“Every writer writes out of loneliness and the desire to connect with others — in the context of his own strange experience — and in doing so lessen the strangeness of himself.” – Mikel Jollett
“Glen, Glen, Glen… Don’t you have a job and a family of 28???? When do you have time to do this shit????” – This Is Nowhere commenter
If I’m not at work, there’s a 95% chance I’m wearing one of my
eight ten Airborne Toxic Event t-shirts. If it’s cold, I keep warm in my TATE hoodie. If you drive with me, you will be listening to Airborne, and only Airborne. My iPad has a hand painted TATE bird on the front, a TATE sticker on the back, and a rotating selection of band photos as the desktop background.
If I’m working from home, as I do two days a week, I’m doing so surrounded by Airborne memorabilia, in a home office that doubles as a TATE museum: posters, records, photos, guitar picks, ticket stubs. If I’m at my actual office, there’s an autographed Red Rocks setlist on the wall behind me, framed handprints from the band on the wall opposite me, and an Airborne playlist on constant loop emanating from my laptop speakers.
When I sleep at night, I do so in a bedroom adorned with four framed TATE posters – the artsy ones that don’t look like concert posters (the only ones my wife would concede to displaying outside my private cave). At breakfast, I drink from a Such Hot Blood mug that was sent to me by a generous Airborne friend. My preteen daughter rolled her eyes the day a TATE magnet appeared on the fridge – really Dad??? – but where else does one put a magnet?
My kids know every word to every Airborne song, save for the “adult lyrics” that are strategically turned down at just the right moment. My 9-year-old girl loves rockin’ out to “Missy” and “All I Ever Wanted.”
If the band is within a 5-hour drive of me, I will be there come hell or high water. Overtime is banked to facilitate attendance at every show within spitting distance. Gig days start in the early afternoon, when I claim my spot out front of the venue to ensure a coveted spot on the front rail. No drinks are consumed after that time, lest I risk losing said spot to an ill-timed bathroom break.
Money is sometimes spent that, frankly, I can’t really afford to spend. I bought four copies of Such Hot Blood (plus two copies of The Secret EP) to ensure I didn’t miss out on any of the perks that accompanied various versions.
Six months after I got it, my dad still can’t wrap his mind around the “eagle” tattooed on my shoulder. (FYI, it’s a stylized raven, Dad. Geez.)
Oh, and in my limited free time, I started a little blog.
Now that I think about it… it’s possible that I may be a bit strange.
When I’m not being strange, I’m actually very normal. Boringly normal.
I got married at 19, and 18 years later, we’re still happy. We have four kids, two with special needs, one of them adopted; and we’ve got the dorky stick figures on the back of our lame minivan to prove it. Our family life is pure, unadulterated chaos; a traveling gong show everywhere we go. But it’s our gong show, and we love it (most of the time).
I have a respectable, “grown up” career, with a corner office and a lofty management role at a thriving non-profit organization. I love my job. Unfortunately, it’s not my only one. I’ve got five other clients that I work for on the side, in an attempt to keep our family’s financial head above water for a few more years till my wife graduates and starts bringing home a paycheque.
People use mundane words like “steady,” “dependable,” “consistent,” “organized,” “punctual,” and “predictable” to describe me. I drink very rarely, and never to excess. I fall asleep if I sit still for too long. I’m not exactly the life of the party.
There are people in my life who have no idea how strange I really am.
Once people get over the oddity of the grown man with a professional carer and a mittful of kids who has an affinity for t-shirts adorned with bleeding birds, their first question is often, “How do you do it?”
How do you have the time and money to to drive up and down the west coast to watch a silly band play three shows in three nights? How can you justify jetting off to Red Rocks for two days while your wife stays home with four kids? Where on earth do you find the time to blog three times a week and post set lists within minutes of shows ending and troll the Internet for TATE news and chat with other fans on Facebook and Twitter and in the band’s forum…?
Sometimes the questions sound like accusations, and I worry. Am I just a terrible father/husband/provider/employee/person? Am I neglecting the more important things in life in pursuit of some shallow, fleeting musical high? Does this weird obsession of mine get in the way of what really matters?
But then I think of other people in my life. And you know what? I know some pretty odd folks.
There’s the thirty-something who devotes his down time to building magnificent Lego creations, and the other one whose office is lined with Transformers. There’s the guy who moonlights as a referee at the World Thumb Wrestling Championships (seriously, it’s a thing), and the guy who admits to being a Bronie (an adult male who enjoys My Little Ponies – yeah, that’s a thing too). There’s the 50-something with a collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia that numbers in the hundreds of pieces, with a value measured in thousands of dollars. There’s a whole bunch of guys in their forties who spend copious amounts of time playing video games and fantasy sports, or, more respectably, golfing or fishing. There are those who never miss even one of their favorite hockey team’s 82-games (plus playoffs), and who think nothing of taking a couple weekends a year to follow their team on the road (which apparently is more socially acceptable than doing the same thing for a rock band). And lest you think it’s only men, I know plenty of weird women too. My sci-fi loving dork of a wife, for one (sorry honey; I mean that with the utmost of affection).
The fact is, we all have a thing – an interest or hobby that seems odd to others who don’t share it. Now, I’ll admit: mine may seem more extreme than average, partly because I quite literally wear it on my sleeve – and also because I am, admittedly, rather one dimensional in my interests. I’ve always been that way: passionate about few things, but deeply passionate about those few.
Does it get in the way of real life? Occasionally. But not nearly as often as it energizes it.
My wife and I are both introverts, with high needs for “me time.” Without it, we would not be the parents/spouses/employees/etc. that everyone needs us to be.
Ours is a great life, a rewarding life; but it’s not an easy life. With the size of our family and the special needs of our youngest kids and the financial strain of living on one income in a very expensive region, it would be easy for us to be entirely consumed by children and work. We could devote ourselves exclusively to family and jobs and obligations 24/7, and still not have enough time in the day to get it all done. As it is, that’s how we spend the vast majority of our waking hours, with no regrets whatsoever.
But when we chose this life (and we did choose it, for the most part), we also promised ourselves and each other that we would not lose ourselves in it, at least not entirely. We would carve out time for each of us to continue to pursue our own interests, and to engage in activities that recharge us, because that gives us the strength to do what we need to do on the home front. We would continue to date each other. We would take turns sleeping in on weekends. We would take care of ourselves, and each other, in order to better take care of our family and everything else that needs taking care of.
For me, that looks like 4-5 nights a year in the front row as the band plays some song about forgetting yourself for awhile. For my wife, it looks like escaping for regular matinees of the latest and greatest comic book movie.
It wouldn’t work for everybody. But it works for us. In fact, it’s essential for us.
So if I seem strange to you, that’s okay. You seem strange to me, too. And it’s all cool. (Well, except for that whole Bronie thing. I really just don’t know what to make of that.)
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.