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


My Second Interview

This morning, at 11am, I sat down with the president and vice-president of HomeWatch Care Givers in downtown Saint Charles. I have a good feeling about it; the interview went really well. We met for around an hour, chin wagged for a bit and discussed the details of the position.

My title would be hiring coordinator, in the Human Resources department, and I'd basically be in charge of hiring nurses for hospices, payroll and training protocol. The challenge is interesting, the office environment is laid back, the pay is decent and it's in a town that I absolutely love. I'm always up for a new challenge and I'd love to learn something new.

Now, to make matters a wee more complicated, I have another interview on Thursday morning with an online marketing agency as a content writer. Now, this particular career is more in in my field, since I was an English major and have done copywriting before. However, I'm not really sure I want to make this my career. According to a friend of mine who works for this particular company, the office environment isn't the best and the copywriting could be on subjects varying from extremely corporate bugaboo to wildly pornographic speak. Is this the sort of career I want to pursue...? I'm not entirely sure. However, the pay MIGHT be better. If they paid another five or ten thousand per year, I might be more willing to consider it.

It's just that the human resources position sounds a lot more interesting, a lot more challenging and a lot more rewarding. Furthermore, I was reminded of something that a mentor of mine told me when I was 16 and considering a career as a full-time musician: "Well, that sounds like a good idea and all, but do you really want to make your greatest passion your career...? What happens when your work starts to get to you? What happens when your work starts to stress you out? What happens when you want to forget about work for a while and suddenly have nothing to fall back on? What will your greatest passion be then?"

Do I really want to lose my writing to a career?

We'll see what happens.


My Trip to Chicago with Megan and Morgan

Here are some pictures from my recent trip to Chicago -- words to come later:



My Top of the Pops -- 2009

Here we are at the dawn of another year and that can only mean one thing -- it's time for the drew's annual "Top of the Pops" list, my top ten albums of the year.

Thankfully, 2009 was exponentially better than 2008 -- possibly one of the best years for music in this decade. Last year, several bands brought the party -- this year, it seemed as though artists were tired from all the partying and decided they needed to provide some mellow tunes to give their listeners a chance to chill. This is one listener who was very pleased with their decision. For those of you who don't remember, here is last year's list:

10) Narrow Stairs, Death Cab for Cutie
9) Everything that Happens Will Happen Today, David Byrne & Brian Eno
8) Skeletal Lamping, Of Montreal)
7) Volume 1, She & Him (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward)
6) The Stand Ins, Okkervil River
5) Modern Guilt, Beck
4) Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
3) Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
2) For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver
1) með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Sigur Ros

And now, without any further ado, the 2009 countdown...

Top Five Honorable Mentions:

5) Mo Beauty - Alec Ounsworth
4) I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers
3) Together Through Life - Bob Dylan
2) Working On a Dream - Bruce Springsteen
1) Taller Children - Elizabeth and the Catapult

10) Stockholm Syndrome - Derek Webb

9) Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective

8) Artificial Fire - Eleni Mandell

7) The Hazards of Love - The Decemberists

6) Noble Beast - Andrew Bird

5a) No Line On the Horizon - U2

5b) Strict Joy - The Swell Season

4) The Crying Light - Antony and the Johnsons

3) Wait for Me - Moby

2) The Life of the World to Come - The Mountain Goats

1) Dark Was the Night - Various Artists

Be sure to stay tuned for my ultimate countdown list, Top of the Pops -- the 2000's: the Best Albums of the Decade.