Fly-by: Returning next week

Oh hi there! Don’t mind me, just listening to the new remaster/reissue of New Order’s 1985 album Low-Life while working out the second chapter of MU4. I’ve been creatively busy these last couple of weeks and I’m happy to report that things are going well so far, at least as far as scrappy first drafts of first chapters are concerned. Exactly where I need to be right now.

I’m planning on returning to the blogosphere next week, so I’ll see you then!

Listening Habits, 2023

I don’t necessarily hate it, but it’s annoying: the customer that comes up to the register with their earbuds on and completely ignores me when I say hi or ask if they need bags. It’s kind of rude, to be honest. [And yes, I will admit I was that same person back in my college years.] On the other hand, I am a bit curious as to what they’re listening to. I want to say it’s most likely a podcast or an audiobook, as those tend to be the most popular non-music thing people listen to with headphones. Still…at least pop one of those buds out so you can hear me, yeah?

Anyway…I’m trying to think of the last time I listened to music with headphones, and I’m pretty sure it was our flight to and from New England last year. We haven’t gone to the gym in months (although we have that on our 2023 resolution lists…), and I’m not counting the brief sessions in which I wanted to hear a new release in uninterrupted detail like the Revolver reissue. It’s been quite some time, really.

I mean, I could do what I used to do back in my high school days and listen to my mp3 player on the way to and from work (all of ten minutes) and during breaks, but again…kind of rude to anyone else that comes through the break room and I’m not up for that kind of short-session listening just yet. Maybe at a later time.

Still…I’ve been thinking about how to adjust my listening habits lately, and it’s a lot more to think about than I realize. Not just about headphones, but what I’m listening to (I mean, other than KEXP in the morning when I have a midshift). I’ve talked about missing out on listening deep-dives and connecting with music in general lately and wanting to fix that. And there is of course the fact that I’m about to embark on a Huge Writing Project that will demand a soundtrack mixtape or five.

I’m curious as to what will change in the coming months, if anything. Or if I’ll return to old habits that work. We shall see…

Happy Thanksgiving and Working On Holidays

I am working today, believe it or not. Just a somewhat short shift and I’m not opening or closing, and I’ll be done by early afternoon. I’m not expecting the store to be too busy, maybe some last-minute purchasing of forgotten ingredients and a visit from a few of our regulars, but that’ll be it.

For the most part, I’ve always worked through the holiday season, quite often on the holiday itself, or the night before, so I’m quite used to it. It is what it is. Even during the Former Day Job when business was as dead as it could possibly be, I was on the clock ‘just in case’, and maybe the managers would let us clock out an hour early. [I did have a not-so-friendly conversation with a former manager once about trying to get some holiday days off but was told “it took me twenty years to be able to get Christmas week off.” To which I responded “yes, and I’m in my 40s and older than you, and I really don’t want to have to wait until I’m 60 to get a chance at it.” But I digress.]

Working retail during the holiday season isn’t always for the weak of heart, especially at certain outlets geared specifically for it. My years at HMV were always crazy from late September until the end of the year. Even working in a warehouse like I did at Yankee Candle was exhausting. Thankfully my current position at a shop geared just towards the local neighborhood lends itself to a finite amount of volume. We might have a torrent of shoppers, but never for extended periods of time on the daily.

I’ve learned to enjoy working the holidays, to be honest. Exhausting as it might be, I love the connection with the public. In my Boston years, I’d make work fun and then feel that link when I rode the T back to my apartment. At YC my coworkers and I would occasionally go to the local diner or bar for brunch after our shift. I kind of lost that during the Former Day Job years to be honest, but it feels like the Current Day Job will give that to me once more.

Hope everyone has an enjoyable, safe and sane holiday season!

Couldn’t Miss This One This Year

The downside to working in retail once more is that I’m no longer able to listen to what I like listening to. I can only listen to KEXP on days off or before/after work. Which means that I’ve been listening to a lot of slightly tinny harmless current pop and retro tunes from the 80s and 90s. Some of it’s good, some not so much, but thankfully the level of oh god not this song AGAIN is at a bare minimum.

I am curious, however, as to whether or not the work tunage will be holiday-themed come this Friday. [Which, by the way, I don’t think I’ll be suffering another Black Friday as we’re not that kind of store. We’re more of a “you mean you forgot cranberries too?” shop.] I’m not complaining mind you, because I actually enjoy holiday music at work. It’s just the right amount of Christmas cheer that isn’t intrusive or distracting. And it’s a theme that crosses all sorts of genres and bends the playlist rules on radio stations and workplace music loops.

Either way, it’s going to be a pretty good year’s end here and I’m not going to complain.

Nothing’s Gonna Change My (Social) World

Meanwhile here in San Francisco, the social media birdsite may either be transforming into something altogether different or it may be going down in flames, and either way it’s going in real time as its New Owner experiences…er…growing pains?

ANYWAY. If said birdsite crashes and burns epically, you can always find me at the following fine internet establishments:

BLOGS:
Welcome to Bridgetown (writing and personal things): https://welcometobridgetown.com/
Walk in Silence (this here music blog): https: //jonchaisson.com
Drunken Owls and Other Delights (Dreamwidth, where I post personal stuff): https://jon-chaisson.dreamwidth.org/

SOCIAL:
Discord: joncwriter#3974
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.chaisson.7
Instagram (where I post all sorts of pictures of local scenery as well as our cats): https://www.instagram.com/joncwriter/
Twitter (until it implodes or all my friends leave): joncwriter
Hive (I’ve just signed up and I haven’t quite played around with it yet): JChaisson

I shall update this as necessary over the next few days or until I remember I have other sites that I’d forgotten I had!

RIP Mimi Walker

You may not know her by name, but she was one half (or one third, depending on the lineup) of the slowcore band Low. They started out in the mid-90s and created a wonderfully unique style of alternative rock that wasn’t the meandering (and often quiet-to-loud) post-rock of bands like Slint or Godspeed You Black Emperor, but neither were they the delicate quiet twee of bands like Belle & Sebastian either. They were a bit of both, shifted sideways into something beautiful yet haunting. Mimi was the drummer and the wife of the band’s guitarist Alan Sparhawk.

I’d heard of the band during my HMV years, having seen some of their early releases pass by my receiving desk, but it wasn’t until 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire that I finally understood just how wonderful they are.

Mimi passed away from ovarian cancer the other day, and will be greatly missed by many. This particular song, one of my favorites from the band, was on my mind when I heard the news.

…and here are a few other Low tracks featuring Mimi on vocals (solo or with Alan) that have also become favorites of mine over the years:

(This last song is one of my all-time favorite takes on a Christmas song.)

Fly-by: it’s like having a kid

I’m a bit behind on the blogs due to odd Day Job hours these last few days…and because A Certain Kitty has been keeping our hands full with playtime, zoomies, food, scritches, 2am demands for more playtime, The Mysterious Laser Dot, The Even More Mysterious Moving Arrow On The Owner’s Computer Screen, and Why Are These Doors Closed. She’s been an utter delight, silly and chatty and still exploring and WHY YES I AM LOOPY FROM INTERRUPTED SLEEP PATTERNS WHY DO YOU ASK.

She’s like having a kid in some respects. And yes, we’re getting her sister soon, so it’ll be double trouble!

A few thoughts about music as safety

I just recently finished reading Brandi Carlile’s memoir Broken Horses and this particular song popped up, one I hadn’t heard for quite a while and forgotten I’d liked. It’s an “it gets better” song. It was partially inspired by a friend’s son that was getting bullied in school for not fitting in.

It got me thinking about my own teen years, in which I immersed myself in music as a form of safety. I wasn’t always bullied, at least not to any major or physical degree, but I definitely received my share of being called a f*g, thought of as a weirdo and excluded from most social circles, and being pigeonholed into a circle of outcasts and townies where I may have been accepted but it was definitely not a match I wanted or needed at the time.

And sure, I’ve already told you about the main reason I got into college radio and what became alternative rock: the whole fuck all of this conformity bullshit, go be true to yourself and you’ll be so fucking happier message it gave me. Not all of those songs had the “it gets better” theme, of course: some reveled in the darkness of life’s unfairness, and some reveled in destroying the status quo. It all spoke to me on a level few other things (and people) did. It said: the only real barriers you’re fighting are your own.

That, in a way, was the hardest lesson to learn of all, and it took me a LONG fucking time to really understand it.

Hearing this song again after so long and I think, yeah…same bullshit, different generation. We still have shitty people tearing others down who don’t conform to their way of living, praying, thinking, whatever. It’s why I’ve managed to stomach the shittiness of American Conservatives: they’re the same goddamn asshole jocks all grown up, still calling us f*gs and bullying us because we’re not like them. And that’s why I’ve managed not to fall prey to their violence: fuck all of this conformity bullshit, go be true to yourself and you’ll be so fucking happier. They still piss me off, but I refuse to let them ruin my life.

I still have my own barriers I’m fighting to tear down. There are far fewer than in the past, thankfully. Maybe a small handful instead of a teetering avalanche. One or two that are just about gone now.

And yet I still return to music for safety. It remains my emotional anchor to this day.

Listening from a different angle

You know you’re old when you remember this being played on TV.

Funny how turning ever so slightly makes all the difference.

For years I’ve had my PC monitor at the far left corner of my desk mainly because I had to share the space with my work PC and other things during my Work from Home years. It’s still there, but now there’s a second monitor that I’ve chosen to have as the primary. It’s slightly smaller, but it fits perfectly at rear center, flanked by my speakers.

And that’s where I’m suddenly realizing just how different things sound when you’re facing those speakers head-on rather than at a slight angle. I mean, I’d had the correct set-up for years elsewhere, including Arkham West, the Belfry, and most of my apartments in Boston, so it’s not as if I’ve been unaware of the proper placement of speakers for peak aural enjoyment…but sometimes peak wasn’t the easiest to achieve. Sometimes you make do with whatever setup you can get away with.

The wild thing, though, is just how different it sounds to me. I might have filtering issues when it comes to crowded white noise, but I’m also blessed with really good directional hearing. So now that I’m listening to my music correctly once more, I can really hear the mix, and it sounds heavenly. The music has depth and width now that I didn’t realize I’d missed all these years.

It’s almost as if this was the disconnect I’d been trying to figure out all this time…? Could it be that a simple error in placement kept me from truly connecting like I had in the past? Perhaps so.

Either way, this makes me want to explore more. Take more deep dives. Search for that connection with music I love so much.