Camping in Santa Cruz

When I start any new endeavor I tend to let my imagination run wild and then I always end up disappointed because reality does not ever measure up to the limits of my imagination. I feared that when I accepted my current job at Twitter that the whole experience could never be as good as I imagined because of this. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Twitter and California completely blew away my expectations!!

First of all, the position I have is new, and it’s a great challenge as well as a satisfying feeling to be building our team from the ground up and contributing to that process. Second, the perks here are well beyond what I imagined it would really be like. A while ago I interviewed for a financial firm in Santa Monica, and they tried to show off all the perks they had for their employees, but I got the distinct feeling that they were putting on a show specifically because there was a potential new hire in the office that day. At Twitter, it really is just amazing all the things they do to take good care of their employees and keep everyone happy. They provide three square meals a day, freshly prepared and cooked on site, as well as an arsenal of snacks, beverages, and all kinds of other perks I won’t even go into because it would just take too much time.

Probably the greatest perk of all though is the fact that they understand the value of having a good work/life balance. My shift covers 12 hours a day, for 3 or 4 day weeks. The rest of the time is mine to do with as I please. This means I see my family more often, and we have more time to do awesome stuff that we couldn’t have done before. In addition, we’re living in beautiful California, where it hasn’t rained for like 3 months.

Taking advantage of this, last week we took off on a one day camping trip to Santa Cruz. When we left home, it was about 92 degrees out. When we reached Route 1 outside Santa Cruz I took my phone out to check the temperature. Turns out it was only 65 degrees there!! We turned off the air conditioning and opened all the windows to enjoy the cool, crisp, Pacific air. We got to the campsite not long after that, and once we had set up our tent and settled in, we took a drive down to the closest beach to see the ocean.

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The beach featured a dramatic drop from the parking lot to the sand, and it happened to be an overcast, foggy kind of day there, but we enjoyed running around for a few minutes before we went back to the car.

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The climb up the stairs was rough!

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Once we got back to the campsite, the girls took advantage of the banana bike rentals and bouncy beach thing:

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While Anna and I sat with the dogs and enjoyed a few relaxing moments together:

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Then Anna cooked up some burgers and hot dogs!!

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Afterwards I took the girls to the pool while Anna tended to the campfire:

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and finally we ended the day by roasting marshmallows and enjoying each other’s company!

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The whole family had an amazing time, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without Twitter! I am forever grateful for all the ways in which this company has helped us to improve our lives!

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Life is Good

I recently passed 90 days doing my new job at Twitter. Anna, the girls and I have started to settle into our new home, and school and work have been great, if not tiring. Bunny has started running track, which she has been excelling at! She really enjoys the events, and the younger kids all do the same events as the older kids, so she really feels a part of something bigger than herself or her school. Lila started doing a dancing/cheer class, which will be short lived but she is thoroughly enjoying it! Anna has been working hard at reupholstering and refinishing furniture in our house, in some cases to great transformative effect! I’m so proud of all my family members!!!

Working for Twitter has so far been the best professional experience of my life. The company takes great strides to keep their employees well (and healthily) fed, the work is very stimulating, and there are tons of interesting events going on all the time. Sometimes they’re just social, but there are also a lot of mentally stimulating events going on, from visitors coming in to present talks, to discussions that occur by serendipity. This week was the first week I took over primary duties in my new role, and while it’s been exhausting, it is really rewarding to know I’m having a positive impact so early on. My new schedule will start soon, and just in time for the summer months so our whole family will be able to spend a lot of time exploring the trails and other places in California. So much to do, and soon we’ll all have lots of time to do them! I’m really looking forward to that.

Taking **it for granted

I happened upon a webzine today that had a feature wherein a young (23 year old) man moves to NYC to become a rock star and writes about his adventures online. I started reading through the material and his quick ability to get a manager, sign to a independent label, and take off on a tour of the US had me feeling jealous. Then I started reading things that were happening to him that I didn’t want in my life. Example: He goes to a studio with his band, on the record company’s dime, and is greeted by a humorless engineer who is all business and kind of nasty. Things like that I do not want to deal with. (Later on I discovered this was a fictional story, but it makes no difference in the context of my thoughts)
That got me started on thinking about our recent studio sessions, and how nice it was to hang out with Don. While our official relationship was one of business, I felt at home there, and we all felt as though Don was a friend helping us coax the best out of our talents and limited instrumentation. We had a good time, and got a lot of work done in a short amount of time. We also made the most exciting full length record of our lives. This is one of those things I take for granted.
I guess the whole process for our band has been so slow moving that I don’t even really notice the changes. It seems similar to me to watching a flower grow. It isn’t really very interesting to watch in real time. Stop motion photography however brings to life the cycle of change, growth, and maturity that are painfully laborious to note otherwise. Our progress as a band has been like this. When I started with Pzoo, we were not known too well within our home state, and we endeavored to play places like the Court Tavern, Maxwell’s, and other small Jersey venues. We plugged along, writing songs, jamming, and learning how to play together. We had many gigs, met lots of other musicians, and had a great time doing it. At the time I joined the band it would seem like a far-fetched dream to get to record in a bona fide studio with a professional engineer. But this winter we did just that, largely thanks to Jeff’s bankroll, and came out with the first album that we can all feel very proud of, with little intra-band negative commentary. Of course, if given unlimited resources and time, it would be a better record. But given what we had to work with, we have really made something we can all be proud of. Entering the studio was something I took for granted. We searched around for a place to record, checked a few places out, and settled on the one our drummer had been to before, as well as liking the general vibe we got from Don. As we worked on the record, I definitely took it for granted, just being in a studio like that. The Jay Holler from 2 or 3 years ago would have been more ecstatic, more grateful just to be there, recording with my good friends, making the music we love. But as I was there it was just another place my body currently occupied. I mean, I was excited, and I loved being there, but it wasn’t as exciting as I imagined it to be.
That is really part of the whole problem. I’ve noticed that other people’s lives always sound more exciting and exhilarating to me. This is mostly due to my propensity for embellishing or creating details which do not exist. I have an active imagination and I put it to use in glorifying details, so some random guy in NYC seems to have a more exciting life than I do. Part of my over-glorifying includes ignoring the mundane details of daily living. When I think about what it must be like to have a full-fledged legitimate music career, I tend to ignore the daily matters like eating lunch, driving to meetings, dealing with a record company, etc. I romanticize everything that isn’t happening, essentially, instead of enjoying and savoring what is happening to me.
So the 2 to 3 year younger version of me had some idealized dream of what a real recording project in a real studio would be like. When it finally materialized it didn’t seem as exciting as the version already built-up in my head. I guess what I’m trying to say is I need to more thoroughly enjoy the good things in life: My smart, beautiful, understanding, wonderful, caring, sexy, giving wife; our sassy, smart, curious, cute-as-all-get-out daughter; our new daughter currently brewing; all the little techno-gadgets that I love so much (shout outs to my iPod, iBook, siemens phone, not to mention the Moog, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, Hammond, Ferrari, etc.); our beautiful home, kind neighbors, great friends, helpful (if tedious) in-laws and so on. I kind of take all of those things for granted, and my mind usually gets stuck on one thought for weeks or months. Right now I’m stuck on learning UNIX, and gaining an understanding of that and other programming languages to eventually get a job in IT. In a few weeks I’m sure I’ll be thinking of some other topic. But really all I need is to stop a moment and bask in the general goodness that life has dealt my way.

The day of 5’s

Today’s date is 05/05/05. It is only significant if formatted that way, as our year of the lord is actually 2005, not 05. However as 5 is the best number, I’m willing to make some concessions in order to enjoy the glory.
Pzoo has sent off the final master of our new record, and within the next few weeks we should receive our first pressing. It is going to be really exciting to hold the finished product in our hands, we’ll probably celebrate a little when Jeff brings the first box over. It is the culmination of 5-6 months of work. We shall rejoice.
Anna’s father is most likely leaving his job, meaning he is on the search for another one. This could possibly mean that my in-law’s would move to a different city or state. I know not that long ago he was offered a job in Seattle, but they declined in order to stay near the babies, and us. However now if they receive an offer, we may be looking at moving before we thought. If they go, it is highly likely that we will follow. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it would be really exciting to leave this state behind, begin somewhere fresh, and not have to work at this job anymore. On the other hand, it would really suck to leave behind all the people I have met and befriended over the years (not that I see them all that often, however, so this one isn’t such a big deal), as well as needing to leave the band behind. I feel as though we have built something really special, and the relationships I have with them are probably stronger than most other relationships in my life. We are literally a band of folks, a group, 4 guys you know you can trust, and who understand how each other ticks. It is not that easy to find the correct chemical balance to encourage creativity and growth. It took me many years and some blind luck to find the three gentlemen in Pzoo. We have evolved as performers, songwriters, and people together. Not to mention the financial investment in the group is well over $10,000. The majority of that, as in, over 90% came out of Jeff’s pocket. I have always felt that we would eventually make enough money so that Jeff could get his investment back. I feel that if I left at this stage in the game it is quite possible that the band would disintegrate. I’m not trying to overinflate my importance in the group, but we are all getting older, and I don’t really see the group trying to start back from square one again after so many years of progress. They haven’t played as a three piece in years, and I’m not sure they would want to. I don’t actually know, they may wind up chugging along without keyboards. They certainly don’t lack talent, but I know it would be a huge psychological blow to lose a “key” member in the group. I know it would be bothersome to me, but at the same time Anna has already given up so much, why shouldn’t I make some sacrifices also? I guess I’m just a lot less giving of a person than Anna is. She has made several sacrifices, and I don’t really feel as though I have made many if any. This would be a big one, I would probably cry. And I’m not even sure if I would cry at a family funeral. That is how important these guys are to me. This band is a HUGE part of my life, and really besides working and spending time with our family it is the only thing I do. But I guess the good times can’t last forever, and who knows, maybe it will work out for the best? I have no way of knowing, so I can’t automatically assume it is going to be awful. In fact, I don’t even know that we will end up moving, it’s just the possibility that has gotten me thinking more and more about the band. We have just finished recording a full length album, which is easily our best recording. We are hiring a PR firm to spread the word, and maybe get some kind of deal from it. Whether it be distribution, a label, more promotion, anything that will be an impetus for the group getting closer to our goal of being in Particle Zoo for a living. I guess nothing is really changing at the moment, we will just chug along as if I don’t have the cloud of relocation looming over us. I’m not even sure if I want to tell the group about it yet, as it may cause further unecessary concern. Like I say all the time, “we’ll see”.

Cigarettes

My cigarettes which arrived via a foreign country are waiting for me at home. This makes me glad, as the American version of my brand taste awful and make my life a little less comfortable. But the international versions are smooth and sweet, much to my enjoyment.
There has been a lot that happened lately, actually, just I find it difficult to conjure the motivation to write about it.
Well, firstly Bunny is expanding her vocabulary almost on a daily basis. She can almost say Scott, and she is trying very hard to get the right sounds to come out of her mouth. Just yesterday she started saying “poopy baby” over and over. She also wants to put change in her piggy bank on a daily basis now. And if you leave your purse within reach, she will pilfer the valueable coinage and deposit it for future use. She is just too cute. It will be nice when the weather gets nicer and Bunny and Anna can spend more times outdoors, they both love it so much.
Anna has been feeling better than a few weeks ago, although lately she gets extremely tired by the end of the night. Her legs and other parts have been more sore lately, which stinks, but it is all part of the beginning of the last trimester of pregnancy, which we are rapidly approaching. So while the pain and soreness stinks, it is getting closer to the end. Granted, the end is the worst part, but she’s getting there!
Last weekend we had a full schedule. Saturday morning we left for Asbury Park for my step-cousin’s child’s second birthday party. My step-cousin is my step-father’s niece, although I feel no relation with that side of the family. Not for want of them trying, but I just don’t feel close to them. Heck, I don’t even feel close to my blood relatives, nevermind step-relatives. It was, however, nice to see that side of the family, and catch up a little bit. We got outta there earlier than we expected, and it was nice to get home. Although once home we had to go grocery shopping. Luckily my in-laws left $$$ for us to do that, and since Anna wasn’t feeling up to it I went solo shopping. I’m getting better at it, but I usually take about 33% more time to do it than Anna would. It was painless though, and I got home in one piece and in time for dinner.
Sunday we had planned to go to Hoboken for their Arts & Music Festival, but Bunny woke up late, and we took advantage of the extra morning time to sleep longer. We did manage to get out to Hackettstown for their Fair, but it was mostly lame. We got home just a few more minutes before the band started showing up. We had a nice long rehearsal, and Christian came over too. Rehearsal went really well, as we refreshed our memories and played through a bunch of songs to prepare for our first show in many months! It was a good time. Christian payed us back all the money he borrowed from us last year! Hooray for saving!
Monday my boss was out, and I was able to waste more time than usual at work. Tuesday breezed by, and now Wednesday is appearing to do the same. With the new release of Mac OSX “Tiger”, there is a lot to read on the internet this week. So I’m gonna get back to doing so.

Thinks

The weather is finally starting to turn nice again, and I can go out in the municipal vehicle without having to put any extra layers on. Just walk right out of the building. Sweet. Work lately has been pretty dull, but I did receive a hostile call a few weeks ago. See, I had issued a notice of violation to a particular property owner whom has the unfortunate luck of owning a piece of property that passing vehicles are continually littering onto. Now, I can’t help the litter problem, but I received a complaint about it from guys who lived nearby and cleaned it up themselves after trying to get the owner to do something about it. So the other day he calls, and was about as unprofessional as anyone can be. He made derogatory statements about my station in life, insulted me many times, and threw in a bushel of curses for affect. It was actually quite ridiculous. All of this anger because I was following standard procedure for notices of violation as outlined within the Administrative Code. He thought I should have called him first, to explain the issue. I told him about the way we HAVE to do things, but that wasn’t enough for him. The next morning I informed my boss what happened, so that she wouldn’t be surprised when the dude came in complaining. She was surprised, as she knew the fellow, and explained to me that this guy was the Electrician of note for our town. No shit. So basically, I now have to apply my “double standard” anti-ethical approach when dealing with this guy in the future. We don’t send notices to “friends” of the town, we just give warnings. Unless the violation becomes long term and egregious. I hate politics. I don’t want to have to deal with shit like this. It makes me uncomfortable to treat people differently from one another, and it makes it worse when I have to force someone else to pay a fine when certain “protected” citizens need not worry about such matters. Why is it so difficult to make everyone follow the same set of rules? Why is it that when a wealthy person is confronted with a violation, they will stop at nothing to disprove the charges when they know they are guilty? What the fuck is up with that? If you break the law, fucking take responsibility for it. Suck it up. You fucked up. Fuck you.

Further

I was just taking a dump in the municipal building restroom when I realized that I have been projecting negative thoughts much like my mother and her mother do. For example, the other night Anna was discussing with me the possibility that our whole family could go to her hometown instead of her flying out by herself for a reunion of friends. I was only trying to be helpful, but all of my commentary was negative, and only focused on the negative aspects of the cost of such a trip, and other expenses. In fact, I always do this, and it must be very frustrating for Anna. I bet she already realizes I do this, but it’s just becoming apparent to me. I mean, I know what I was saying and thinking, but I’m just now realizing how it must have felt for her to only hear me give negative feedback regarding her desires for all of us to go to Denver. I would love to go to Denver. I want to go. But I can’t help but think of the costs and how close to 100% of a two-week paycheck would be eaten up for a nice weekend away from the house.
My whole life I have focused on the negative rather than positive aspect of any decision I weigh. For the most part, it works nicely for me. For example, when I was in high school and it was becoming apparent that I had enough talent to attempt to go to college to study music, I frequently thought about what aspects of my performance needed work, and then proceeded to take the necessary measures to work out those issues. So in that sense it is helpful to weed out the problems and take care of them. Although in the example above I am the only entity processing this information, and I understand that I’m not trying to be overly negative, or to simply dismiss any good intentions with an overload of negativity.
But I frequently do this when Anna brings something up for discussion. I think it is partly good for the reasons listed above, namely to think out all the negative impact a decision will incur, but it also sucks to be around someone who is only spewing forth negative commentary all the time. I know, I experienced it for years while living with my grandmother. Anna has observed it in the family members noted above, and I have noticed it more and more as the years pass by. I used to shrug it off as an acceptable part of their personality. But more and more I’m realizing how shitty it is. I do not want to be another one of those people. I will have to try to also keep in mind the positive aspects of any decision, as well as the positive outcomes which are not in my favor, or benefit me directly. I think the main problem is a drive to understand each decision from a self-centered aspect, rather than taking into account also what other people have to gain/lose. I feel as though I have just clicked up another notch on the “self-understanding/how to be a better person” scale.
Anna, sorry it took me so long to realize this!

PS – the toilet really is a great place to think!