February 2, 2019
“Standing beside the sea, gaze out into the water, will this encapsulate me?”
The highest chairlift at Sierra at Tahoe takes me to 8,852 feet. I made a trip up to Tahoe with Claire to visit family on the weekend of January 12th, and I am pretty thrilled that my Mom is now living there. She recently retired and moved from Seattle to South Lake to help look after my Grandma and to keep her company. I’m pretty pumped that 5 members of the Donovan family now live in one of the best mountain towns in California. My Mom is one of those people who likes to keep the atmosphere calm and welcoming, and it is always relaxing to visit her. She has a wicked sense of humor too, and there are inevitably tons of laughs hanging out drinking a couple Bourbon & waters on the rocks. My Mom has a practical and realistic view of the world that keeps me grounded. Being around my Mom, Grandma, and Aunts and Uncles in Tahoe feels like home, and I am lucky to have an opportunity to live only 3 hours away from good people who for the most part seem to like visitors. I need to make sure I bring something to the table though on my trips so I do not feel like a burden and overstay my visits. I also need to figure out what that will be, but right now my lackluster contribution involves bringing Claire, doing the dishes, and not drinking too much. But, I need to contribute more and I’ll figure out a way. I chose Sierra as the mountain to board on the 12th because Sierra had the only lift ticket under $100 online, and I figured it would be interesting to see if I remembered the mountain from over 30 years ago, where I learned to ski as a 5-year-old. I remember I was so out of control as probably a two-foot kid and I skied in between some old guy’s legs on my first full run from the top. Sierra was awesome then when it was called “Sierra Ski Ranch” and it still is now as “Sierra-At-Tahoe.” Anyway, my Mom agreed to watch Claire for the day, which I now think is a little too much to ask, especially when she is busy looking after my Grandma and raising her new Labradoodle puppy named Murphy. Going forward, half days are going to be my limit for babysitting requests. At the base of the mountain where I picked up my lift ticket, I saw a sign saying that season passes were $499, and I thought, “hmmm maybe. Too bad I just paid $100 for a ticket.” Then I saw another sign that said, “Sierra will credit you for your ticket you already bought, but only if you buy the season pass today.” Ok Sierra, that’s a serious deadline that just presented itself out of nowhere, and now you have my attention. I thought to myself around 8:30 am, “alright…if this day is enjoyable riding solo, I will think about pulling the trigger on my way out.” I rode that day from 9 am til 4 pm, had music blasting, with the help of a certain pen in my front jacket pocket (I was able to share it on the ski lift with a few appreciative dudes before their last run). At about 4:30, I walked out with a Sierra season pass in hand. Fast forward a few weeks, and I come to find out that Claire gets full day care PLUS snowboarding lessons for about $100 bucks per day. That is an incredible deal, and so now Claire is learning at age 3. I took her on her 3rd birthday for the first time, which is the first possible day in her life she could have snowboarded at Sierra. I was one proud Dad, and I was crying laughing watching her learn the basics with her ski instructor in a group of like 5-10 super groms, all the while I get to snowboard all day solo again. Does it get any better? In maybe only 1 or 2 more years, Claire and I are going to be cruising the mountain together. I am so excited about the possibilities of raising this wonderful kid that has brought so much joy and purpose to my life. In large part because of her, my family, and the town of Tahoe itself, I lucked out and randomly got back into the beautiful sport of snowboarding (seriously everyone needs to try getting stoned once and appreciate the ski lift up with like 6 inches of snow just chilling on thousands of motionless, majestic redwood trees, then strap in at almost 9000 feet and bomb the mountain for 10-20 minutes or so, blasting music, getting exercise). The sport has also inspired me to start thinking about really traveling again. It is amazing how grateful I need to be for this, and I am. I appreciate how rare this opportunity is, and it materialized, unexpectedly, within only the last few weeks. I am a lucky dude! It is fitting that Locktender’s Friedrich, which came out of a random search for new music at about 2 am one night where I couldn’t sleep, also coincidentally has a winter vibe to it.
Friedrich sets the bar high for 2019 and I am lucky to have found another solid band that seems to still be on a journey to their peak with this, their 3rd full length album. When I find a new band, I generally don’t bother going back and listening to the older albums. It feels like too much work. That being said, I was pretty curious this time, and gave their old debut album Kafka a quick listen. The production was horrible and I gave up quickly. But Friedrich strikes me as a breakout album and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Apparently Locktender chooses an artist as a theme for each album, and this time they went with Caspar David Friedrich, who I now know after my 10 minutes of Wikipedia research was a German romantic landscape painter from the 1800s who became mostly a recluse wanderer in his later years. When I first delved, I thought, “ok, this could be cool for a hardcore album.” The album cover itself is all white and if you look closely depicts a wintery, mostly barren hilly landscape, which I assume is a Friedrich painting. The album lyric insert is a work of art. Well done in all white, it feels like a little short story with pictures. The pictures are actually various paintings from Friedrich, e.g. “The Monk by the Sea,” and the caption includes “Created:1808 and 1810 | Medium: Oil on Canvas.” Track 1 of course is aptly named “The Monk by the Sea” …and what a fine song it is. While in high school in the late 90s, I listened to my fair share of emotional hardcore. Shai Hulud, Cave In (the old stuff), Bane, and the old BTBAM debut album come to mind. This opening track reminds me of “Crossbearer” by Cave In or “More of Myself to Kill” by BTBAM. And that is saying A LOT. The thing those bands all shared was they played emotional hardcore with raw talent, heart, and impact. Locktender belongs right up there on the short list of impactful hardcore bands with this release. The opener takes the title of the painting and assumes a hypothetical (I think) scenario of said monk ultimately committing suicide by walking into the water and letting the ocean encapsulate him. In this song, the monk struggles with a lack of faith, and that helping others was ultimately a selfish act for him. The lyrics revisit his struggle in the epic song “Winter Landscape.” Locktender writes, “do we give up all that we are for something greater than ourselves in hope that our selflessness will be rewarded selfishly? We’ve lost our identity.” The music is so good. I remember I was in Tahoe trying to justify going with Friedrich for January instead of Soilwork’s new album (Soilwork’s The Chainheart Machine is up there for me as a personal favorite album). Soilwork should be the highest difficulty level for Guitar Hero. It is a massacre listening to how good they are, but honestly, there’s no heart anymore. I can’t listen to them after 20 years. I like my bands a bit more raw now, often with less polish. Going from Soliwork’s new album to Friedrich felt refreshing. The instrumentation in Friedrich is flawless but they’re not trying to be a bunch of mathletes like it seems so many metal bands are doing these days. Friedrich wears its heart on its sleeve while also tackling dark philosophical topics in their lyrics, and a Shai-Hulud-esque way with words. I was happy to hear that the lyrics are so well written. My only initial gripe was the final dramatic vocal finish of the lyrics in the song, “The Abbey in the Oakwood.” Locktender theatrically sings, “let us not be borne away, a mass of black shapes around a grave.” Much like Harrison Ford’s overacting in his action scenes, it seemed a little overdone. But I’ve changed my mind now that I understand the final track bookends the album’s theme so well, as those remaining must make some sort of sense of the monk’s suicide. This album also does a great job of recalling lyrical themes throughout. Friedrich tells a powerful story organized around the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, through the mediums of gifted lyricism and passionate hardcore music. This album is sick and I’m so happy I found it.
In other news for January, momma and I went back to being co-parents rather than trying to force a committed relationship again. We definitely mastered co-parenting so I am looking forward to that life circumstance again. I also stepped up my nutrition and really dedicated myself to fitness again after a December full of lethargy and self-indulgence. I spent a few hours making a list of dozens of the healthiest foods and supplements, and just started getting those healthy things delivered through the Instacart app (Safeway delivery). I have also decided to abstain from any alcohol or weed from Monday to Friday. It has been rewarding to combine healthy eating and abstinence for most days, and I’ve noticed better energy levels in my evening Crossfit WODs. In terms of booze, I think we all know alcohol takes a pretty ugly toll on the body and, after too many, the sloppy behavior, sleep, next day, etc, etc. Weed for the most part seems more beneficial, but I had/have a couple problems with it. For one, I eat way too much and gain weight. Secondly, since weed makes the mundane tasks enjoyable, I was not working out as much as a weapon against stress, and I was then staying up too late because I was having fun. My sleep schedule was a mess and weed was negatively affecting my work week. Let’s be honest, though, booze and weed can be fun, so I give myself the weekends to indulge. The balance has been working and I’m interested to see if I will keep these new healthier habits up.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I have already decided Astronoid’s new album gets the nod for February. I wasn’t thrilled on first listen, but their debut Air was way too good to not give them the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully it’ll grow on me after a month of listening.