New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

I’m terrible at journaling, but writing things down is an act of making them real. I’m not entirely sure I believe in the concept of a New Year’s Resolution; mostly because I’m the kind of guy who makes (and breaks) new resolutions weekly. But the end of 2013 was oddly reflective for me — it was a beautiful, very happy year that went by entirely too fast — and I want to go into 2014 with a clear picture of the year I want. So here are four things (minus the easy stuff like “finally see The Godfather,” “pet an otter,” and “continue to avoid having to take my kids to a circus.”)…

Balance In Time for the (not-at-all-work-related) Things I Love

I love my job. But I’m bad at balancing work with personal life; I tend to propel myself into a burn-out cycle in the name of “getting things done.” This year I’m going to work smarter, and re-draw a line I’ve gradually let fade by taking more time for the things that keep me happy, sharp, and positive. Namely:

  • Spending time with my family
  • Cycling
  • Climbing (outside!)
  • Camping
  • Playing music

Spend More Time Maintaining My Closest Friendships

Having two kids makes you an absent friend. We were homebound much of 2013 with a tiny baby; in 2014, we’ll be more portable. My friendships are important to me, and I’m going to make time to stay connected to the friends I care about most (including the wife!), even if it means not starting “Breaking Bad” again this year.

Write Something

I can’t even remember the last time I wrote something. At this point I don’t even want to make it a daily habit (reality: won’t happen, won’t be satisfying), but I’d like to write something this year to remind myself that I can still string together words.

Ride a Century

Probably the resolution I’m most nervous about. My 62-mile experiment in November was mostly encouraging, so I’m going to go for the full 100-mile day. I’m not getting any younger, right? (Also, is this maybe the first time I’ve set a specific physical goal for myself.)

 

Bring it, 2014.

I’m a Dad Again

Welcome, Beatrice Christiana Briggs, to our little family. You make us a four-man team.

Beatrice was born March 27, 2013 at 2:15 AM. Unlike her brother, there’s no long story. Ashley went into labor, we folded laundry at home until the last possible minute, we went to the hospital and 3 hours later we had beautiful Beatrice in our lives.

Ansel is thrilled to be a big brother, and watching him meet his baby sister for the first time is one of biggest joys of my life.

Bea's Arrival - 285

Long Overdue Update: I Had A Kid.

I suppose I started this blog to record some of the more interesting parts of my life. There have been periods of varying success of this goal, but no oversight larger than the fact that it’s taken me 3 and a half weeks to share this little bit of news: I’m a father.

I’ll provide the details, but first, here’s some really non-insightful insight: technology is crazy awesome. From the very beginning of our process, I was keeping friends and family up to date on the whole experience via Twitter and Facebook — it was easier than making dozens of phonecalls and fielding a hundred text messages (plus, we don’t pay for unlimited text so I have to cut ya’ll off somewhere). Plus, I was just so excited at what turns out to be the most unbelievable joyous experience of my life that I wanted to share it, loud and clear. Maybe that’s part of the generation I’m growing up in, maybe I just like to hear myself talk. (Both, probably). But, at the end of it, I have a nice play-by-play journal of the whole three day experience.

So, rather than post a labored-over retelling (seriously, that is not a pun), I’m going to just copy and paste my transmissions from those few days — the chronology of the birth of my first son, Ansel Franklin Briggs.

Continue reading Long Overdue Update: I Had A Kid.

Update: My Friend Rachel is an Award Winning Composer and My Poems Get to Tag Along

Way back in December of 2008, I wrote this blog post about how my friend Rachel Fogarty had used two of my old poems as text for a song cycle she was composing. It was a surprise, and I was honored that she’d think enough of them to set them to music; then later equally honored to hear them performed at a recital in April of last year.

Rachel sent me an email last night to give me another piece of great news — her song cycle won a national competition and will be premiered in Boston with the Boston Metro Opera for their 1st Annual Contemporary AmericanaFest in May! Details are here and here.

Rachel is immensely talented and I’ve always been humbled by her dedication — I’m so happy to see her being recognized and happy to be a small part of it.

For those wondering, the two poems in question are below.

Continue reading Update: My Friend Rachel is an Award Winning Composer and My Poems Get to Tag Along

For Rev. William Childress

I’m sad to say my Grandfather, Reverend William Childress, passed away today. It’s hard to say exactly how much of an influence my Paw was on my life: when I was younger, there was no one in the world more important in my eyes, and even into adulthood he’s been a watermark for me. I’ve learned everything I know about being a good man from his example, and I miss him deeply already. This afternoon has been a flood of remembering our time together.

I recalled this rushed short story I had scribbled out a few years ago. It’s still very unfinished and breathless, but it feels like tonight is the night to post it here, warts and all. Continue reading For Rev. William Childress

“I Think We Need More Rope:” The Recap of Joshua Tree, February 2009

Nashville was nice today, but my head is admittedly still wandering the desert of Joshua Tree, CA. Here’s the recap:

Rick and I flew out of Nashville on Friday to the bright (and overwhelmingly unhinged) streets of Las Vegas. Flight was commemorative if only because Rick asked the guy between us, “Are you Rod Stewart?” (He wasn’t, but he was Dolly Parton’s drummer, and old-school prog rocker, and a part-time stem cell enthusiast.)

Vegas felt like a brief stop on the way to something bigger. We wandered the streets for a while before settling into O’Shea’s — easily the most white-trash casino on the strip, but cheap and ace for people watching. I mostly laughed at sorority girls dancing enthusiastically to the worst cover band I’ve ever heard and dealt with the bad choice of a falafel burger from earlier.

mojaveSaturday began early — rental car pick up, Whole Foods for luxuries, Panera for breakfast, REI for fuel (and a hat — thanks to the money I managed to not flush away gambling), the grocery store for $100 in snacks, and then the long drive through the Mojave. By the time we reached Joshua Tree (NOT at the foot of Mount Shasta, although we’ve seen the signs), the sun was getting low. We found our campsite, discovered that we had perfect cell reception, and made contact with Brad and Jamie — who were climbing a mountain nearby. In an awesome experiment, we discovered how well sound travels through the desert AND I had bromance proclaimed for me from a mountaintop. Beat that. Whole Foods Box Wine and steak and veggies closed out the day, and the weather was perfect. I waxed about the beauty of life on my phone, and slept like a rock in my tent.

Continue reading “I Think We Need More Rope:” The Recap of Joshua Tree, February 2009

HOLY SH*T I JUST MET ELVIS COSTELLO.

This was the text message I sent my wife and few other folks yesterday at about 12:13. I’m still sort of accepting the fact that this happened at all.

But first, the night before: Costello played an outstanding show at the Ryman. I dare to say you won’t find a more vital artist of his age than Costello — he still performs with more drive and focus than I see in some folks half his age. The setlist was fantastic: EVERY SONG from his new (very urgent, very immediate) album Momofuku, plus a smattering of gems from the back catalog. The highlights:

  • new tune “Flutter and Wow”, which could very well be among his finest songs ever
  • a jaw-dropping solo rendition of “Alison”
  • a very solid and fluid four-piece take on the slick production of “Everyday I Write the Book”
  • truly amazing vocal performance on “Either Side of the Same Town” from The Delivery Man
  • “Man Out of Time”
  • “Beyond Belief,” “Accidents Will Happen,” and “The Impostor”
  • A totally breakneck-paced version of “Radio, Radio”

My gripe: the crowd. Here’s this amazing, energetic set delivered by an absolute master who’s charming and talkative and generous enough to deliver 4 stellar encores, and the jaded mostly middle-age Nashville audience just sits there like they’re waiting for a Hot Pocket to come out of the microwave. I really hate when the Ryman audience sits through a rock show (you just can’t feel it the same way sitting down), but c’mon Alice — the least you can do is bob your head from time to time. I saw numerous people refuse to stand during the ovations, and about an eighth of the balcony left immediately before or after the first set. There was even a mad dash for the door after the first chorus of the closing rendition of “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Look, I know you’re going to have to wait 5 more minutes to get your Yukon out of the parking lot if you leave with everybody else when the final note has been played, but what’s five minutes in exchange for showing an artist a little respect. I saw the same thing at R.E.M. three years ago, and even at the Tom Waits show a few years back. Bottom line: most of the time, I think Nashville doesn’t even deserve the moniker of “Music City”, because some of the quote-unquote music-lovers in this town are jaded idiots.

But put that aside. Elvis came to Grimey’s on Thursday.

Elvis Costello and the Grimey\'s StaffHonestly, I felt like a 10 year old girl. I was completely nervous in the hours before his arrival, all sweaty and listless, wandering the store aimlessly. When he arrived, we were ushered quickly to the side for group photos (sadly, no solo pic of Elvis and I in a bromancely embrace). During all of this, Elvis was looking around the store, making comments about the inventory. He made a great (and reverential) Prince joke, although I can’t remember what it was about. I felt like he was sort of shopping the whole time he was there, just looking around, connecting all this vast musical knowledge in his head.

We pretty quickly opened the door to let people in, so I stepped aside and helped keep the line in order. I stood about 12 feet or so away from Elvis while he talked to folks, and he was really charming, very witty, and very friendly to everyone. He told Grimey’s regular (and supreme vinyl collector) Joe Crook that he liked his Son House t-shirt, and I thought Joe’s head was going to explode. While there was a little lull in the line, Larry and I jumped over and introduced ourselves, shook his hand, and thanked him for being there, and it was pretry surreal and a little hazy, even in the moment it was happening.

When the line evaporated we closed the doors so Elvis could shop, and he spent a good 30 minutes going through the store, asking for recommendations from Doyle, and making requests. There were a few straggler customers still around, and he made some recommendations to them in passing, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. He bought a box worth of stuff, said goodbye, and then took off in his bus.

So yeah, yesterday was one of the coolest and most surreal days ever.

Sidenote: if you haven’t heard Momofuku yet, go hear it. It benefits from a very immediate, almost tossed off vibe. Great songs played almost effortlessly from a very friendly genius of staggering proportions who wears a nice hat and a scarf in April.