A weekday reset day gives you eight dedicated, distraction-free hours, by yourself, to set your physical and metaphorical house in order — to recalibrate everything that’s gone awry.Instead of constantly putting out one fire, while another rages, you give yourself a chance to extinguish all the hot spots. You give yourself an entirely fresh start, a clean slate upon which to begin your efforts anew; it completely clears your mind of all the cobwebs formed by unfinished to-dos, burdensome distractions, and nagging questions.
Through a series of lucky circumstances I managed to combine a business trip and a visit home to Cincinnati. It’s been a while since I was back in the 513 outside of a major holiday. I enjoy seeing it this way though. Things are much more laidback without the stress of those seasons.
As I was prepping for this trip a surprising number of people I work with asked me questions like “What is there to do in Cincinnati?” And since I’m here for the weekend I decided to write down a few things I always try to do when I’m home.
Drive along the Ohio River
It’s pretty hard to avoid the Ohio River when traveling through the Greater Cincinnati Area. It runs right across the middle of the region from east to west and State Highway 52 follows it all the way on the Ohio side. I always drive the scenic way home when I first get into town just to see the river. It’s best at sunset, when the light reflects up off the water just right.
Eat Some Chili
You can’t bring up Cincinnati without talking about chili. That thin meat based sauce just tastes like home to me. Natives will argue endlessly about where you can find the best coneys in town. However, since I’ve been away for a while I’ll take just about whatever I can get. As long as I have the option of ordering it on dogs or spaghetti, I’m in.
Grab a Pint
Cincinnati’s German heritage and midwestern catholic culture have made it a great beer city. There are dozens of great microbreweries in town and I’ve yet to find one I didn’t like. On this particular trip I hit up Mt. Caramel Brewing Company and Fifty West. They’re a ways out on the east side, so they have a more relaxed vibe than in-town greats like Rhinegeist and Madtree.
Go for a Hike
There’s a lot of great hiking in Greater Cincinnati, especially on the east side of town in the Appalachian foothills. I try to get a short day hike in every time I’m home. There’s a great variety of trails in East Fork State Park and at the Cincinnati Nature Center for hikers of any skill level.
So those are just a few of the things I did to enjoy my home city this weekend. For native Cincinnatians, I’d love to hear your go-tos. And if you’ve never been, I highly recommend checking out The Queen City.
When I was a kid, throughout middle and high school, I used to spend a ton of time just listening to music. I would get a new CD from the library or some new MP3s from some sketchy download service and pore over them for hours. Now it has become a special treat to listen through an album.
I haven’t stopped listening to music altogether, but I’ve stopped just listening to music. I no longer intentionally sit down simply to experience songs. I constantly find that I have to fit music in around the rest of my day. And if I do have a spare hour for an album I inevitably end up doing something else halfway through the first side.
I’m sure part of this is the increased obligations of being an adult and living on one’s own. Another part is probably the insane amount of podcasts I listen to. The abundance of readily available streaming video is certainly a contributing factor as well.
Lately I’ve found myself craving the solitary listening experiences of my youth.
I brought my phone, EarPods and a book to the laundromat tonight. Redundant entertainment to keep me from spending a single moment idle. In the end, I spent most of the wash-dry-fold cycle just listening to music.
For the first time in a long time I sat through an album just staring off into space. Granted, POST- by Jeff Rosenstock clocks in at a brief forty minutes, but it was a nice feeling. I found that I enjoyed the songs a lot more on this listen than I had during the countless times I’ve heard them in the car over the last few months. There was something about the intentionality of it that made them feel more impactful.
When I got home and put my laundry away I kept on listening. Even though there’s an unedited podcast project on my desktop and there are dishes that need washing in the kitchen. I sat in my room ruminating about writing while listening to Television. It felt like old times, even though the band’s sophomore LP Adventure was new to me.
I started my third album of the evening, Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds, while writing this post. I can feel myself ignoring it though, so I think I’m going to wrap things up here and just listen to the music.
Pay for Renters’ Insurance
Use Find My iPhone/Mac
There’s something about growing up in the long winters of the north that makes the first day of spring seem like a huge annual accomplishment. As if surviving the hell of a season with its snow and ice is enough to warrant as much frisbee playing, hiking and day drinking as one can physically withstand in an afternoon.
Now that I live in the realest state of the South, its sometimes feels like we have twenty first days of Spring. Today is January 21st, and though my brain knows we’re nowhere near the end of winter my inner Ohioan feels the afternoon high of 69 degrees Fahrenheit and just wants to roll down the windows and blast some mid-2000s synth-y hipster jams. But I can’t just take a walk with that syrupy sweetness on an above average day in January.
So what do you do when it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe that maybe this January will be warmer than the last? What should you listen to when you know the heat is a lie? You want to switch on everyone’s old friend Sheryl and go soak up the sun, but that may be a little too much too soon.
It may make sound like a loser, baby, but when I find myself wanting to get what I want this time of year I tend to turn to The Smiths. If anybody understands the fleeting nature of sweater weather it’s Morrissey. When you look at the forecast and think to yourself “What difference does it make?” Morrissey is there for you. When you have to spend the one nice day of the week in your office; Moz is there reminding you “You just haven’t earned it yet, baby,” because after all “These things take time.” Just go back to the old house, put on a Smiths album, stretch out and wait because that one warm day in January is just a miserable lie.
You can’t stop the spring, but you can’t start it either.
I gave this site a bit of a facelift today, because it was looking pretty Web 2.0. I’ve been looking for an excuse for this update for a while, but today is the day. Today’s the beginning of me getting back in the game.
I bet my good friend Jeff Casavant that he and I could each publish one blog post a week during 2018. As a a penalty for missing a week we have to buy the other blogger a drink. There will be a running total of drinks owed.
The posts won’t all be long, thoughtful or even entirely original content. The idea is just to put something out every week. I think it’s gonna be a fun excuse to start writing again.
New look, new year, same rambling. I’m back in the game.
This past weekend I finally got over a serious Brain Crack problem and launched a project that I’ve been contemplating for years now. I gathered three friends from my hometown, all of whom are just as addicted to the internet as I am, and together we launched a podcast.
Our creation, Dudes’ Brunch, is based upon actual brunches I had during my days as an undergraduate. My friends and I would gather for brunch on Sundays and share stories from our weeks; cool things we’d seen or read, dumb things we heard people say on the street and so on.
The podcast follows a similar format, with each panelist brining one piece of culture for the group to learn about and discuss each week. Topics thus far have included ‘Weird Twitter’, the definition of The Millennial Generation, music reviews, and how much Jack White loves guacamole.
I’m thrilled to be able to finally bring this project to the world, and I can’t wait to see where it takes us. These gentlemen have been crucial to my view of contemporary culture for the better part of a decade now, and I hope they’ll be just as informative and entertaining to all of you.
We record our episodes on a live-streamed Google Hangout each Sunday. You can find info on live-streams and find links to recorded episodes via our YouTube Channel, Twitter and Facebook. If you want to try the show out, you can watch the latest episode (and our back catalog) below, after the jump.
Now that I finally have a few minutes to sit down and type, I figured I ought to put something together about the last six years and what it has all meant to me. I spoke pretty extensively at the End of Season Banquet last night, but many important people from my time on Camp Staff weren’t at that event and so a post such as this seemed appropriate. I realize I have left out many people and even more stories. However, I felt that immediacy and emotional authenticity were more relevant than accuracy here. If you didn’t make the essay, feel free to give me crap about it at the next banquet.
I made the decision to apply for Camp Friedlander Staff during the winter of 2008-2009 because I was tired of the life I was leading and wanted to get away. A group of my friends from school had turned against me and were making life pretty difficult. I was frustrated with the dissolution of another of my passions (the band I had marched with for two years) and the social circles that had been collapsing along with it. I took a job at King’s Island when I didn’t hear from camp, but quit as soon as I received an interview (on the same day they offered me a promotion).
I interviewed for Camp Staff on a rainy day in March of 2009 with Lindsey Pigg, Andrew “Jar Jar” Meijer and a third party who I don’t remember. I was intimidated by the interview and didn’t hear back for a few weeks. When I did, my contract said “Trading Post Staff”, which was my fifth choice. Heartbroken that I didn’t get a spot at Handicraft I took the job anyway for reasons previously explained and went to the Scout Shop to buy some uniforms from a clerk I later got to know quite well and spend two summers sharing a cabin with, his name was Daniel Tracy.
At my first Staff Orientation Weekend I knew exactly no one. My manager wasn’t even there and so I was forced to stand around awkwardly when everyone else went to area time, until Reggie Ballard introduced himself to me as a fellow lonely TP Staffer. While we had our differences that summer we ended being friends, co-workers and cabin mates for most of it and I still treasure him as the first person I met on Camp Staff.
I felt better going into Staff Week 2009, as I had already made one friend, but I had no idea what was in store. On the first or second day, while carrying Tepee poles I struck up a conversation about the Bonaroo Music & Arts Festival with Tim Miller, who would become my first lifelong camp friend. We complained about bands we were missing at the festival and how much fun we could have been having and he told me a story I no longer remember except for its the closing sentence: “True story, except for the parts I made up.” Later that week I packed into a Youth Cabin with about 18 other guys including Ben “Keebler” Pentecost, Joel Borgemenke and (I believe) Danny Korn where, at the urging of a Staff Member I can only remember as Mercutio, we penned the infamous Camp Friedlander Man Laws.
Later that week, during “Work Projects” I was hauling firewood to Present campsite with a gangly young CIT named Bryan who was wearing a Ransburg Scout Reservation T-Shirt and whose hair was almost as bad as mine. He had just received a brand new iPod Touch and was playing “Steady As She Goes” by The Raconteurs through its tiny speaker. I said something (presumably dorky) about the song and his shirt (as I had been a Ransburg camper from 2006-2007). And from these humble beginnings came the most fruitful friendship of my life.
I returned to the “real world” in the Fall of 2009 with a stronger self image, and a bit more confidence. I had some friends away from school who I knew I could rely on when things went bad. And things were shaping back up on the home front. A pretty rough break up got me down in the dumps for a bit, but right around then I got back in touch with Bryan and had the Camp Staff Christmas Party to look forward to.
When I returned in 2010 as Handicraft Staff (at long last) I was given Photography, Journalism and Cinematography Merit Badges to teach for the summer. I taught Photo and Journalism almost every hour, on the hour, every single day for that entire Summer. Thankfully I had an excellent co-worker in Tyler “Hans” Frushour who was willing to swap with me occasionally, and quite a bit of assistance from my favorite CITs Bryan and Monica who would pick up the occasional Photo class when they weren’t bickering or finding new ways to prank people. That season also saw the development of my relationship with Paul “Jedi” Mayerski, whose acidic wit and knack for reference humor even surpassed my own. And of course, it was during Staff Week 2010 that my dear friend Bryan Higgins was dubbed Horse F@#$er for all eternity.
Through a strange form of back channeling I received a call from Bryan Pruden in the winter of 2011 to inform me that I would be the Handicraft Director and he would be on my staff. I ended up adding Monica Driscoll, Jesse Dziech, Dylan Frushour and Heather Roe all of whom made my first summer as a director a fantastic time. I spent nearly all of Senior Staff Week with Horse, where our relationship grew into what it is today. Without him I would never have made it through the transition to Senior Staff, and I know he feels the same way. The stories from that summer could fill a book: from breaking my clavicle, to having the art room spider webbed, and of course Bryan getting his leg humped by a little person. Perhaps some day these and more stories will be published in a book, but it will have to wait until I know the evidence won’t be too incriminating to anyone involved (so it probably won’t happen).
Once at the Handicraft building together (though he doesn’t remember it) Bryan Pruden and I began playing a game in our off time in which we went back and forth telling each other random things we didn’t know about one another. We spent hours just talking and really getting to know one another that summer, and at one point spent so much time together that we had an argument which culminated in my punching him quite hard in the crotch (to be fair he had already started to grow taller than me at this point, though I still shouldn’t have done it). I stormed off to the Handicraft building without eating dinner, and he joined me in the art room where we hashed out our differences, made up, and (I like to believe) cemented our friendship for the rest of our lives (sappy right?). Somewhere in there he invited me to go to church with him sometime, which was something I hadn’t been actively interested in for years due to some extenuating circumstances.
I moved to Athens, Ohio to start school at Ohio University that Fall and on a weekend visit home went to Crossroads with Bryan. It turned out to be a part of a six week journey called The Strong Challenge, which Bryan and I worked through together via Skype. His patience, understanding and faith during this period changed the course of my life. I cannot thank him enough for bringing me back to church and building faith back into my life during this period. There was no doubt that we would continue on through Skype and Camp Staff to build a bromance for the ages.
I returned to Handicraft in 2012 with a mostly new and entirely male staff (except our permanent CIT Mandy of course) comprised of Jesse Dzeich, Jack VanKeuren (whom I met the previous summer when walking by his tent and snobbily dismissing his poor music taste), Matt Kowal, Nicholas Au-Yeung and Roland Zeman. These five guys (and Mandy) were an absolute blast to work with and I grew to love each one of them for their various quirks and unique personalities. I was particularly honored to get to know Roland, who I learned had taken Cinematography with Bryan the previous summer and worked on a video in which I got to slap him as hard as I could in the face. Roland, Jack, new friend Jake Taylor and I ventured into the mean streets of downtown Cincinnati that summer to see a dozen or so bands perform at the Bunbury Music Festival, which was one of the coolest Saturday nights I have on record thus far.
As I was wrestling with the possibility of re-applying to Camp Staff, and with my upcoming transition to life as an RA, Bryan and I noticed that Horse had stepped up as acting Boat Chaplain during Ken’s trip to Georgia. When I asked him about it one evening he explained that (like me) he had been a church-going person at one point in his life, but wasn’t any more and was looking for some answers. Bryan and I invited him to join us, and we became a tight-knit Small Group that still meets to talk about life, faith, Archer and Camp Staff every week either in-person or via Skype.
On my return to OU that Fall I quickly realized that being an RA was like working on Camp Staff, but with far less fun and way more drunk people vandalizing things. I struggled through the year with the help of Bryan, Horse and a few others hoping I would be able to financially afford a return to Camp Staff. On a whim I had applied for Assistant Commissioner, secretly hoping for a pay raise that would help me pay for school. One afternoon while I was sitting in a Starbucks, Terry Aufermann called and asked if I would be interested in a new Assistant Commissioner/CIT Director position. Thinking back to all of the friends I had made and grown up with who were CITs I quickly said yes. I worried about finances and prayed that I would somehow be able to afford returning to camp without returning to my dreaded RA job and at the last possible minute received a scholarship that allowed me to move off campus and return to camp without any financial pressure whatsoever.
And so, in the summer of 2013 I led 26 CITs through a crazy year full of flooding pools, smoke bombed showerhouses and a flurry of other ridiculous incidents. I got to meet and lead some excellent young people who I firmly believe embody the future of Scouting and of Camp Friedlander. When I felt like I couldn’t handle another day of waking up at dawn, listening to leaders complain and unclogging toilets these young staffers would always brighten my mood. If I ever looked bored or unamused they would run circles around me and yell “stupid things” just to get a rise out of me. They reminded me of all of the people I knew back when we were just starting out, and how exciting the world of Camp Staffing could be.
One of them in particular jumped out at me though. He was bashful, a little awkward, but obviously excited to be at camp. He didn’t seem to know too many people when he showed up, and (I later learned) had come to Camp Staff to get away from a situation involving ex-friends at school. He knew who the Violent Femmes were, and that they carried all of their equipment on the bus. He bought a seatbelt off of another CIT during Staff Week and proudly wore it as a belt from that point forward. His name was Ben Bolton. Ben reminded me quite a bit of myself at his age, and apparently he reminded the rest of the staff of me as well. People quickly started saying we were the same person (and not in the appearance-level way they used to with Jack), but even as far as posture and sense of humor. He and I spent a number of nights chatting on the row that night all of which I remember very dearly.
When the applications went out for 2014 Staff I consulted with Bryan and Horse before submitting a PDF that listed Program Director as my top choice. On Thursday of AHG Week (fresh off of a trip to Columbus to see The Killers, which was dope) I was called into Jason Baldridge’s office and interviewed. On Friday afternoon I was offered the position, and that night at closing campfire I took over the circle from Chuck in a haze of hugs, tears and yelling. Thus began a year of spreadsheets, phone calls, Google Hangouts and endless Amazon searches for Human Hampster Balls. I got to hire some of the most talented people I’d had the pleasure of meeting over the course of five years to build what I firmly believe was the best Senior Staff I’d ever seen. Together 20 or so of us hired another 100 Staff Members to create the largest staff in the history of Camp Friedlander and the only one (since the camp re-opened in 2002) to not have a single employee terminated during the Summer Season.
At the end of a Summer of yelling, singing, microphone wielding, golf cart driving and wing eating I thought to myself last week that I could not have ended this period of my life on a better note. To be fair, this was not an easy summer. And it may not have even been my personal best as far as emotional health, and certainly not in terms of miles run or hours of sleep attained. However, I came to Camp Friedlander a fed up, stressed out, lonely dork and left six years later as an excited, less stressed, loved and wholly fulfilled dork.
Working on Camp Staff is not a job. It’s a lifestyle. We schedule our entire lives around two months out of the year. We build friendships with people from all over the country and all over the world. We do things other people our age can’t even dream of doing for less money and far less sleep than they’d be willing to. We work, sleep, live, eat, laugh, cry and pray together as a surrogate family that is always willing (in some capacity) to do a good turn for one of their own.
While we all have to leave at some point, I firmly believe that through our collective legacy we are never done here.
Oh, and one last time: Skiggles.
This past weekend I had the pleasure to appear on Listen or Don’t with Tim and Paul, an internet radio show/podcast run by my dear friends Tim Miller and Paul Mayersky. Tim and Paul are fantastic guys with great taste in tunes and comedy, and their show is a great outlet for those tastes. I was honored when Tim asked me last month if I was interested in appearing on the show, and had an absolute blast in the studio with them.
Though they don’t know what to call it, Tim and Paul’s show is a great content curation. They have excellent segments like “Guilty Pleasure” songs, weird news, movie reviews and Tim’s album of the week (which is always a treat, though we didn’t have time for it on this episode). Topics on this week’s show included: snow sculpture, iPad hoaxes, The Academy Awards, and of course the origins of the term “qurl”. You can listen to the show in podcast form after the jump if you’re so inclined.
Listen or Don’t airs live on bearcastradio.com on Friday nights from 8pm-10pm with live trivia, request periods and more in-studio eccentricities. You can also subscribe to the show on Mixcloud to receive the podcast version when it’s uploaded each Saturday after the recording. And don’t forget to follow Listen or Don’t on twitter for updates throughout the week as well as interaction during the show.
I’m also excited to announce that Tim is one of my partners on an upcoming YouTube project that’s in a similar vein. I’ll have more on that once the details and logistics get ironed out, but we’re hoping to get off the ground this summer. If you’re into music and/or popular culture and want to get on board with this one shoot me an email.