Day 31 – I’ll Try It

Last year’s Slice of Life was far easier. I kinda had a plan for what I wanted to write daily. This year; however, I went in with zero ideas and let the wind take me where it pleased. The results, I found, were much better and pushed me as a writer.

I started with some pretty heartfelt posts about family and how we care for each other in this country. I try not to get political in writing because I don’t want to offend anybody, but, frankly, as we look what has happened since everyone went into lock down I don’t feel bad about anything I’ve written. The government is currently handing out cash like it’s Monopoly money and if you still truly think that things like Medicare-for-All/tuition free college/student debt elimination/etc. aren’t possible because of cost, you haven’t been paying attention to anything. We could have had all these things for years, but the truth is unless someone is making ungodly amounts of profit off of that human suffering nothing is going to be done. Right now there is a hospital in Philadelphia that’s not being used IN A PANDEMIC because the owner of it wants millions of dollars. We have to do better as a nation and demand that all human beings are treated like human beings and not something to profit off of.

I tried out fiction for the first time. That was weird, but oddly satisfying. I’ll probably try it again next year and include some dialogue. I tried out second person, which was uncomfortable at first. I still don’t understand the appeal to it, but I can respect those that write in that format. It definitely uses a different part of the writing brain. I tried getting better at writing with more descriptions and painting a picture for my reader. I need to do more of this. I also recommended some music that I love. I even wrote about making a recipe! I tried not to put too much of a terrible story that my reader had to get through before actually finding what they originally wanted.

Writing can be very liberating. Sharing yourself through the written language in hopes that your reader learns a little bit about you, hoping your point is clear and concise, making someone laugh and that the joke landed, or just being able to get someone out of the current world around them. It’s all very appealing. I’ll definitely be back for Round 3 next year. Until then, stay safe, try something new (unless its going outside… don’t do that) and tell those around you that you love them.

Day 30 – Binge Worthy

If you, like me, don’t know what a Tiger King and don’t want to know what a Tiger King is, I have some recommendations for your eyes that won’t make you question how we’ve existed as a country for as long as we have. My friends, we are living in a golden age of television. Every streaming service is putting out some genuinely good TV shows. Don’t feel bad about not reading that book you’ve been meaning to. We’re in a pandemic! So sit down. Relax. Throw on one of these shows. I promise you’ll enjoy them! 

AMAZON

Fleabag: A show that deserves every single award it has won so far and should continue to win. It is brilliantly written, directed, and acted. It will give you all the feels and make you laugh incredibly hard as it follows the misadventures of the main character. It is one of the few shows where I don’t grow to despise the character. 

Catastrophe: Another BBC show that is heartfelt and hilarious as it follows an American man living in England that decides to stay with a woman he hardly knew, but happened to have a baby with. The seasons are short, but packed full of depth that will leave you wanting more. Side note: if you are on Twitter and not following Rob Delaney, you need to be. He also wrote an incredibly funny book that will leave you chuckling to yourself on every page. 

The Boys: If you can’t handle dark humor, skip this one. It is gruesome and bloody, but you will laugh. It is based on the comic of the same name by Garth Ennis. It captures the essence of the characters perfectly, but the story is much different and, quite frankly, has little impact on how wonderful this show is. It shows the secret side of superheroes and what happens when they are really just bad people. 

Netflix 

Kingdom: Do you like zombies? Are you craving a storyline that rivals Game of Thrones? Look no more! I watched with subtitles in Korean, but a co-worker said the English Dub wasn’t too bad. There is some truly stunning camera work that goes on in this show. The characters are hilarious, but try not to get too attached. And can we talk about those hats?! 

Last Kingdom: I swear I’m not just on a kick for shows with kingdom in it! This follows Uhtred son of Uhtred who is captured as a young boy by Vikings and lives with them. Another show with great characters and misadventures. When are they going to release season 4?! 

Hulu

Atlanta: This is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. Every episode is original and impressive. An amazing cast with some truly amazing dialogue. You will not regret watching this.

Day 29 – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

I’m on a music kick so buckle up for another music recommendation. Today, I will be writing about musician Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes. He has unorthodox vocals so you’re either going to appreciate him for what it is or immediately turn it off and shake your fist in the air cursing my name. As someone with a hearing loss, lyrics are an important factor in whether or not I am going to enjoy a band. I only have limited hearing left in my life (especially working with young children who seem to lack volume control) so I want to make sure my ears are enjoying all they can before I am reduced to yelling, “WHAT?!” more often than I already do. Conor Oberst is masterful at telling a story and getting you to feel what he is conveying. Bright Eyes is one of those bands that can suck you into any mood because the lyrics and sounds capture it so well. I don’t know a band that does it better! My good friend, Quinten, used to tease me about listening to “Emo-Music”, but I think he was just jealous he couldn’t pull off a white-studded belt… that and one human can only take Chevelle’s “Send The Pain Below.” 

All of the albums on the discography are solid, but my favorite is “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning”. It opens with one of my all time favorite songs “At the Bottom of Everything” and follows it with nine more incredible songs that are each unique and different. Most people have probably heard the song “First Day of My Life”, which I believe has appeared in a few commercials and soundtracks. Listen to the whole thing through as it will take you through a roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. Gah, I just love this album! Give it a listen and let me know what you think. 

Day 28 – The Stable Song

In these times of trouble, we all need a destressor or some way to get us out of the funk that is creeping into our daily lives. People turn to meditation, mindfulness practices, hobbies, binge watching, music, or nonstop Animal Crossing. Music can be a powerful tool that can fill us with all sorts of emotion like calmness and relaxation. For me, my go-to musician of choice is Gregory Alan Isakov, particularly his album “Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony.” 

My favorite place in the entire world is my grandparents’ cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the UP). The greatest feeling in the world is sitting by a campfire after a helping of s’mores staring up at all the stars letting your body relax after a day of kayaking, fishing, and hiking. The only sounds hitting your ears are the pop of a log in the fire, the croaks of frogs in the distance, the wind working its way through the trees, and, on a good night, the howl of a wolf. 

Gregory Alan Isakov’s music is the only music that can generate that feeling for me. Hailing from Colorado, a state full of national parks, he captures that sound/feeling well. I first heard his music with him opening for one of my favorite musicians, Josh Ritter. The concert was in this old church in Chicago and I was just blown away watching this violinist wreck his bow playing with passion. You could see that the four men on stage were passionate about their music and loved it. I left that concert with a new favorite musician and have now seen him play four times. Each show was as incredible as the previous one. 

Like yesterday’s blog post, I recommend cranking that music up as loud as your eardrums will let you tolerate. Every string is struck deliberately and gracefully harmonizing in a way that will send vibrations of calm into your body. The lyrics are full of poetry that paints a wonderful story. The combination of every note, voice, pluck and strum hits its intended target. 

My favorite song off of the album is “Liars”. The drop and launch in the song thrusts your heart into motion when the sound waves hit your ears. Give it a listen and enjoy the rest of the album. I promise you you’ll love this one no matter what your taste of music is.

Day 27 – Love & Hate

Have you ever experienced that album that you feel more than you hear it? I’m not talking about the “Boy, this song makes me want to jump up and dance!” or the “This album makes me think of ma and pa” feeling.  I’m talking about the feeling that sinks into your bones and transcends you to the edges of the universe where there is nothing but the blackness and molecules beginning to clump together to form nebulas and planets. The kind of music that makes you stare into the sky and makes you feel like you’re THERE and NOT here. 

The album that you crank up as loud as your sense of knowing when it can cause “long term damage of hearing” levels, but not quite because you’re an adult with a mortgage and the thought of buying hearing aids your insurance doesn’t cover gives you pause. The album you let wash over you like the pounding waves of an ocean beating down on a rock turning it into sand over the years. Yeah? You got that album in your mind and can feel the neurons in your brain making the synapses fire on all cylinders to remember that feeling of hearing it for the first time. Good. 


For me, that album is Michael Kiwanuka’s “Love & Hate” from 2016. I’m not sure I’ve experienced an album quite like this since I first really listened, not to be confused with heard,  to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” in college . The opening track “Cold Little Heart” is a ten minute thing of beauty. The first five minutes and three seconds gives “The Great Gig in the Sky” a run for its money in terms of pure, lyricless joy. Then, you just let Kiwanuka’s graveled voice and words carry you off into the waves of the song and, in all reality, the rest of the album. The first time you listen to it, you probably won’t even hear the lyrics; the first time or maybe even the second. You’re just going to let the music do its thing. This is one of the albums where you won’t skip a single track, because it would be like editing out a scene from your favorite movie. It all melds perfectly and seamlessly together into an album you’ll never tire of. As you kick off your weekend and are wondering what you want to listen to as you unwind your day, I highly recommend checking out “Love & Hate”. You may love it. You may hate it. But you will not regret it. Enjoy!

Day 26 – Hidden Messages

Growing up I didn’t have cable so I missed out on a lot of cartoons everyone else got to enjoy: Rugrats, Ah! Real Monsters, Ren and Stimpy, Hey Arnold!, Jimmy Neutron, and Sponge Bob. I had to entertain myself the old fashioned way: a hoop and a stick and a library card. Now that I’m older, and came into a hefty amount of free time and streaming services, I began re-watching some of these cartoons with my wife. The one we are currently watching is Sponge Bob Square Pants. If you don’t know Sponge Bob, it follows the follies of a sponge and his best friend, a starfish, named Patrick. Sponge Bob works at a fast food restaurant called The Krusty Krab.

After a few episodes in, I’ve noticed some particularly startling things. The manager of the restaurant, Mr. Krab, forces his employees to work for low pay and increasingly long hours. He sometimes forces his employees to work jeopardizing their health in the name of profit. One might think that this is merely just mimicking real life, which it is, but there is another crucial correlation to the mindset of the youth who watched this cartoon growing up and their current political views.

An overwhelming majority of Millennials and Gen-Z support presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism. They support the right to unionize (standing up to abusive bosses like Mr. Krabs) and believe things like tuition free schooling, rent control, universal healthcare, equality, and that humans cause climate change (much like Bikini Bottom in Sponge Bob was caused due to nuclear testing during WW2). Maybe my brain has been quarantined for too long or maybe… maybe this all makes perfect sense! Anyways, regardless of hidden messages, the jokes on Sponge Bob are top notch and I highly recommend it if you’ve never seen it. Or maybe… maybe I’ve been quarantined for too long. *Insert Sponge Bob meme here*

Day 25 – Hairy Instant Potter and the Chamber of Recipes

My wife is a pastry chef. I know. Life is good! She cooks amazing food! That’s how I got this hard-earned dad-bod. She loves cooking so much that she does it for both a living and then likes to come home and cook for me… NOT!

I, surprisingly, do most of the cooking. I started as a griller. Hot dogs, brats, grilled veggies, different marinated chicken, and different marinated steaks. From there, I upgraded to making stuffed burgers, I make a pretty mean jalapeno popper burger. To making sliders like the chorizo slider topped with manchego cheese and guacamole. Then I moved onto different cuts of steak like a hanger steak with some chimichurri sauce (pairs well with a caipirinha). But grilling doesn’t let you cook year long in a midwestern climate that likes to throw -40 degree days your way.

That’s where the Instant Pot comes in. What a game changer! If you’re like me, when that crisp fall air hits, you know what season it really is… soup season!!! It’s a soup-er time to be alive and in possession of an Instant Pot and an immersion blender. Hadn’t planned ahead what you want to eat but you’ve got a butternut squash on the counter? Boom! Ginger-sriracha butternut squash soup! You don’t have a lot of time to cook out a lavish meal, but have some veggies and tofu around? Bam! A nice vegetarian curry is done in twenty minutes. Even though it can cook rice, the Instant Pot pairs well with a rice cooker so I highly recommend investing in both to cut down on time.

As you can see, I love my Instant Pot as it allows for me, a regular old bearded dude with zero cooking skills, to become a 1 Michelin Tire Star Chefboyardee. It allows me to cook meals with relative ease and impress those who try my food. Below you will find my wife’s favorite meal: “Barba”coa Tacos

Barba”coa Taco Recipe

Ingredients:

For Liquid Combine the following in a bowl – 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, 2 tbs lime juice, as much garlic as you prefer but at least 4 cloves worth, 1 minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce diced, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/2 cup of beef stock, and 2 bay leaves

For Meat: Wait for the sale to go on at your local grocery store and pick up a chuck roast no more than 3 pounds (base it on the size of your family – for the two of us a 2 pounder gives leftovers). Chop these into manageable chunks. Don’t worry about size or shape as they are going to get shredded after cooking.

Steps:

  1. Press saute and add 2 tbs of your preferred cooking oil (I mix mine up doing 1 tbs of chili oil to add heat and 1 tbs of peanut oil).
  2. Toss in the beef once it’s heated and brown the beef on all sides. Hit cancel when you’re done.
  3. Pour the liquid mix above into the pot. Give it a good swirl to even out ingredients.
  4. Put on the lid and flip to sealing. Hit the Pressure Cook button and set for 30 minutes. When it’s done, wait for the pressure to naturally release.
  5. After pressure is gone, shred that meat up and put it onto whatever means of transport you want: hard shell, soft shell, corn or flour to make a burrito, or Chipotle style rice bowl (mix the rice with cilantro and lime juice for an extra flavor punch). Top the beef with some cotija cheese or whatever you like to put on your tacos. You’re going to get enough flavor from the beef.
  6. Enjoy!

Recipe is modified from “How to Instant Pot” by Daniel Shumski. This book has so many good recipes, I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, this book should be available to you for free in your Kindle App.

Day 24 – SMH

My colleague and very good friend had asked me if I had seen the news lately. I had been avoiding it like I’m avoiding close proximity and large groups of people. So I clicked on and… what happened in the 24 hours since I last looked?! So I decided to take a trip down memory lane to piece it all together:

Remember when the Supreme Court said that corporations were people?

Remember when the Supreme Court said that those “people” could donate unlimited amounts of money to political candidates because #FreeSpeech?

Remember when those corporations found a way to make real people “free lance” so they didn’t have to pay them health insurance?

Remember how corporations said that living wages weren’t doable because they couldn’t afford it, but states that pushed through with a higher hourly law were doing fantastic?

Remember how they tried to justify the low pay as “unskilled” labor and we now rely heavily on that labor to provide us with basic necessities during a pandemic? #EssentialWorkers

Remember how corporations would tell people that they should have money saved up for a rainy day to weather any storm, but as soon as their workers are ordered to stay home, they were crying for a bailout?

Which leads us to the present, the President of the United States of America is now calling for people to sacrifice themselves and their families well-being so that the corporations’ stocks can feel a little better (as if the trillions pumped in haven’t been enough).

Meanwhile across the pond, European nations with their nationalized healthcare systems (no oversized bills for coronavirus tests for their citizens), their governments are guaranteeing citizens up to 90% of their income while they are out of work, mortgage/rent payments are frozen, and their police officers are serenading citizens stuck in their homes. Even Venezuela (or as some call it, “VENEZUELAAAAAAAA!!!!!” while shaking their fists at the sky) is freezing these payments.

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’m going back to not watching the news for the foreseeable future. I’ll poke my head out of my burrow every once in a while to see if spring has come early, but until then… stay safe, everyone.

Day 23 – A Snowy Day

“bUt It’S sPrInG!”, I can hear the voices cry out from behind their quarantined doors as they gaze through their windows. While most people may think that, my birthday is in a few days and quite a few of them have been spent building snowmen. Looking out today makes me think fondly of one particular birthday I had. I wish I could tell you how old I was, but the truth is my memory, when it comes to my youth, is absolute garbage. I do remember, however, that my parents let me have a sleep over. I remember the taste of the garlicky naan that my friend Anuj brought over since I expressed such joy at lunch the first time he shared it with me at school. We watched old scary movies and stayed up well into the early morning hours. My mother then made us my favorite breakfast, french toast, before piling us into the purple Dodge Caravan and driving us off to my favorite place in the world: Brookfield Zoo. I know this zoo like the back of my hand and could list facts about every animal that we passed. If you had told me then that I would get married there later in life, I would have responded, “probably.” Despite it being an overcast day and frigid, we all had fun throwing snowballs at each other on the way to different indoor exhibits to warm our hands. There was always laughter about something. What I would give to go to the zoo today and toss a few snowballs on this grey morning, but I’ll settle for watching my dog romp through the snow like a madman. Stay warm and safe, everyone!

Day 22 – The Dream

Like a boomerang, the dream from childhood had returned. He wasn’t sure why this specific dream. There were plenty he could remember that hadn’t returned: being stalked by a tornado as he searched for a basement, jumping off a swing but continuing to fly upwards, or opening the blinds to see a t-rex eye blinking at him. None of those, it’s always the one that has him searching the recesses of his mind. Was it based on a real memory or some repressed childhood trauma?

This dream always starts exactly the same. He stands there in snow that’s up to his knees and surveys the scenery that lays in front of him. From a cinematic stand point, it would make any black-and-white filmmaker giddy. The white snow and leafless branches as far as the eye can see. The birch bark scattered throughout confuses the eyes and leaves an eerie feeling in the stomach. The sky offers nothing but more shades and speckling of snow falling at uneven rates. The only color one can see is the startling blood red of the berries hanging from some of the branches. He knows what he has to do next. He’s been doing it since the dream came to him at five years old. He follows a set of tracks in the snow. He thinks they belong to a rabbit though he’s never encountered anything living. The tracks lead him deeper into the forest. It becomes thicker with branches clawing at his face. It feels real despite it being a dream. He knows he has to keep pushing through. He pushes into a clearing. On the other side is another stretch of trees. The tracks lead him there though he’s never made it before waking up. The clearing goes left and right all the way to the horizon. Like every time before this, he follows the track despite what awaits. Echoes ring out with every step letting him know that the clearing is in fact a river that’s cutting through these woods. As he gets near the middle, he stops and takes a breath as what happens next is easily the worst part of the dream. He figures he just has to go for it. With the next step, he is plunged into the darkness of the water below. He didn’t even know if he had felt a cold like this before. It would make the polar vortexes of recent blush. Even though it’s a dream, he pounds on the ice above him until letting the water rush into his lungs. The burning is the worst part, but he knows he will wake up soon. Slowly, he sinks down knowing that he will wake in three… two… one. 

A cough rattles him awake. He covers his mouth as not to wake his wife, but he feels an unusual warmth upon his hand. As his eyes adjust in the moonlight pouring through the window, he sees the red of the berries from the dreams splattered across his palm. His eyes look passed his hand as the shadows the moonlight is casting mirrors the forest from his dream. He tries calling out for help, but a feeling of horror grasps hold of his body. The cold. The cold has reached all the way to his bones. He lays his head back down taking one last look at his beautiful wife before the inevitable happened. The dream has come.