and any other writing of his I could get my hands on. I did the same for James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

My collection no longer was based on the presupposition that there were books that I wanted to read or were very interested in, it became an obsession to simply collect books. Over the course of a couple years, my collection, which started off with 50 books, at the most, swelled to its current number, 542.

One of the themes that I noticed developing was a miniature collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels; in my endeavor to collect "classics," I had haphazardly developed a collection of these books. So, I decided, since I already had a jumpstart on this particular collection, why not attempt to complete the collection? And, if that weren't enough, I thought "I don't want to just collect these books, I want to actually read them all." And then I thought "If I read all these books, I want everybody to know I read all these books. So, maybe I'll collect them all, read them all in one year and then write a memoir about the experience!" because I really am that pretentious.

But then something else occurred to me.

This endeavor, which is a huge undertaking, might not actually be as self-involved as I originally thought. See, I knew that if I told people, "Yeah, I read every single Pulitzer Prize winning novel in one year," that people would either be impressed, conclude that I way too much time on my hands or be impressed at the massive amount of time on my hands. I also knew that nobody would ask me, "So what did you learn about yourself and the world around you through this experience?"

Maya Angelou once said, "When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young."

And it is with that in mind that I am going to embark on this journey. I'm not going to do this thing to impress anyone, to prove how much of a connoisseur of literature I am or even to simply say that I did it. I'm going to tap into the mind-expanding power of literature and let it consume me. Without any presuppositions of truth or love or beauty, without any definition and without any clarity, I am going to allow these authors, and their words, to change me.

When I told my friend Josh about this idea, he decided he was going to do it too and already has a pretty good start on it (check out his blog at http://inwaitingwerlost.blogspot.com). But I really didn't want to sit idly by and watch him do my idea better than me, so today I decided I'm going to follow through with it, keep pace with him by reading the same books at the same time, discuss the books when we finish, then co-write a memoir about the experience when we're finished.

This seems to be a more realistic goal anyway.

At any rate, this is the first of many, many posts to come, however you will not find any Pulitzer-related entries on this site. To follow me on my journey, click your way over to another website, The Pulitzer Blog.

- the drew


My Bessie - My Sweet Ol' Bessie

In a few hours, I'll be saying goodbye to Ol' Bessie -- my 2000 Ford Taurus that I've had for the past six years. This past fall, the head gasket cracked and rendered the car, for most intents and purposes, undriveable. The engine would overheat after every trip, no matter the distance, then started uncontrollably leaking antifreeze. For the past two months, Ol' Bessie has been parked in my mother's driveway in Yorkville, 45 minutes away from me, and I've been trying to sell it for those two months. Nobody showed much interest, save for one guy who told me he'd come to look at it five times and never showed up each time. Last week, suddenly, I've been getting calls left and right. I can't even keep up with all the calls!

Tonight, one of those callers, John, is going to be taking a second look at it and probably purchasing it for the incredibly low price of $400.

I decided to do some last-minute maintenance on the car -- charging the battery, putting some gas in the tank, putting some fresh antifreeze in, vacuuming, cleaning the interior and exterior. While I was driving it down a winding country road to the nearest gas station to put some gas in the tank and buy another pack of cigarettes, I was reminded of all the times I had with Ol' Bessie; I was reminded of the roads she and I had driven, the songs we had listened to, the passengers that shared in our journeys; and, of course, I was reminded that this was the last time I'd ever be driving her. And that realization, I will admit, brought a tear to my eye.

There's something to be said about a man's relationship with his car.

Our cars, in all reality, become extensions of our own personalities. Perhaps the man becomes an extension of his car's personality. This has been true since the fifties -- the greasers drove their T-Birds, the geeks drove Yugos, the jocks drove convertibles and sports cars, the King of the Prom drove his dad's Chevy Malibu, the beach bums and surfer dudes drove woodies and the middle class guys that were just getting by drove sedans and station wagons. The same has held true throughout the years.

I, of course, represent the latter of these factions -- there's nothing special about my job, about my interests or hobbies, or, really, about my life. So, in turn, there's really nothing that special about my car. It's just an ordinary, run of the mill, four-door sedan. My Ford Taurus is about one in tens of millions of sedans exactly like it. It has scratches and dings, a weird smell and is starting to rust around the rear wheel -- again, an extension of its driver's personality.

Bessie and I had some fond memories together: road trips all over the country, long nights of country roads and soothing music, escapes and destinations. Bessie met more of my friends than my parents ever did, Bessie met girlfriends that my parents never did. Bessie experienced arguments and fights, makeups and breakups. Bessie opened her doors (quite literally) to hitchhikers, vagabonds and ragamuffins and took them wherever they needed to be. Bessie was there when I graduated high school and she was there when I graduated university.

Bessie, in all truthfulness, has been the one constant in my life for the past six years. Despite my many changes, -- relationally, personally, professionally, environmentally, socially -- she remained my blue 2000 Ford Taurus. Sure, over the years she experienced some wear and tear, but she was reliable. More reliable than my jobs, more reliable than my family and, sometimes, more reliable than my friends. When the chips were down and I needed to get away to forget about life for a while, I knew I could count on Bessie to take me wherever I needed to be.

And we always got there.

I'm going to miss that old girl. Don't get me wrong, I love my new car, Short Round (he's Japanese, small and round, so I figured naming him after the small Korean boy from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was befitting enough), and maybe, over time, I'll come to develop the same emotional attachment to him that I had with Bessie, but I'm still in that tough transitory period.

Will I ever learn to love again...?

In a few days, a new guy, John, will be driving Bessie to and fro. He's a good man -- a family man -- and I hope he treats her well. I hope she treats him well, too.

Maybe, someday, John will be driving Bessie and I will be driving Short Round and we'll see each other on the street. And, on that day, I hope we'll smile at one another as we pass by, on the road to our separate destinations.


My Shingles

There's really no excuse for my not posting anything here for a while -- I've had the last four days off of work, I haven't really left the house and I've been playing around on my laptop for the majority of the days. But I'm here now -- here to update you on the status of my life.

For the past week or so, now, I've had herpes zoster, or, what is more commonly known as shingles, all over the left side of my forehead and left eye.

Last Wednesday, while at work, I noticed that the headaches I've been having since I was 17 were getting more potent, more frequent and more painful. That night, while scratching the back of my neck, I discovered a lump that had never been there before -- a lump that, coincidentally, happened to be in the same region where my venous angioma is. Obviously, this was cause for great concern; I thought maybe my angioma had finally gotten bigger, burst the vein it's in and I was hemorrhaging, or maybe this lump was another tumor! Also of great concern, was the large and unsightly outbreak of, what I thought was, acne on the left side of my forehead. I haven't had acne since I was 16... There was no reason for my forehead to break out so suddenly.

At the insistence of Megan and my friends, the Leighs, I took myself to the emergency room that night for a checkup. 30 minutes of sitting in the waiting room, three minutes of actually talking to the doctor and several hundred dollars later, I was sent home. The doctor took a glance at the lump, diagnosed it as nothing more than a swollen lymphnode and it doesn't look infected, you'll be just fine. He also agreed that the sudden outbreak of acne was weird.

So I went home.

Two days later, I discovered more lumps on my jaw line and one on my neck. The headaches were getting more severe and the acne transformed from a weird outbreak to making me look like a burn victim. The sores were disgusting, swollen and dark maroon. This time, rather than to take myself to the hospital, I went to a place I knew was reliable -- the Walgreen's Take Care Clinic. When the nurse saw me, she asked, "What do we have today?" I described my headaches, I described my fatigue, my weakness, pointed out my weird acne outbreak, she took one glance at it and replied, "That's zoster. You have shingles." Unfortunately, because the shingles had spread to my eye at this point, there was nothing they could do for me, so she referred me to a doctor that is financially fair to patients with no insurance (which was my greatest concern). He concurred with the Walgreen's nurse and told me we needed to act quickly because it was spreading to my eye -- apparently shingles on the eye can lead to irreversible damage, like scarring or blindness. He prescribed some antibiotics, some steroids to maximize the antibiotics' effectiveness and some Vicodin, to deal with the pain. All in all, I spent about $200 to have the problem diagnosed and to take measures to eliminate the problem.

So I spent the weekend completely and utterly out of commission. I was of absolutely no use. The drugs made me even weaker and numb and, in all honesty, the Vicodin didn't do as much for the pain as I was hoping it would -- I still ached everywhere and the shingles still hurt like hell. It is now Tuesday and they seem to be going away, but there's still a little bit of pain to deal with and I'm betting I'm still contagious.

But I made the best of my time off -- I didn't get a chance to do any writing, but, in all honesty, I'm okay with that. I'm coming to discover that I really don't like writing as much as I once thought; I certainly don't enjoy the process. I'll say this: I enjoy having written, but I don't enjoy writing. It's such a tremendous stress and chore for me. But, instead, I spent the weekend listening to music, reading Flann O'Brien and dipping a little bit into the books that Josh brought me and watching movies.

I'm going to miss the relaxation I've had these past couple days, but I'm looking forward to getting on with life and going back to work. I've got bills to pay!!

Thank you all, for the prayers and well-wishes.


Top of the Pops: the 2000's

Here they are, ladies and gentlemen: the 25 greatest albums of the decade; nothing byt the best from 2000-2009. And of COURSE these are the best -- I've picked them. Without any further ado...

25) Once: Music from the Motion Picture

24) In Rainbows - Radiohead

23) Our Endless Numbered Days - Iron and Wine

22) A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay

21) Transatlanticism - Death Cab for Cutie

20) O - Damien Rice

19) For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

18) Med ud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust - Sigur Ros

17) Chutes Too Narrow - The Shins

16) Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

15) Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!

14) Boxer - The National

13) Sea Change - Beck

12) Back to Black - Amy Winehouse

11) Want One - Rufus Wainwright

10) Is This It? - The Strokes

9) The Animal Years - Josh Ritter

8) Speakerboxx/The Love Below - Outkast

7) Emotionalism - The Avett Brothers

6) Elephant - The White Stripes

5) The College Dropout - Kanye West

4) All That You Can't Leave Behind - U2

3) The Crane Wife - The Decemberists

2) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco

1) Illinois - Sufjan Stevens