Happy Monday, From Late Sunday.

Wrapping up a little promo for the amazing and fast approaching Oyster Ridge Music Festival! I can’t wait to head there this weekend!

Yes, it’s late, but there are times one must go the extra mile and offer something to the cause. I just wrapped up on this quick promo a few minutes ago, since the festival is just four days away, every little bit helps to keep spreading the word! Oyster Ridge has given me so much in the last few years, and it does so much for the Wyoming arts community that it’s only right I try to bring as much awareness to this festival as possible. Producing web content for the festival has given me so much reward and joy, I can’t help but think of this project year-round. I’ll try to document a bit as I go, but as the festival takes hold, it’s hard to do anything but record and enjoy. Four more days!


In podcast world, Madd and I got back to podcasting on Saturday and should have a new episode this week as well. I had a big editing stumble the last few weeks, so I apologize to our dear friends who came on for episode 20. That episode will be coming out in the coming days! We cover some great movies and have a good time goofing around. For now, checkout the last episode we published, it might be one of our best yet:


On a personal note, I learned a lot this weekend. Sometimes irrational or poorly timed goals lead to a frenzy of time wasted, and energy spent on the wrong things. I tend to follow this pattern often, but a conversation this weekend led me to a helpful observation: It’s tough to get out of your head. Tough to see things from a vantage point other than your own. More importantly, it’s tough to meet the needs of friends and family if you aren’t actively listening. On my best days, I can be a great listener. Attentive and caring, generous. I have fallen short of that standard because thinking about myself and my distractions is more important. It sounds awful as I think this thought and lay it on display for all to see. This is however, the truth. I carry with me what I call, The Delusion: A powerful, intoxicating drug that drives me to fixate on a specific creative project because if I don’t finish it, a part of me will cease to exist. Rinse and repeat. Sadly, I’ve held this thinking for a long time, and its volatile nature has mangled my more healthy behaviors of relationship building and communicating. I firmly believe there is a healthier balance to be found between my creative pursuits and the relationships I hold dear: They must enrich and nurture each other. The secret is in clarity and communication.

I am vowing to be present, to actively listen, and to be proactive in my own life by making choices. I am rejecting complacency and embracing love and selflessness. I don’t know what the hell that means yet, but alas, this is a late night work in progress. Now the work begins.

I hope you had a good weekend too.

j

“Such great heights.”
Check out my original writing prompts on Instagram #icprompts!

Noteworthy 7.19.19

Friday night and my remedy of choice is tequila and grapefruit juice. While it’s been a busy, intense week, I’m equal parts fulfilled and relieved. The next two days off will be chock-full of yard work, house work, creative work, and always family time (which is the ultimate remedy).

  1. So here’s a fun writing exercise that will get the cobwebs out of your brain. I’m trying this one myself as soon as I can! Emoji Storytelling!
  2. This NoFilmSchool article on Jon Favreau was a light treat in the middle of the week. I truly respect his work ethic and progression from humble beginnings as an improv guy to one of the best directors working today. The path of a complete, collaborative artist.
  3. As I commit to poetry more and more this summer, I am humbled by the learning process, as well as the unforgiving, but ever rewarding journey of creative growth. I have a long way to go. For now, let’s marvel at someone who really knows what he’s doing, Mr. Billy Collins. His understated and inviting work really inspires me to do better. If you haven’t already, enjoy his reading of “The Lanyard.”
  4. Thank you Thom for putting out the outstanding solo album, Anima. If you haven’t had a chance, please check out the sublime and kickass one reeler on Netflix by the excellent Paul Thomas Anderson and Thom. This is the type of work we need right now and the hope of the music film medium lives to another day!
  5. The week has been scored by Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, Carrie & Lowell. The melancholy in my writing and journaling has found its soundtrack. This is such a jewel of a confessional album, that the grief and catharsis of such an honest work just spills into your own life and you can’t help but accept that communal heartbreak. Love every second of it and have had it on repeat nonstop.

Happy weekend, friends. Be well and make art, make haste.

j

In Progress on a Busy Day

Check out #icprompts on Instagram. I’m sharing some of my photos as prompts. Coming soon to Idleblog too!

Percussion & Repetition x 11.

The formula to something ritualistic and guttural? I don’t know for sure, but I’ve had these phrases stuck in my head for a while. I used to record and experiment plenty with sound, but I haven’t had the chance recently. I do want to lay some tracks down for a few song ideas which are going to become a narrative. I should add, most of the work I do recording demos revolves around creating a story-based songs. I love that feeling of telling a tale that unfolds like rain drops collecting as a puddle; constant, rhythmic and somewhat unfiltered. This concept I’m tinkering with may be an offshoot of a demo album I recorded long ago, called Headphone Music for Nowhere People. It feels similar, perhaps it’s because I hear electric guitar and noise which feels like it belongs in a post-apocalypse, like in that old album.

The Flood, from Headphone Music for Nowhere People (2009)

I’ve thought about recording it on my lunch hour, since I have to go home and see how the cats are doing. Recording demos is really the last thing I should be doing so it doesn’t help to try to cram it in right now. I should probably reserve my lunch time for self care and time to pause momentarily. I’m troubled by my inability to slow down. I can’t blame the coffee either. The mind just wants to race and commit every spare thought to developing a story. Perhaps I need to convince myself once again, that writing and recording is my therapy, and one that yields continuous joy.

I’ll keep you posted,

j

All

All of these beautiful people

All of these people that walked the earth

And the salt of our tongue, resisted

The hall of demons in afterbirth

All of these people that walked the earth

All of these people that walked the earth

And did the Shaman run to the fire?

All of these people that walked the earth

And did the hollow gram of desire

Find you the consequence of your worth?

All of these people that walked the earth

All of these people that walked the earth

You find me not in the short carousel

You find me spiraling down the well

With all these people that walked the earth

Your dream as common as prairie dirt

And I am certain it’s what we deserve

All of these people that walked the earth

All of these people that walked the earth

All of these people that walked the earth

Prompt Time!

Time to get the Instagram prompts over to the blog! Check them out if you are in need of of a little spark to jumpstart your creativity. Let’s see how this goes!

“How is it that everything changed when you came down?”

#makeartmakehaste

Into the Weeds

When I was working as a videographer, I didn’t do a good job on my lawn-care. The wedding industry in Wyoming crams a year’s worth of business into the summer months, so watching the grass grow just wasn’t a priority when the deadlines clawed at my heels. 

As I type, there is an obnoxious weed stifling the grass so horribly I fear I’ll have to start over with grass seed in the fall for next year. It is what it is. The weed is curious though. This weed with the tiny yellow flower, doesn’t sprout upward, but rather, stretches out on all sides on a quest to hug as far as it can reach. It’s a tough, greedy one. And I haven’t had much luck killing it.

If you really think about it, this isn’t an issue that cropped up overnight. This weed made itself cozy while I prioritized work. One of the reasons I left the video business was a complete lack of balance. Yes, this happens often in the freelancer and small business world, but I can’t completely blame my shortcomings on the nature of the beast. Your approach is a reflection of your priorities–Your values, passions, what drives you. I never seriously considered those questions until I let it all get out of hand. Is the lawn that important to me? Do I care what my neighbors think about my lawn? And more broadly, what do I care about? How am I going to spend more quality time with my family? What do I want to pursue and how am I going to pursue it?

To be rid of an infestation is not a short term goal. I didn’t know how to prioritize and balance the work and life balance of my life, so the weeds took over. Now I find it’s not so much about watching the grass grow, but about monitoring and maintaining it.

Usually I’m the kind of person who avoids getting into the weeds because I hate the minutiae of it. The hardship of assorting everything in your life that’s gotten out of hand. However, I’m reminding myself this is my own doing, and I must handle the problem before I resort to that grass-less Southwest lawn style. Let’s not go there.

I have to go now, I hope you have a vibrant, joyful weekend!

j

A Shine

Transcend with me you fool

you flesh and bone

I too was a carnivore

wet and eager for sinew

at the dawn of a century

expired at the hands of gusts

the sand in my eyes

and cradled infants

sun-kissed at the mountains

that faced west

She lowered her head and gaze and

i

followed without you

into The Resplendent

Metaphor for the Obvious

Say it like it is

Say it with words

You hear on the street

Unnecessary, ornate dressings

Overwhelm the marrow

Where the butterflies live

You can drill a hole

To eek the beauty bit by bit

But a brute hammer is easier

A hammer to shatter yourself

To erupt in the tragic

Our mundane bleeding

j

Night Owl, what are you looking for?

I don’t know what I’m trying to find at this hour.

As it tends to happen when normal people go to bed and I choose to stay up, the wheels fall off the wagon of motivation and I sink into melancholy. At 12:15 a.m. my intention is to polish a few old photographs and share some thoughts on Valentine’s Day. I want to record a new episode of Creative Drive because I had some things to say. Wanted to read something. I type this on the first few minutes of the 15th, as a clear admission of failure. This is a slight failure, however. It won’t haunt me too long.

“Some nights, I’d have to sleep alone. I didn’t mind, I would listen to the house breathin’. All those people sleepin’. I felt… safe.”

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Very often, I think about this quote from that superb film written by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, from the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Eagerly waiting for the movie’s release, I read the short story hoping to get a sense of what was lifted straight from the story, how it was embellished, and how it would live in a different medium. The process of stories transcending their mediums really intrigues me, if you haven’t noticed…

While I don’t recall this line nor the scene it comes from existing in the original tale, I became madly in love with that notion: There is an endless comfort in knowing your loved ones are safe in their warm beds, and you know nothing will harm them. I find that my biggest daily preoccupation (you might say, my constant, irrational worry) is making sure my wife and son are aware of my love for them, the emotional part of it, the loosey goosey moments of communicating to them that I will do anything for them, and proving it by working hard at the office for them, by trying my damnedest to be present when we’re together, and by trying to put the phone down and sometimes succeeding. I don’t know how many folks out there think about this, but I let it motivate and burden my every action.

I don’t want to take anything for granted.

It’s very rewarding to live this way, but I also recognize I need a breather. When my wife and son are safe and sound, I wallow. I muse on nothing. I take my time. This is a luxury for those of us pressed for time and a throwaway pleasure for those already in luxury. I wonder and wander as I imagine the stars beyond the ceiling of my unfinished basement and the ceilings of the living room and the bedrooms above. I remind myself there are constellations up there, always blinking.

Then I think of my grandfather. My Pa Valente, who played his violin but I forgot to ask him whereabouts. And then my heart fills with regret at not knowing enough about him, and worrying that I won’t be able to recognize his star in the sky, and I won’t know where to point when my son asks me where he is. That’s the kicker: trying to remember that which may fade away come morning. Maybe I’m just looking for one more chance to document something before it’s no longer here. As if my creativity will magically prolong special feelings and memories and messages to remain for just a moment more.

I’ve written my best stuff deep in the night. When you can feel winter creeping through the cracks in the door. In a quiet I’m not fearful of. When I was a kid and we lived in the duplex, I slept in the living room, and I stayed up late reading Stephen King, recording tracks, and scheming stories to capture on that bulky VHS camcorder in the closet under the stairs. This story might be quite common, but perhaps I’m looking to find that stillness once again. Maybe I had too many cups of coffee today. I don’t know.

Regardless of how I got to this point, it feels like I must write this out in the open because it’s okay to take a moment for yourself in the morning, midday or late at night. An ounce of time to get your act together, to ruminate and scheme. To find gratitude if you didn’t find it earlier that day, or to prepare for tomorrow. And sometimes, it’s even okay to hear the house breathin’ like a sad sack.

Happy Birthday, Pa Valente. Despite my worries, you are still here, keeping me company when I need it most.

j

P.S. For those of you riding the high of Valentine’s Day (I’ve been high on mine since 2006), here’s a little soundtrack for your troubles.

30 mph

There’s a stretch of road that leads to my neighborhood in a little town in Wyoming. As I drive through, I hear a refrain from my childhood.

The speed limit is 30 miles per hour, and nobody follows it. Most people find it a perfect opportunity to step on the gas to tempt the onlooking authorities to start issuing tickets. Between the big trucks coal-rolling and commuters eager to get home, the average speed limit becomes 40. Perhaps I’m an old soul, but I don’t like risking it: I keep my odometer at 29 hovering on 30 and that’s that! Yes, I’m likely that old sour grape you see behind the wheel as you blast the AC/DC or race to your early morning meetings. I don’t mean to generalize, I don’t know your life. Or maybe you’re okay following the rules and staying in your lane like me. I’ve driven this road plenty since we moved into our home nearly two years ago, and just recently it struck me that I’m not just annoyed by those who ignored the speed limit: I’m actually terrified of getting pulled over.

It’s a fear that takes over and rumbles below my heart and aches at the sight of a police officer. I know the authorities are just trying to do their job the best they can with what they have and they are not out to get me. I have not had an issue ever with a police officer, and I understand I don’t have it as bad as others. Nevertheless, there’s a fear that is built into my DNA and it reminds me not to get too comfortable, even when I’m in my own town. I’m still a brown kid who’s listening to his mother’s voice.

Growing up, this brown kid hardly experienced discrimination in the great Cowboy State. But I’m lucky. I’m conditioned to experience these peculiar moments of emotional recall sparingly. I’m privileged. I didn’t experience Wyoming like my Amá did at the restaurants and hotels. I didn’t get to hear what my Apá heard at the construction sites. I was and continue to be this fortunate thanks to their sacrifices, and I learned quite quickly that things worked differently for kids who spoke English real good.

Now, we didn’t turn our backs on our culture. My sisters and I were raised in a Mexican household in the Old West. Those thin duplex walls contained a safe haven of Latinidad filled with nightly novelas, carne con chile and a constant quest to strengthen and maintain our connection to Mexico. As you can imagine, this can be difficult to accomplish in Wyoming. We started our Wyoming story in 1996, before the internet was really a thing. Sure, we had our little Latino community that kept us afloat. I would overhear conversations between my parents and their friends after a heavy meal to celebrate the Day of the Virgen de Guadalupe, on the 12th of December. They would talk of how far the Apás would have to drive in the snow to get to the oil fields during the week, or how their parents are doing back in Chihuahua or Jalisco or Michoacán, or when was the last time they made the pilgrimage to see them again. We shared holidays and important events together, like a support group for transplants who took a wrong turn on the way home. This is part of my Latinidad, and the way I learned to be Mexican. 

Every now and then, they would speak of how someone got deported after an inconvenient traffic stop, and that if we don’t bring attention to ourselves, we would have nothing to fear. You’ll be fine, they all concluded, so long as you stay in your lane.

Don’t be afraid. Be prepared. The terminology of transplants.

My Amá would tell my older sister when she started driving, and repeated the same plea to her son when I started getting behind the wheel: “Todo con cuidado. There are things your friends can get away with that you may not be able to. Be careful.” I hear her voice loud and clear as I drive past the bridge and the speed limit drops to 30, and I sigh with the slight comfort that I have nothing to hide.

I drive the same stretch of road with my son now, and I wonder if he will feel the same way I do the day he gets behind the wheel. Will this apply to him? Or does that voice belong to the transplants?

-J.A.