The day after Thanksgiving, my mom and I bought a small Christmas tree to set up on a table next to my dad’s bed. Three days later, he was gone. Two weeks after that, so was the Christmas tree.

I’ve never been one to decorate my place, and in the 13 years I’ve lived by myself, not once have I bought a Christmas tree. Of course, the holidays this year feel less like holidays. The Big Day is Saturday, and it’s really the last thing on my mind.

I’m playing catch-up at work. I’m getting over a cold, and I’m still readjusting to Central Time.

I haven’t thought about whether I want anything to open up on Christmas Day. Sure, I bought myself some new toys which I’ve already put to use, but as for something Herr Sinterklaas would leave under my non-existent tree, I draw a blank. Well, there’s always my Amazon wish list.

No, I think the only thing I want this year is for my life to return to normal. I’d like to go back to working on stuff for Eponymous 4. I’d like to have my weekly margarita with Double-A. I’d like to save up for something other than an emergency trip back home. The emergency has passed, and now it’s time to start living. Maybe a trip to New York City is in order.

Maybe for my birthday.


I made an off-hand remark on Twitter months ago that I wanted to cover "You’re the Biggest Part of Me" by Ambrosia with an ukulele. I was nowhere in the market for an ukulele, but that remark garnered some indirect encouragement.

A friend of mine pointed out that the highest four strings on a guitar are also the strings of an ukulele. If you know how to play one, you can play the other. Other people mentioned where I could find cheap ones.

So I would casually look up ukulele prices. Over at Guitar Center, the higher-end instruments topped out at $200. A child’s instrument started at $40.

Anytime I would mention ukuleles on Twitter or Facebook, the same indirect encouragement got reinforced. In short, people wanted to hear me cover Ambrosia with an ukulele.

One day when I was shopping with my mom, we passed a display case of ukuleles. I mentioned my off-hand remark, and she said Dad had bought an expensive ukulele a few years back. He wanted to learn how to play and even took two lessons, but my sister in Chicago had surgery. So my parents flew there to be with her. Dad didn’t take it up again.

It was the last day he was communicative, and I asked him whether I could take his ukulele back with me to Austin. He indicated yes.

On the day of my departure, I went to the UPS Store to have it shipped. It arrived today.

Now I just have to learn how to play it. That Ambrosia cover, though, won’t be coming any time soon.


I succumbed to the Black Friday madness back in November when I received a bunch of e-mail promotions from music gear makers. The most alluring was 50% off two pieces of software on which I’ve had my eye — Guitar Rig 4 Pro and Kontakt 4, both by Native Instruments.

Cakewalk SONAR came with a limited edition version of Guitar Rig 3, which I wasn’t really able to use with the old computer. The new computer, on the other hand, handles it wonderfully, and I’ve been re-recording a number of songs with actual guitar parts. (I’ve been faking the parts with Reason, fooling most people when I don’t mention it’s actually a sampler they’re hearing.)

The professional version of Guitar Rig includes more amplifiers and effects, but the software-only version is not sold by retailers — places like Guitar Center carry the version with a hardware controller, which I don’t need and probably wouldn’t know how to use anyway. So I’ve been keeping my eye out on a discount from the company, which happened on Black Friday.

Yes, I know I’m supposed to shop for other people on that day, but I’d been waiting a long time for this kind of discount. Also, I had a feeling it would pick me up after what I anticipated would be a bad trip.

My anticipation certainly underestimated the outcome.

So yesterday I installed my purchases, and today, I record some guitar parts for a song titled "Revulsion". I still need to clean up a few parts, but on the whole, I like the results.

(I hope this link to the Eponymous 4 Facebook Page works because that’s where I posted the audio file.)

$(function () {$e4($(‘#revulsion’)[0]).load_track(‘Eponymous_4_-_Revulsion_Ex_Machina_Mix.mp3′,’vocals’);});


I’ve been told jet lag after traveling east is worse than jet lag after traveling west. Given the distance I usually fly, jet lag is jet lag, and either way sucks equally.

I’ve tended to reverse that conventional wisdom only because I’ve traveled to Hawaiʻi a few times without ever leaving Central time. That happened in 2008. It happened last year and this year as well, but after a few days, my clock aligns with Hawaiian time.

This year is extraordinary since I stayed in Hawaiʻi for a record four weeks, which gave my body time to settle into the Hawaiian time zone.

Yesterday, I woke up at 8 a.m. I usually gain consciousness at around 6 a.m. — sometimes 5 a.m. if the neighbors clang around their bathroom — and don’t get out of bed till 7 a.m. But when I say I woke up at 8 a.m., I mean I gained consciousness at 8 a.m. I didn’t get out of bed till 9 a.m.

That would be 4 a.m. HST, which is when I would gain consciousness to get ready for the 5 a.m. watch for my dad. It took a while to shake that routine after he died, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to get up for something at 4 a.m. HST.

I didn’t go to bed till 3 a.m., or 11 p.m. HST.

I got the jet lag bad.

Now I see where the conventional wisdom is true. When your body thinks it’s midnight when it’s really 8 p.m., it’s easy just to sleep it off. But when you have to go bed at midnight, and your body insists there’s four hours of wakefulness to go, it’s a pain in the ass.

Tonight, I might actually be tired enough to turn in at 2 a.m.


The last thing I wanted to feel on the night before a flight was post-nasal drip. I was overly optimistic to think I could last four weeks back home without wear and tear.

But I had stopped drinking my daily dose of orange juice the moment I got home. With that line of defense down, it was only a matter of time before the stress of dealing with family drama took its toll.

I have a cold.

It seems pretty mild at this point. On Tuesday night, I took two doses of Nyquil — one at 11 p.m., another at 5 a.m. on Wednesday — and I slept at various points throughout Wednesday. I had hoped to use that day as some semblance of a vacation day. Go to the beach, take a drive — something remotely tourist-y to salvage what was essentially a shit trip.

It was not to be.

Continue reading »


I’m writing this entry on Dec. 7 because I’ll be on a plane for most of Dec. 16. It’s an annual meme which I’ve filled out previous years. It’s a good piece of filler for a day I’ll have limited access to the Internet.

Continue reading »


So there are these five stages of grief, right? Anger is one of them. Mom has been at this stage for a while.

Unfortunately, it’s a scatter-shot kind of anger that, when interpreted incorrectly, can be fuel for an explosion. My sister flew in from Chicago today. Hello, fuse. Hello, fuel.

My dad’s sisters, who didn’t really show much support in my dad’s final days, were the spark. They arrived tonight as well.

In short, tonight really fucking sucked.

If anything came out of tonight, it was the revelation by my cousins that I can put down my alcohol, and I smoke. Mom probably knows, but I make sure not to indulge my nasty habit in front of her. I got locked out of the house when I went down the street to light up. So I had to go through a secondary way which meant passing through the downstairs level where said cousins, aunt and uncle live.

They offered me a beer. I didn’t refuse. They offered my visiting aunt a beer. She protested she wouldn’t be able to finish an entire bottle. I said, whatever you don’t drink, give it to me.

What I really want, though, are some margaritas. My cousins seem impressed by that.

I don’t lay all my cards out on the proverbial table. They don’t know these things about me because I chose not to reveal them. I like letting people form their own perception of me. In fact, I encourage it.

Because then I can shatter those preconceived notions.


You must be tired of reading about mortality by now. I’ll admit I want to write about something else.

I thought about stealing thunder from Musicwhore.org and posting my Favorite Edition list for 2010, but my listening habits this year reflect the typical habits of an aging music fan. In short, I find catalog more interesting than new releases, and that sort of punditry belongs on that blog.

So I think I’ll expand the scope of the year-end favorite list to include other media not covered by Musicwhore.org — TV, books and perhaps movies.

Thing is, I can’t say I’ve read too many books this year, and while I watch a lot of TV, I don’t think I’m actually watching anything particularly new. Movies are a total wash — I only ever visit the Alamo Drafthouse because I’m in the mood for pizza, not because I actually want to see a movie.

But I’ll give it the old college try because my other option is talk more about death and dad.

Continue reading »


Whenever I travel back to Hawaiʻi, the concept of "home" gets a bit confusing for me.

"Home" implies a place where a person feels most comfortable. It’s more than just a dwelling — it’s a state of mind, an emotional anchor.

Once this visit is done, it will have marked the longest time I’ve been away from Austin. Four weeks, which is pretty much a month. Last year, I took a three-week vacation, one of them spent in Japan. But for this trip, I’ve been tied down to the house. If this were anything remotely resembling a vacation, I would have flown to Maui.

It’s not.

It’s me coming back to my first home and tending to it through some extraordinary circumstances. And as much as I’ve come to resent Austin in the last few years, I really can’t wait to get back.

But it’s not the Alamo Drafthouse, Waterloo Records, Azul Tequila and South Austin that I necessarily want to get back to. It’s the shower head in my bathroom, a TV on which I know where the channels are, the guitars suited for my hands, computers configured to my own settings. I want to go back to the place I carved out as my own.

At the same time, certain things about Hawaiʻi never stop feeling like home — the proliferation of Filipino accents, the fattening but oh-so-delicious food, easy access to Japanese pop music, and a day-to-day dress code that makes Austin look overdressed.

Other things remind me of why I left — Hawaiian music, a genre just screaming for its own Astor Piazzola; passive-aggressiveness masquerading as "aloha spirit"; tooth-rotting sentimentality. (If I have to sit through another Lokahi Tree segment, I might have to find a gun to eat.)

In the past, I would never consider moving back to Hawaiʻi as a viable option. I’ve tempered that outlook dramatically in the last few years, but I’m not convinced that time has arrived for me yet. At the same time, I do another spit take when I find myself thinking, "I can’t wait till I get back to Austin." It’s not Austin — it’s the place within Austin from which I barricade myself against Austin.

In short, I need to move.

I resented Hawaiʻi. I moved away, and now I appreciate it.

If I want to appreciate Austin again, I need to do the same. I need to leave so that I can appreciate Waterloo Records, Azul Tequila and South Austin.

But what the hell am I going to do without an Alamo Drafthouse?


It’s bad enough to lose a family member during the holiday season, but to lose one close to a birthday? The hits just keep coming.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She’s announced she’s taking a rain check on it.

We’ve been playing interference with phone calls for the last few days, and today, mom instructed me to tell everyone who calls that she’s not available. One of her brothers, I believe, called to wish her a happy birthday. Are you kidding me? (Good intentions and all, but — what the hell?)

My sister bought her a pendant inscribed with my dad’s name and his nickname for her. I didn’t even think to get her anything.

So I jumped onto my Flickr account and ordered an enlargement of this print. While she was at church, I bought a frame from Target and presented her with the picture.

It’s not as fancy as pendant, but she was nicely surprised. I’m just glad the technology exists to make such quick-thinking possible.