Tag Archives: Neighbors

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Kids And Stories

Last week my year with the fourth grade CCD kids ended. On Sunday I’ll be finished with the high school Freshmen. I think the break will be nice. This was my first time teaching younger kids, and next year I want to have a better idea of how to manage things, so I’ll take a couple of days, or maybe a week or so this spring or summer to figure out a good plan. I’ll be teaching the fourth graders again next year, and I’ll also be teaching fifth grade, so I might have some of the same kids. I’ve decided to move on to tenth grade, too, partly because my cousin will be in tenth grade, and I think I’m his confirmation sponsor. Honestly, I forget if that’s what we’ve all decided.

A couple of days ago a little boy and his friends across the street saw me coming home from my CCD lesson, so I went over to say “Hi.” I don’t know how it came to it, but we ended up talking about an imaginary world my friends and I invented when we were in middle school. We didn’t have time to “go there” on Wednesday, but I promised them I’d come back over as soon as I could and we’d build a fairy house so the fairies could take us there. So today I spent about an hour playing in an imaginary world that I haven’t visited in nearly ten years.

It was an odd experience because their idea of Mythic Island is not what my idea of Mythic Island was. Granted, my friends and I had six years on these kids when we came up with the idea, but it’s like I’m blind there now. It’s sort of disorienting. It’s not that my imagination’s going. I can proudly say that I have more imagination than most people can handle. I guess maybe part of the issue is that when we were there, there was a wolf demon to contend with. Part of it, too, is that these kids don’t understand that co-mingling stories is a bad idea, and they want to bring Star Wars into it. The writer in me cringes at the thought.

Anyway, all that aside, we had fun. We ran around, found some dragon eggs, and I told them some stuff about magic I made up off the top of my head. The weather should be nice this weekend, so they’ll probably want to play some more. I’m hoping this doesn’t become an every-day thing, though, because I’m going to get nothing done. At the same time, having to come up with stories and ideas for these kids on the fly might prove to be helpful in coming up with stuff for my Mythology.

Speaking of which, This past week, I finished one story, and am getting a lot done on another one. The one I’m working on now is pretty dark, but certainly not as dark as the next one I’m going to do. I’m realizing that several of my stories are darker than I had originally thought they were going to be. It seems like a lot of mythology is like that. Still, I’m going to try and find ways to get some happier stuff in there, and some of my darker stories do have happy, or somewhat happy endings.

The kid who I was playing with earlier and his mom actually watched my bird while my family and I were in Florida last month. His mom is friends with my mom, and she told my mom earlier that her son keeps asking her for “bear stories” every night, and it drives her crazy because she feels like she’s not very creative. Stories have always come fairly easily to me. Sometimes I get a little stuck, but something always comes along. I’m not sure what it is.

Life would be so boring without stories. When I was a kid I wanted to be anywhere but the real world. I feel differently about that now. The worlds of my favorite stories are a lot scarier than the real world. Harry Potter has to deal with Voldemort almost constantly. Frodo has to deal with the Ring of Power and the Eye of Sauron constantly. The Jedi have to deal with the power of the Empire and then the First Order, and the overwhelming power of the Dark Side.

Granted, we probably have some pretty freaky stuff going on in our world that we don’t even know about, not to mention the spiritual warfare that’s often hard to see. The thing about those other stories though, is they don’t have God in them–not just a god, but the God. They don’t have the God-who-is-Love who’s got our back no matter what; who’s willing to go as far as to die for all of us. I’ve thought about that a lot as a writer. Every time I start to think I’d rather be anywhere else but the real world because something bad happened or I might have more control, or something, I realize, “Yeah, but in that other world I wouldn’t have God.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Big One

Yesterday I went to the studio and worked on my song “Nostalgia.” I talked with Ken and I told him that I’ve been thinking about having a release party at the Gulu Gulu cafe, which is a small venue in Salem that does open mics on Wednesdays.

Well, Ken told me that he knows a guy who books people in venues throughout the Boston area and said if I could promise a big enough crowd that he could get me a much bigger gig. If I get enough people I might be able to go second or third in a line up.

Within my family I could easily bring in 60 people. I could bring in a few neighbors and of course there are my friends. Before the big event I’ll probably go to a bunch of open mics and let everyone know what’s up. That might at least bring a few people. If any of you guys who read this blog are in the area I would love to have you.

I normally play solo at smaller gigs since I don’t have a ton of time to play live because of school, but for this event I’m going to try and get a band together. It will probably consist of myself on rhythm guitar and vocals, Ken on drums and my buddy Nate on either bass or lead guitar and possibly vocals. It’s looking like we’re probably going to need to find a bass player. Also, you can check out some of Nate’s originals here https://soundcloud.com/search?q=nate%20shaffer.

Unfortunately the album is only halfway done,  and I don’t really know when it will be finished, but I’m hoping to kick this thing into high gear and get it done ASAP. Yesterday we got a lot of work done on “Nostalgia.” Once that’s done I’ll have four songs to go, at least one of which should be a quick finish. Just thinking about this is exciting! If you guys are super interested I’ll  update more on the music side of life, but if not I’ll just keep writing about random shenanigans.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Good News

I don’t have too much to say this time around. I mostly didn’t want to have something depressing as the first post on my blog.

I’m about half way done with my exams. As I mentioned, Shakespeare went very well. I just have to look over my philosophy paper one more time for grammar and organizational type stuff, but it’s pretty much ready to hand in. This afternoon is reserved for studying for my science exam, which I’ll take tomorrow morning. Then all I’ll have left is an English project that is due on Thursday.

Provided the world doesn’t end on Friday (the 21st), we’ll be having some neighbors over. I know at least one of my friends will be back from school, so he should be coming. That will be nice. He’s obnoxious, but I still love him. 🙂

A week from Friday I’m going in for a recording session at the studio. Once I get this new song recorded I’ll have half my album finished. I’m really excited for that. The titles of my songs are as follows:

Searching: an instrumental with two guitar parts and symbols

Stuck In My Head: A song about a song being stuck in my head with guitar and piano

You Answered: Worship song with 2 guitars, 2 part harmony, bass, drums and piano

Passenger: About going somewhere late at night and a friend is driving: 2 guitars, bass, drums and 3 part harmony–metaphorically about faith, but probably no one will get it unless I explained.

Understand: I don’t actually know what it’s about to be honest: Currently I only have the melody and one guitar part planned. I’m going to figure out more of the arrangement before I go in to record it.

Just Be Nice: Sort of self explanatory: I may go the uber simple rout and do just one guitar and one vocal part

Missing You: Worship song: Will probably have 2 guitars, bass, drums and 3+ part harmony (I want to go crazy with this one). It would be sick if I could get my friend to play violin and/or piano on it.

Julia: I wrote it for my friend’s birthday a couple years ago. I haven’t recorded it yet, but It will probably have 2 guitar parts, and one vocal part. I haven’t decided on the rest

Sweet Avenue: Jets To Brazil Cover: I’ll probably do it just like they do but change the key. I don’t want to mess with it too much because it’s my favorite song.

Summer Day: About a party my family used to have every summer. Will probably have 2 guitar parts, bass, drums and possibly vocal harmony.

I have a new song called “Christmas Song” about half written, and I was thinking about putting it in with the others once I finish it, but it doesn’t quite fit as nicely. I’ve written a bunch of songs besides these, but these ones are my favorites and they will sound awesome together, I think.