Friday, June 25, 2010

Making Another Moose Friend

I was just about to start packing for my trip to the Arctic Circle and Ocean this weekend when I looked up and saw a shit-load of fur in front of my window, haha. Low and behold, my other moose friends must have told this guy to come over and say, "Hi" to me, too. How nice! I decided to inch myself outside to get this lil' clip. Oh, and that's Don's dog Jessie makin' a ruckus in the background.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mario Kart in Real Life

I just took the bait on a lil’ go-kart of a car: 2000 Hyundai Accent GL 5-speed with 118,000 miles on’r.  Lookin’ forward to doing some Mario Kart corner bursting; banana peel-, turtle shell-, bob-omb-tossing; mushroom boosting; and a lil’ stunt jumpin action around Fairbanks over the next year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

An AmeriCorps VISTA Update

It's been amazing getting used to the 20+ hours of daylight.  It's funny having nightly events starting at 10pm or later and not being done till like 4 or 5am!  It really causes for lack of sleep if you're not paying attention, but I love it!  Today's the Summer Solstice.  There was NO sunrise this morning and will be NO sunset tonight due to the sun riding just above the horizon at those times and hanging high and bright in the sky during the day.  I picked up some fabric at the local thrift shop the other day and fashioned my own curtains to keep at least some sanity to experience my own version of night for sleeping here in the summer.

Other than that, I've adjusted very well here from Minnesota seeing as though the woods, streams, rivers and bluffs/foothills remind me a lot of my hometown in La Crescent, MN.  I've been living in Minneapolis for the past nine years, surrounded by plenty of asphalt, people, traffic and skyscrapers, but this is great to explore the great outdoors again.  So far, I've taken on the fun challenge of living in a dry cabin (no running water), run the ski trails of UAF, and hiked the 6,060-ft summit of Wildhorse Mountain off the Denali Highway.  This weekend, I'm planning on either climbing the 6,480-ft summit of Rainbow Mountain or road tripping to the Arctic Circle and Ocean with some friends.  Tough decision!!  Over July 4th Weekend, I'll be headed to Skagway, AK and Whitehorse, Canada with a couple friends to visit a friend of mine who gives helicopter and dog sledding tours on glaciers in the area.  I guess you can say I'm trying to take in as much of this great state not only while I'm here but because the warm weather only lasts so long, haha.

One other thing I've been involved with is the Fairbanks music scene.  I drum in my rock band Paragraphs back home and knew that I couldn't go an entire year without my drum set, so I shipped it up here and have befriended several local musicians and bands.  I was involved in a music mish-mash event called Fairbanks Pub League a couple weekends ago where they take about 25 local musicians and randomly put them into four-person bands.  They give you four hours to put together two covers and an original to perform at a bar later that night.  I'm happy to say my band (Lil' Wayne feat. Lil' Wayne) performed with few mistakes, haha.  I hope to be playing in a band sometime in the coming weeks.

To be honest, my time as a VISTA has been challenging so far here in Fairbanks.  I come from a very formal, dress-up, commute-to-work-in-a-skyscraper-cubical type of career, and being exposed to the nonprofit, social services sector has been very eye-opening to say the least.  I'm learning how to open up to my at-risk homeless and runaway youth clients and understand their needs as a population so as to find appropriate partnerships that should help them.  One thing I'm working on now is starting up formal music lessons at the local library for a few of my clients to participate starting in mid-July.  This will give those interested in music performance the ability to not only express themselves creatively but also know what having time management skills is like.  It's sustainable partnerships like this that I hope leave at least some sort of impression on those I'm serving even after my service year is done.

Overall, I'm having a blast here while missing my family and friends in Minnesota.  It was great meeting all the new faces at PSO in April as well as making new friends so far here in Fairbanks, including other VISTA's Bryan Whitten, Randy Russell, Krista Cassidy, and former VISTA's Katie Robb and Cassidy Phillips.  I'm looking forward to many more adventures and meeting many more people.

From the land of the midnight sun,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010 Midnight Sun Run 10k

After competing in this year's Midnight Sun Run 10k, I decided that I should compile a checklist to show what a runner might experience in running 10,000 meters of hilarity during Solstice Weekend here in Fairbanks.  Results should be posted here.
(I'm right behind #3699 in my Hawaiian shirt and shorts.)

2010 Midnight Sun 10k Run Checklist

✔ Dress in costume - Hawaiian Tourist with sunscreen on nose works for me.
✔ Run in daylight at 10pm - Bright as noon!
✔ Run sub-6:00 opening mile - 5:51
✔ Actually dress in costume and run with leaders - First costumed runner to finish.
✔ Unexpectedly get pelted by water guns and balloons by kids AND adults - Made me think I was on an episode of Wild & Crazy Kids.
✔ Run through several sprinklers in sketchy neighborhoods. - Did I mention run fast through sketchy neighborhoods with crazy drunk parties?!
✔ Be told “Aloha!” about 100 times. Respond with the “hang loose” sign.
✔ Be told “The Boatel’s THAT WAY!” by a drunk standing in the bed of his raised Chevy mud-bogging truck.  Respond by ignorning the comment.  (Click link for details on this one-of-a-kind Fairbanks establishment.) 
✔ Get passed by guy running barefoot. - With his feet slapping the ground, all he said was, “How ya doin?”  I was waiting for some broken beer bottles to be on the route at some point.  Evil, I know.
✔ Get beat by a few high schoolers. - Helps put me in my place.
✔ Finish sub-38:00 - Finished within top-20 in ~37:37 out of about 4,000 runners.
✔ Get liquids past finish line - Couple that with fresh watermelon and oranges.
✔ Stand and stretch while watching hilariously costumed runners crossing the finish line. - A giraffe and zebra, The Incredibles, The Beetles (yes, three girls in beetle costumes carrying two cardboard guitars and drum sticks).
✔ Walk back to truck to head home - Nothing like walking to a hip-hop version of “Candy Man” blasting from a children’s ice cream truck with a driver who looked like a meth dealer on Breaking Bad.
✔ Laugh to oneself, establish the night as a success, and go for a long, recovery run tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fairbanks Music Scene Thus Far...

It looks like I have another music-related blog post for you today.  Since deciding that I was going to ship my drum set the 3,183 miles (according to Google Maps) via USPS Ground from Minneapolis to Fairbanks, I knew that I was going to immerse myself in the music scene here as quickly as possible.  In doing so, I've befriended several great people who have an extraordinarily diverse background in performing.  Some are living hundreds of miles outside of Fairbanks and might only practice for the first time in weeks or months during sound check for their show.  Others get together several times per week to replay their most popular tunes over and over until they are blue in the face.  And then there's the rest of us - outsiders with musical skills who are just looking to join a band or group of people on a whim to have fun for the hell of it.

I have had the opportunity to hear a few bands on more than one occasion since arriving and have decided to shed some light on Work, the Moon Knights , Rebecca File, and Feeding Frenzy.

To start, I saw Work and the Moon Knights open for Tokyo Police Club on April 22nd at UAF.   The Moon Knights were on first with their ridiculous costumes and loud, lo-fi sound.  They were a bit too abrasive and obnoxious for my taste.  So, I was happy about 30 minutes later when the first notes were picked by Caleb Kuntz of Work, who along with Eric Lonn, Chad File, and EJ Skinner, Jr., paved the next 40 with some great instrumental rock.  I've seen some great showmen on stage at concerts before and Kuntz easily ranks in my top 10.  Top hat, retro glasses, stringy mustache, red button-up shirt, basketball shorts, and slippers are all main ingredients to his rock star recipe.  Throughout their set, File threw down some great time signature changes and fills on the drums; Lonn whacked out the mini keys; EJ strummed, slapped and picked the bass; and collectively, they all screamed and clapped at perfectly-timed moments.  They were a great act to get the crowd hopping before a solid act by TPC for the rest of the night.  Upon returning to my abode later that night, I didn't hesitate to recommend their sound to Radio K's Nowlikephotographs show back home.  I figured, why not get some of these local bands exposure to the lower-48.  I can't say I've ever specifically sought Alaskan bands before so maybe NLP would be interested in giving them some airplay.  I'm looking forward to seeing them at least a couple more times before EJ leaves the country in a couple months and any other reasons why they may not be around soon.

What prompted me to start this entry was the fact that I came across the MySpace page for a vocalist here in Fairbanks named Rebecca Menzia-File earlier today.  She's married to the drummer of the aforementioned band Work (Chad File), is a backing vocalist for another Fairbanks band called Feeding Frenzy, and apparently does her own solo stuff.  Her MySpace tracks are very chill and interesting to listen to.  She has a mix of opera, indie, and experiment in her style.  It wasn't until I came across the track "Let Him" on her page that I really realized her ability to put out a good sound as a solo artist.  Oh yeah, she's also expressed interest in teaching singing lessons for my clients here at the at-risk youth drop-in center to coincide with the music lessons I'm planning on starting sometime in July.  I think I have about seven teens interested in learning how to play anything from piano, violin, drums, bass, and guitar.  We'll see how it pans out.  I think Rebecca will do a great job.

Feeding Frenzy is another great local band here in Fairbanks.  I first saw them at a 200+ person cabin party and bonfire the night before Fairbanks' hippie music festival called Clucking Blossom, where they also played and captivated the audience with their banjo, violin, acoustic guitar, floor tom, mallet, tambourine, and catchy vocals.  The first streaming track "Winter's Getting Cold" is their main crowd-pleaser, quite obviously, because of its several "bop bop da da daa" lines, the speed-up tempo, and yelling lyrics throughout the song.  "If You Don't" is another one they play quite often.  Daniel Fermin, Ryan Bateman, Rebecca File, and Ephy Wheeler know what it takes to master the art of sing-along in the mixed style of indie, bluegrass, folk-rock.  To edit Mr. Walken's famous line on SNL, "I've gotta fever!  And the only prescription is more [banjo]!"

I'm looking forward to obtaining a copy of studio quality tracks of these bands and others here in town to give them a full listen through.  Then again, this is Fairbanks we're talking about.  So no guarantees on that by any means.  I'm guessing that I'll be getting those copies by way of mp3 cds burned by a couple people at some point.

Until my next Fairbanks/Alaska musical discovery, enjoy the links I've shared above!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fairbanks Pub League

Have you ever wanted to collaborate with other musicians in an already tightly-knit music scene?  Well, I learned a very easy way to do it in Fairbanks this past weekend.  It's called "Pub League."  

Connor Rainor, EJ Skinner, and a few others get a hold of about 25 interested musicians from all over the area, divvy them up into five bands, give them four or five hours to come up with three songs - usually two covers and an original from scratch.  My band "Lil Wayne, feat. Lil Wayne" opted for two originals and one cover instead.  Later that evening, ya head to a local bar, perform in a battle of the bands type of competition and a single one is crowned the Pub League Champions.  We took that crown last night.

It consisted of a bassist named Poncho, keyboardist Eric Lonn (from the band Work), singer/keyboarist Isaac Paris (from the band Paper Scissors), and a guest "rapper," Patrick, who's a roommate of Connor's.  We ended up meshing pretty well from the get-go.  Here are the tracks and a brief explanation of what we performed.

1) "Cowboy Cassanova ST" is a jam we came up with at the very beginning of practice just to get a little loose and continue from there.
2) "White Liar Demo" is our ridiculous take on "Digital Love" by Daft Punk sung with the like-vocals of Louis Armstrong.  My only backing vocals come in the form of a "woooo!" around 2:30, haha.
3) "Cowboy Cassanova Demo" is a rap we all collaborated with by writing random lines on pieces of paper and passing them around to add more lines.  Patrick sounded super uncomfortable rapping while Isaac did a pretty good job of taking on the style of the Beastie Boys.

I'm already looking forward to the next one.  Enjoy!