CD Review: Hammock – Oblivion Hymns

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I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada the first time I heard Oblivion Hymns. I’d just clocked out after a long day at work, went back to the hotel, and put my feet up. I’d been thinking about the album all day: What would this new chapter sound like? How different would it be from Departure Songs? To what new places would the music take me? With some time finally all to myself, I put on my headphones, dimmed the lights, and submerged.

The album opener, “My Mind Was a Fog… My Heart Became a Bomb,” left an instant impression on me. The delicate play of piano keys during the intro lulled me into an immediate state of calm, washing away all traces of the day’s struggles. Then, at around the two minute mark… explosion. The heavenly strings of the Love Sponge Quartet launched a full-scale assault on my senses, and I surrendered willingly, knowing that the next hour of my life would be filled by something far beyond my expectation.

Oblivion Hymns unfolds like a piece of origami as you listen. It’s more of a journey than an album, each piece intricately composed, laid out, and arranged for maximum impact. Ambitious and far-reaching, this record plays to Hammock’s true strength, which is to say that Marc and Andrew are architects, and Oblivion Hymns is a blueprint of master craftsmanship. An instant classic, and well-deserving to be a part of the band’s catalog.

Although still present, Hammock’s signature wall of guitars takes a backseat in favor of neoclassical elements including strings, French horns, glockenspiels, and even a children’s choir. The mixture is subtle and splendid, with no one section overpowering another. To fully appreciate its depth, one must listen to this album multiple times. The songs are like treasure chests, and you find yourself closer to unlocking the prize with each attempt.

Each track is special and stands on its own merit, but I would be remiss to not specifically make mention of track eight, “In the Middle of this Nowhere.” Any attempt to describe this song would be doing it a great disservice, so I will only say that it arrives without warning, and leaves all too soon. It fills my mind with glorious visuals, and my soul with a healing touch. It could very well be the greatest Hammock song of all time, a claim I do not make without proper consideration. If not the greatest, certainly one of the top three.

As an added bonus to listeners that purchase direct, the exclusive tracks “Sleep” and “Cathedral” are included in a digital download. Make no mistake, these are no mere throw-ins. Each continues the thematic presentation in their own way, while adding something different at the same time. “Sleep” brings with it a dose of familiar guitar effects and droning bass notes, and “Cathedral” offers the soothing textures of a delay pedal, and softly-plucked acoustic guitar. Both, well-worth the effort to obtain, and fantastic additions to the album.

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Hammock makes music that you hear with your heart, not with your ears, and Oblivion Hymns is no exception. With an expanded arsenal of tools at their disposal, Hammock has created something that is sure to stick with you long after the last track has played. The experience is unforgettable. If cast iron and stainless steel are built to last, then Hammock albums are crafted to score eternity.

In a word, breathtaking. In another word, masterpiece. Whatever the future may hold for Hammock, there is little doubt that Oblivion Hymns will become an influential and referenced work within a library full of rich, meaningful melodies. On a scale of one to ten, I give it all the stars in the sky.

The Playlist

For our honeymoon destination, my wife and I picked Port Townsend: A beautifully preserved, old Victorian town up along the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. While the reality of a four and a half hour drive wasn’t the biggest selling point, I came up with an idea to help keep us entertained during our long road trip: A 1990s iPod playlist!

Me (right), circa 1994.
Me (right), circa 1994.

At full disclosure, I am a hardcore music snob. You see, being a little older than my wife, I sometimes forget that the 90s I experienced were quite a bit different than hers. It’s a fact that never becomes more evident than when comparing our musical tastes. Sure, she knew and liked all the blockbuster bands of the era, but she was sadly deprived of some of the deeper cuts that fueled my collection of mix tapes.

I saw this playlist as not only an opportunity to relive the soundtrack to my high school years, but also to introduce my wife to some of the great music that she missed out on the first time around. To the surprise of both of us, she remembered quite a bit more than she anticipated, and the playlist reconnected her to some long forgotten tracks.

To loop my friends in on the fun, I solicited their votes on Facebook for songs that we should include. Thanks to their participation, I was able to add a few tracks that I had overlooked. The only ask from them in return was that I share the final playlist at the end, which I am happy to oblige!

Below is the curated playlist, as it occurred during our trip. This is by no means a complete list of the best tracks from the 90s, but it’s a pretty damn good start, if I do say so myself. J Here’s hoping that you’ll find an old track or two to rediscover. Long live the 90s!!

  • Big Me – Foo Fighters
  • Sliver – Nirvana
  • Spin the Bottle – Juliana Hatfield Three
  • 100% – Sonic Youth
  • Believe – Dig
  • Laid – James
  • Buddy Holly – Weezer
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole
  • Man in the Box – Alice in Chains
  • Into Your Arms – The Lemonheads
  • All the Small Things – Blink 182
  • If I Could Talk I’d Tell You – The Lemonheads
  • Far Gone and Out – Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Welcome to the Cheap Seats – The Wonderstuff
  • Vasoline – Stone Temple Pilots
  • Monkey Gone to Heaven – The Pixies
  • Sabotage – Beastie Boys
  • Kill Your Television – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Miss World – Hole
  • Walk on the Ocean – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • I’ve Got a Feelin’ – Ivy
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • Dream All Day – The Posies
  • Cut Your Hair – Pavement
  • It’s a Shame About Ray – The Lemonheads
  • Right Here Right Now – Jesus Jones
  • Jerry Was a Race Car Driver – Primus
  • Miss Misery – Elliot Smith
  • Brain Stew – Green Day
  • There’s No Other Way – Blur
  • All I Want – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Operation Spirit – Live
  • Detachable Penis – King Missile
  • Today – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
  • My Name is Jonas – Weezer
  • My Sister – Juliana Hatfield Three
  • Verse Chorus Verse – Nirvana
  • Renaissance Affair – Hooverphonic
  • Ladyfingers – Luscious Jackson
  • Would? – Alice in Chains
  • Into the Fire – Sarah McLachlan
  • A Little Respect – Erasure (1988, but had a renaissance in the 90s)
  • Cannonball – The Breeders
  • Shimmer – Fuel
  • Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction
  • Am I Wrong – Love Spit Love
  • Window Pane – The Real People
  • Pets – Porno For Pyros
  • So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys
  • I’ve Been Waiting – Matthew Sweet
  • High – The Cure
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage
  • Friday I’m in Love – The Cure
  • What I Didn’t Know – Athenaeum
  • The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana
  • Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet
  • Naked Rain – This Picture
  • Twisterella – Ride
  • Bound for the Floor – Local H
  • The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get – Morrissey
  • Grey Cell Green – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Crank – Catherine Wheel
  • Taillights Fade – Buffalo Tom
  • Popular – Nada Surf
  • Ironic – Alanis Morissette
  • Bulls on Parade – Rage Against the Machine
  • American Music – Violent Femmes
  • Until She Comes – The Psychedelic Furs
  • I Alone – Live
  • Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
  • I’ll Stick Around – Foo Fighters
  • Hit – The Sugarcubes
  • Thunder Kiss ’65 – White Zombie
  • Which Way Should I Jump? – The Milltown Brothers
  • Lullaby (Weren’t We Wild) – The Judybats
  • Ballerina Out of Control – The Ocean Blue
  • Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
  • Learn to Fly – Foo Fighters
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Unsung – Helmet
  • Mayor of Simpleton – XTC
  • Happy – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss – PM Dawn
  • Sweet Surrender – Sarah McLachlan
  • Abuse Me – Silverchair
  • Mysterious Ways – U2
  • Adia – Sarah McLachlan
  • Tomorrow – Morrissey
  • Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
  • Spoonman – Soundgarden
  • Dizz Knee Land – Dada
  • Regret – New Order
  • You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
  • What Do I Have to Do? – Stabbing Westward
  • Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees
  • Naked Eye – Luscious Jackson
  • Everlong – Foo Fighters
  • Debonair – Afghan Whigs
  • Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Barely Breathing – Duncan Sheik
  • Sadness (Pt.1) – Enigma
  • Simple Kind of Life – No Doubt (Technically 2000, but I’m counting it)
  • Machinehead – Bush
  • Only Shallow – My Bloody Valentine
  • High and Dry – Radiohead
  • Wonderwall – Oasis
  • Angry Johnny – Poe
  • Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Vapour Trail – Ride
  • Say it Ain’t So – Weezer
  • Rush – Big Audio Dynamite
  • Siva – Smashing Pumpkins
  • My Hero – Foo Fighters
  • Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe
  • Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver – Primus
  • Kiss Them For Me – Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Turn – Travis
  • Little Things – Bush
  • Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Rusty Cage – Soundgarden
  • Tomorrow – Silverchair
  • 1979 – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Glycerine – Bush
  • Sodajerk – Buffalo Tom
  • Sister – The Nixons
  • The Freshman – The Verve Pipe
  • More Human Than Human – White Zombie
  • Name – Goo Goo Dolls
  • Brick – Ben Folds Five
  • Watery Hands – Superchunk
  • Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
  • High – Feeder
  • Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
  • Linger – The Cranberries
  • One – U2
  • Queer – Garbage
  • Everything Zen – Bush
  • Possession – Sarah McLachlan
  • Waltz #2 – Elliot Smith
  • Corduroy – Pearl Jam
  • Red – Treble Charger
  • Heart Shaped Box – Nirvana
  • Give it Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • From Your Mouth – God Lives Underwater
  • Late in the Day – Supergrass
  • Wild Horses – The Sundays
  • Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead
  • Even Flow – Pearl Jam
  • Policy of Truth – Depeche Mode
  • Traffic – Stereophonics
  • Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
  • Cuts You Up – Peter Murphy
  • A Long December – Counting Crows
  • Something’s Always Wrong – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Cherub Rock – Smashing Pumpkins
  • Under the Milky Way – The Church
  • Pure Massacre – Silverchair
  • Head Like a Hole – Nine Inch Nails
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Changes – Sugar
  • River of Deceit – Mad Season
  • Undone (The Sweater Song) – Weezer
  • Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam
  • Sober – Tool
  • Stars – Hum
  • Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
  • Hey Man Nice Shot – Filter
  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • Jeremy – Pearl Jam
  • Step On – Happy Mondays
  • Love Shack – The B-52’s (Right on the cusp of the decade, so I’m counting it)
  • Dirty Boots – Sonic Youth
  • Start Choppin’ – Dinosaur Jr
  • Alive – Pearl Jam
  • Buffalo Stance – Neneh Cherry
  • Take a Picture – Filter
  • The Concept – Teenage Fanclub
  • Enjoy the Silence – Depeche Mode
  • Duel – Swervedriver
  • Angel – Massive Attack
  • Paranoid Android – Radiohead
  • Rhinoceros – Smashing Pumpkins
  • AEnima – Tool
  • Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel

A Reading From My Wedding

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Before I could marry the most amazing woman in the world, our officiant recommended that we schedule readings as part of the ceremony. These readings did not carry a specific set of rules–We were allowed to write our own, select from an archive of previously vetted material, or even invite a guest to perform a reading of their creation. I chose to write my own.

A reading is separate from a vow. A vow contains all the promises to love, to have and to hold, and to cherish one another. A reading can be anything, provided it comes from the heart. I’ve seen people at other weddings use this opportunity to tell stories of how they met, their first kiss, the day they knew that their partner was “the one,” and so on. My wife is the single greatest person I know, and as a writer, I definitely felt the pressure to step up my game and produce something worthy of her.

Below is a transcript of the reading I prepared for my wife. My goal was simple: Make her laugh, make her cry, but above all else, fill her heart with love. I hope I rose to the occasion and delivered a message that she will always remember.

 

In the five years that I’ve known you, I’ve probably already used up all my best material before we even made it to the wedding, but since we’re all gathered here today in front of our family and friends… and of course, [our officiant] Kevin, I’ll give it my best shot.

I still sometimes think about the man I was before I met you, but the truth is, I barely remember him anymore. I know that he was unhappy and unfulfilled, but those feelings are so foreign to me now that it’s hard to imagine anything other than complete happiness. With all of the good that you’ve brought into my life, there’s simply no room left for anything else. And although I recognize the clichéd nature of what I’m about to say, it doesn’t make it any less true: For the first time in my life, I am whole. I am a better person because of you.

I don’t consider myself a lucky man, because finding you stretches far beyond the definition of luck. I’m not normally the kind of person to say things like “fate,” “serendipity,” or “kismet”… mainly because they remind me of Kate Hudson movies… however, I truly believe in my heart of hearts that some unknown mystical force was at play the day you entered my life.

I’m not telling anyone here in attendance today anything about you that they don’t already know. Anyone that has ever met you has been touched by your kindness, your compassion, your light… and your crazy theories about who Gossip Girl is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’re just the greatest person I have ever known, and choosing to spend the rest of my life with you is the easiest decision I will ever make. It was meant to be. I only hope that I can return a fraction of the joy that you have given me, but you have my undying promise that I will never stop trying.

I know that I don’t get to kiss you until the end of our ceremony, but if it’s all right with you, I’d like to give you a hug, because I love you with all my heart, and this is the greatest day of my life.

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My Birthday Drive

Women are amazing. They are our mothers. Our wives. Our sisters. Our daughters. Our friends. They are strong. Resilient. Creative. Intelligent. They are deserving of love, kindness and respect. Sadly, many women are mistreated every day and must seek out help to escape from those that would do them harm.

I have a good life. I want for very little because I have love. With my birthday coming up soon, rather than gifts, I’d ask instead for your help in supporting my chosen charity, the Bradley Angle domestic violence shelter.

I have selected Bradley Angle as my charity of choice because they also provide support to the LGBTQ community, which is of significant importance to me. I am hoping to raise $1,500 for the shelter before August 20th, and am personally kicking things off today with the first $500 donation.

Please do not feel obligated to give. However, if you would like to help out in honor of my birthday, please donate here.

Be sure to list my name in the “In honor of” box. Thank you so much for your help! Let’s work together to make a difference.

Noble Blog Series #3: The Return to Ashley Falls

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SPOILER WARNING: The following blog post contains minor spoilers from the first two books in the Noble series.

 

Noble introduced readers to the life and experiences of a private investigator named Miller Brinkman. Through Miller’s POV, I hoped to paint a clear picture of small town life in Ashley Falls. Miller was born and raised there. He knew every name. Every face. Every nook and cranny. And of course, every dirty little secret. While Miller knew everything about his home town, it did present me with one interesting challenge: Ashley Falls isn’t a real place. 🙂

I didn’t create Ashley Falls from scratch, necessarily. I viewed countless photos of mid-century small towns, read several pieces of literature and talked to local historians at length. I began building the town of Ashley Falls with a solid foundation. I wanted something that felt to readers like a cross between Mayberry and Little House on the Prairie. From there it was really just a matter of giving it life and sprinkling in some lore to make it feel real.

We learn a lot about Ashley Falls in Noble, but we never actually discover where it is geographically. There are many clues woven into the story to help give the reader an idea along the way. In the scene where Miller leaves Ashley Falls for the first time and arrives at the train station, he mentions how long the ride to his destination of Washington, D.C. will be. If someone had been determined enough to find out and did some digging through Amtrak’s train schedule, the answer was out there.

At the end of Noble, Miller packs up his things and leaves Ashley Falls behind for a new life in Boston, which is the setting for Noble: Bloodlines.  Even though Miller has left Ashley Falls, we discover through a twist at the end of Bloodlines that the reader stayed behind for a glimpse into Ashley Falls’ future, circa 1989.

But who were those new characters, and how had Ashley Falls become home to an apparent religious cult? These are among the questions that will be answered in Noble: New World Order, as well as confirmation on the exact location of Ashley Falls!

Although the world of Noble has changed over the five decades that have passed, Ashley Falls still plays a role in the shape of things to come. The area has become an abandoned ghost town, hidden deep within overgrown vegetation and dilapidated old structures. The only remaining ties to the Ashley Falls from Miller’s time are a few walls left standing, and the preserved property of the historic Carroll house.

As desolate a place as Ashley Falls has become, it is not without a few final secrets left to be uncovered. While most of the town’s shady history has been contained within restricted files, Demond’s journey eventually leads him to Ashley Falls and brings him closer to the truth. Desmond doesn’t yet realize that his role in the invisible war has already been determined, and his path set in motion…

Thanks for reading!

~ David

Noble Blog Series #2: A Change in Perspective

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When I began writing Noble in the spring of 2010, I had no intention of turning it into a trilogy. In fact, I didn’t see much potential for a continuing franchise at all. It wasn’t until after I started reading the book reviews that I realized there was an opportunity to create more stories in that universe.

One reader in particular felt quite bullish about the book and would send me emails from time-to-time with plot elements that he wanted to see continued. Although I didn’t share his vision about what might come next in the story, it got me thinking about it nevertheless. Before I knew it, a rush of new ideas flooded my brain and I began outlining Noble: Bloodlines.

About half-way through Bloodlines, I started to wonder if there was enough story left to write a third book. It seemed silly to me to be two-thirds of the way to a trilogy and not do it, but based on the direction Bloodlines was headed, I didn’t immediately see a meaningful way to keep the story going. I also didn’t see the point in making Noble a trilogy if the third act would not be compelling.

I waited about six months after the release of Bloodlines before I sat down and started to brainstorm ideas for a third book. I felt as though I had taken Miller Brinkman’s arc as far as it could go, and no amount of contemplation could change that. I also felt that a lot had happened in the story in a short amount of time, and that even the most ambitious villain takes some time off after a colossal defeat to lick their wounds and regroup.

I considered several options when it came time to select a character for Miller to pass the torch to. I wondered if Puckett would be the right choice. I loved his character, and he felt like the most natural fit to take the reins. Then I wondered if Mosley might be a better choice. She’s young and gifted, and I am a huge proponent of wanting to see more strong female characters in the literary world. She received a pretty big promotion from Puckett, after all, so I saw an opportunity to thrust her into the spotlight and turn her loose.

In the end, however, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time to bring the Noble universe into modern day. All of these events had been happening in secret since the turn of the twentieth century, and I wanted to explore what impact that would have on today’s day and age. What if those secrets began to bubble to the surface? What if the evil that happened in the shadows had finally stepped into the light?

In order to bring Noble into the twenty-first century, I had to create a brand new protagonist. I wanted a character that felt organic to the world I’d created, but that would not come across like Miller Brinkman, part two. It was important to me that this new character have charisma—after all, the reader will be spending over 300 pages with them—and be likeable in the same way that Miller is, but in no way should they outright resemble each other.

This thought process led to the creation of the new protagonist for Noble: New World Order: Desmond Kalish. I’ll be getting more into Desmond’s character in a later blog post, but he is a twenty-five year old police officer for the Charleston, West Virginia police department. How that relates to the Noble universe will unfold as we continue this blog series. 🙂

As you noticed, I did ultimately choose a male lead protagonist instead of a female. While I whole-heartedly believe what I said earlier about the need for stronger female characters, having this protagonist be male presented more options for plot ideas that I wanted to explore in greater detail. That said, Noble: New World Order does indeed have a strong female character. Several, in fact, but more on that later.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with the next installment in the Noble blog series.

~ David

Noble: New World Order – Blog Series Kick-Off

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Hello, and thanks for joining me as I kick-off a new blog series centered on the creation of my upcoming book, Noble: New World Order. NWO will mark the third and final installment of the Noble series. I know, I know. I can feel your collective groans all the way here on the other side of your screen.

 

I am caught up in the middle of a whirlwind of emotion: Happy to be able to finish the trilogy, but also bummed to have reached the end. Cue sad trombone. These characters and stories within the Noble universe have meant a great deal to me, and I will miss them dearly, but there is still a long way to go before NWO is completed. This blog series will be a means of helping me cope, while at the same time, hopefully delivering some interesting insight into the process of its creation. 🙂

 

I thought I’d start off this blog series by talking a little bit about where I’m at in the writing process. The entire book has been outlined for quite some time, but as with any writer, new ideas keep coming up as I go.

 

In the video game world, you have a set date near the end of the development cycle called “content lock.” In the world of a novelist, you can (and usually will) continue to tinker with your story up until the day you hit the “publish” button. It’s both useful and frustrating to have that kind of control at your fingertips, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Sometimes you just need to accept the story that you’ve written and feel confident sending it out into the ether.

 

As of this morning, I have seven completed chapters under my belt. Now, when I say “completed,” I mean to say that I have a first draft. A first draft is usually stable, but not something you want to share outside of your circle until it has undergone a proper edit.

 

It is within the first draft that you still find all of the embarrassing little mistakes like missing words or incorrect homonyms. A first draft is also the reason that a writer must always remember to give their editor a hug… or lots and lots of alcohol.

 

As it currently stands, NWO is on track for a late 2013 release. I don’t have an exact time table in mind, but I feel that the work that’s left to do can be completed within the next five to six months. I am not going to rush it, however, so if I’m not feeling confident that this book is going to live up to expectations, then it won’t see the light of day until I am.

 

There is a lot of pressure when completing a trilogy, and I am well aware of the consequences should I fail to deliver a solid conclusion. I feel really good about the direction of the series, and yes, I know how it all is going to end and I am quite satisfied with it. But, more on that later.

 

Thanks for tuning in to the inaugural NWO blog series kick-off! I have a long list of topics that I’ll be looking to cover over the weeks ahead, but please do let me know if there’s a particular area of interest that you’d like me to cover.

 

Still in need of a kick ass sign-off,

 

~ David K. Hulegaard

The Hotel Ghost Story

I can be a little mischievous at times, but it’s all meant to be harmless fun. Nothing I do is ever intended to be malicious… but I may have potentially crossed that line with a prank I recently pulled while staying at a San Francisco area hotel. 🙂

 

While observing a chest-of-drawers in my room, my mind began to wander: How would somebody react to opening up a drawer and finding documentation from a previous guest recounting some frightening experiences during their stay? Would they immediately dismiss it as a joke or would it seep into their subconscious and make them sleep with one eye open?

 

I had to give it a try if for no other reason than just to provide myself with a few fleeting chuckles before a maid found it and threw it out.

 

When I talked about this practical joke on my Facebook and Twitter earlier this week, it generated a surprising amount of positive reaction. Some offered their support of my twisted sense of humor and others wondered if I was only joking.

 

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So, to set the record straight, here is the letter that I left behind in my hotel room for the next guest. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as they will! 🙂

 

 

 

March 26th, 2013

 

To whoever finds this, I’d like the records to show that I am of sound and intelligent mind and have stayed at this hotel many times before. I have felt uneasy staying here in the past, but always assumed that it was due to exhaustion from traveling, or perhaps just because I can’t completely unwind away from home, no matter how comfortable the room is.

 

Tonight I find myself in room 209, which is my first time ever staying on the second floor. Something hasn’t felt right since I checked in, but again, I figured the sensation was a result of simply being travel-weary.

 

I consider myself to be both a rational thinker and appropriately skeptical, but repeated strange occurrences have me questioning my own beliefs. I have decided to document my evening in hopes that someone else, someday, may share similar experiences and be able to explain them. I cannot.

 

9:06pm – I called down to the front desk and asked point blank if they’ve ever received claims from guests about the hotel being haunted, but the manager just laughed as though I was playing a joke on him. When I assured him that I wasn’t, he said that if there was nothing he could do for me, I needed to get off the line.

 

9:27pm – The air in the room has thickened. Hard to describe, but there’s a heaviness that wasn’t present earlier. I just feel… some kind of pressure.

 

9:40pm – The guest in the room directly above mine is driving me nuts with all the stomping around. For a nice hotel, you’d think it would attract a more courteous clientele. Asshole.

 

10:02pm – Finally got tired of the noisy guest upstairs and called the front desk to complain. The manager informed me that there is no third floor anymore and that they haven’t had rooms to rent above the second floor since the late 80s.

 

10:19pm – I tried watching some TV to take my mind off of things, but I keep seeing some kind of movement outside of the bedroom within the living room area. It’s been mostly through my peripheral vision, though. Everything seems still when I look straight on. Probably just my eyes playing tricks on me.

 

10:33pm – The loud stomping coming from above has started up again. I know it’s not in my head because the light fixture mounted to the ceiling is shaking. WTF?

 

10:36pm – Called the front desk to complain again and now the night manager is starting to sound pissed. He essentially told me to leave him alone and go to sleep, but in a (barely) nicer way. I suppose this means that I’m on my own for the duration of my stay. I’d love to just check-out and not deal with this, but the only other hotel in the area is completely booked up, and this hotel’s manager told me that I can’t switch rooms without “upgrading,” which I can’t afford.

 

10:53pm – Okay, that was a very real bang that just came from the kitchen. I know I should go look, but I don’t want to.

 

10:55pm – Yep, that was a horrible idea. Turned on the light in the kitchen and found my digital camera in the sink. It was on the table next to my laptop bag when I checked-in, which is a good twenty feet or more away. This is getting ridiculous.

 

11:37pm – Okay, it may be time for me to leave. I don’t want to write what I’m thinking, but… I’m nearly 100% positive that a woman in a white gown just peeked into my room from the other side of the door frame. That wasn’t the corner of my eye this time. I saw her clear as day, almost transparent, pressed against the wall as though she were hiding.

 

12:01am – I don’t know why I felt the need to do this, but I turned off all the lights and the TV and just laid flat on the bed, staring out into the dark living room area. Some light is trickling in from the airfield, but very little. In the darkness I continue seeing shapes moving quickly back and forth across the door frame. My depth perception might be a little disoriented without the light, but I could swear they’re moving closer.

 

12:12am – I’ve had enough and I’m leaving. I just felt fingertips pressing against the back of my head and sliding down my neck. I think I sprained my ankle when I jolted up off the bed because I’m in a lot of pain and can’t put any weight on it.

 

12:20am – I’m all packed up and have a cab waiting for me downstairs. Whoever finds this, I wish you better luck in this room than I had. Just know that if you do have experiences of your own, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy.

An Open Apology to my Facebook Friends

I owe my friends a sincere apology. I’ve been a jerk on Facebook, and it’s time for me to come clean. It has taken me years to finally understand the ramifications of my previous glibness, but it stops today.

Like a lot of people, my first exposure to social media was a little site called MySpace during my mid-20s. It seemed ingenious at the time: A place where I can reconnect with old friends, discover new music, and also write overly-dramatized blogs? Sign me up!

Sadly, it wasn’t long before the millennials took to the Internet and commandeered MySpace with their glittery, headache-inducing wallpapers and “duck lips” profile pics. My generation wasn’t innocent, mind you. We had the black-and-white “artsy” photographs of things casting shadows, but nothing that quite reached the level of a pedophile take-out menu.

After recognizing that the time had come for us old farts to vacate MySpace, I made the jump over to a new site in 2008 called Facebook. My teenage niece described it as, “a boring version of MySpace for adults.” Perfect! I added a photo or two, plugged in a bio, and set up shop… my news feed free of duck lips.

I had reconnected with most of my old MySpace pals in no time. That’s when I discovered that my generation had its own version of “duck lips:” Pictures of kids, and food porn. In just a matter of days, my timeline had become inundated with pictures of little Billy using the potty for the first time, and shared photos of lunch orders from twenty different angles.

I was overwhelmed and confused. As is common practice in the United States, I reacted to this confusion by lashing out with sarcasm and mockery. Most of my jabs were above the belt, and I’d like to believe that my friends appreciated my sometimes quirky sense of humor, but over time the well began to dry up.

My news feed, once ripe with happy (sometimes embarrassing) updates, had transformed into a political battleground of polarizing topics. Suddenly, the outside world had invaded my safe place of escapism. Lines had been drawn in the sand and I had friends broadcasting opinions on both sides.

Me? I utilize humor when I’m uncomfortable. I try to find the lighter side of most situations, but there’s a time and a place to get serious. A time and a place to voice your passion and stick up for what you believe in. For me, that place is a blog: An optional piece of reading material for friends and strangers alike to decide whether or not my words are worth their time. For others, that place is Facebook, and that’s when friendships can begin to splinter.

I work in social media for a living, so I am well-accustomed to vitriol. I’ve witnessed far too many real friendships ended over the past two months because of the 2012 presidential election and gun control debates. Yes, I believe that our opinions are valid, but we should direct them to the ears of people that can instill change. Throwing them out into the social media universe may feel cathartic, but it’s also counter-productive, and if we’re being honest, a bit selfish.

So, here is my call to action: Bring back the photos of your kids. Bring back the photos of your food. Bring back the photos of your vacations and getaway trips. Bring back the overhead black-and-white self-portraits of you looking away while a butterfly dances in the background. Whatever, but let’s work together to bring some positive sentiment back into social media.

The world can be a dark and frightening place, but Facebook doesn’t have to be. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to use their Facebook pages. That’s not for me to decide. All I’m saying is that I, personally, am sorry for all the teasing and quipping that I ever did at your expense. I will never do it again.

Was

Was.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty meaningless word. Just three harmless little letters plucked from an alphabet of twenty-six. It’s a word that we use countless times every day and never give it a second thought. It’s not a word that you examine for a deeper or hidden meaning when said, you just know what it means. Your brain uses it to connect the dots of a sentence. It doesn’t serve any greater purpose in the English language than to imply tense.

Or so I thought. Only when forced to associate it with a loved one do you truly begin to understand the devastative power that it possesses.

My Aunt Billie was an amazing woman. She was the sweetest person I have ever known. She was the kindest soul in our family. She was a talented singer. And today, we lost her.

I wish that I had the ability to write something that would make you all feel as though you had known her, because you would have loved her as I do. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and welcomed all strangers as family. It’s a trait she inherited from her parents, my grandparents, and one that has been passed down the family line. I will never be as good of a human being as my Aunt Billie was, but I’m sure as hell giving it the best that I have.

I was an affectionate child—perhaps overly so—always happy to embrace the members of my family with hugs. Our family was a little old-fashioned, so it wasn’t considered appropriate to hug the men. I was too young to understand that at the time, but it felt cold, and only made me more affectionate toward the women in our family.

Because I didn’t get to see her every day, Aunt Billie always took the brunt of my calculated hug-fest when I saw her. She never complained, and she never turned me away. In fact, one year for Christmas her and my Uncle Casey had a custom t-shirt made for me (presumably at one of those t-shirt stores popular at malls during the ‘80s) with a picture of a bear, arms outstretched, that said, “I Need a Hug.” It would’ve been considered “uncool” to wear to school, so I only wore it around the house and tried to hide it. What I wouldn’t give to have that t-shirt now.

My Aunt Billie loved football and was a diehard Raiders fan. Or at least pretended to be for the sake of my Uncle. 🙂 I remember going to their apartment as a child and seeing the, “We interrupt this marriage to bring you the football season” sign hanging on their television dial. I’d learn to “get” that joke later on in life.

My Aunt Billie also made the most delicious soft-batch cookies: Chocolate with peanut butter chips. I have never found another cookie as good as hers, and I can still taste them to this day. She’d fill the cookie jar with them before we’d visit, and I swear my sister and I would eat until it was empty.

I mentioned earlier that my Aunt Billie was a talented singer. I had the chance to see her perform with her big band many years ago, but her love of music went back so much further than that. She could have been the next Shirley Temple. No, seriously. She was discovered by a talent scout as a kid that had big plans for her career. It didn’t wind up happening, but my Aunt never abandoned her passion for singing and entertaining a crowd. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see her do it.

I could go on and on and share stories about her, but the point is that she was incredible. She was an example of what a person should be. She was too good for this world, and she enriched the lives of everyone that knew her. I am a better person because she was a part of my life. I know it’s cliché to say this, but there really will always be a part of her with me as I live out the rest of my life.

Aunt Billie, this part is just for you. I love you. I thank you for everything you’ve added to my life, and I am sorry that we have run out of days together on this earth. I will never forget a single thing about you, nor the kindness and generosity that you’ve taught me. I wish we could have had more time. There’s never enough time. However, I am so grateful that I had one last chance to hear your voice, and I am so happy that my last letter to you brought you joy and made you feel a little better as your health began to fade. I miss you so much already.

And God, if you’re real, take care of my Aunt Billie, because there is no place that deserves her more than Heaven.