(older entries, separated by genre or date, are listed at the bottom of this page.)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas at the Nerd Compound

When I lived in a sketchy duplex house in Campton, NH like 8 years ago, I went to my first Fatsquad Christmas party. Back then, it was like 8-10 people, we got a few things for everyone there, and after presents, we played Halo all night. We had like 4 or 5 TVs in Dan's Grandmother's basement, and we played until 5 in the morning, at which point I packed up and drove an hour and a half home to the horror of his Grandmother. It was awesome. Traditions started (Josh's punch, Josh's hot chocolate which thankfully took a year off this year, my brownies) and it became another Christmas party I got to go to every year. 

Over time, with Jesse and newer roommate Matt bringing a lot of other people into the fold, that Christmas party grew to a much bigger beast. It's now held every year at the Nerd Compound (where Yamstein is), and is more of a straightforward Christmas party, but always fun. We do a real Yankee Swap, there's LOTS of food (including Jesse bringing 20 McDonald's double cheeseburgers and Andrea continuing Hilton's tradition of 100 Wendy's chicken nuggets with various dipping sauces (we still missed you though, Hilt), and there's always some hilarious moments. Nothing incredibly momentous happened this year, but I took pictures. Here you go. 

Irwin was PSYCHED to have 30 people pay attention to him all night.

Matt dolling out the presents, Max is excited.

is that for meeeee?

As is Al. 

World famous wrestler Brian Fury even showed up!

Jesse got absurdly hot hot sauce and his own ghost pepper seeds! He's gonna die!

Here's Jesse with a picture Josh drew of him beating up Zangief!

And here's Jesse with what I gave him, a picture of himself! I don't think it's perfect, but I love that I stole his thing- he draws himself a lot and used to draw books in every piece, so I had all the books be about how much he loved me or inside jokes, etc. It was way more work than I thought it would be, but he always gives me art, so he was due. 

Shawn always talks (obsessively) about Tim Tebow, and I couldn't for the life of me remember if he loved or hated the guy, but this shirt was a no brainer for a gift. It turned out that he's "coming around" on Tebow, so he loved it. 

Happy times. Here's Rich with the Mission Impossible bluray set, which was his first Yankee Swap present. He later got it stolen but ended up with a huge bottle of Maker's Mark whiskey, which he then had stolen and got the Jackass boxed set and peanut butter cups, which he then got stolen and ended up with a BLANKET. I've never seen anyone get so much taken away, get so many different things that were good, and then end up with such crap (I'm sure it's a nice blanket, but still). It was amazing to watch. 

Here's Max being absurdly cute, after Sarah said "show him your toy's butt:"

I have no idea what's happening here, but it rules:

40? 4-8-0?

This is also a very odd picture:

Jon Waugh made Irwin freak out really hard. It ruled. 

weez, mid freak out

Towards the end of the night, I remembered that Rick said he would do a shot of the moonshine bbq sauce Jesse gave Rich if someone else did. Ray, Shawn, and Josh stepped up. Rich later had some, and I had what was left in one shot glass. It was HORRIBLE. It wasn't super hot, just very strong flavored and a painful gross sting. Rich and Josh got instant headaches from it. 

It was a good time. I was planning on trading whatever I got at the Yankee Swap for both seasons of Spartacus, but I opened up what I expected to be crap and saw all 3 seasons of Sons of Anarchy looking back at me. I've seen season 1 and loved it, so this was an incredible score, and somehow, I kept it, so I was psyched about that. Other than that, I got a bunch of nips of booze from Jesse, along with this amazing piece of art he did for me this year:

I love farts (apparently).

The best present to come from that night may have been the best thing I got for Christmas this year. Two weeks or so ago, Heidi, who, like me, loves finding and collecting animal bones and skulls, posted this picture on her facebook:

Since she's gotten very into exploring, hiking and caving recently, she has been absurdly lucky- finding full skeletons of deer in water, skulls inside caves, etc. I was already a "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?" guy at how much luck she was having, when she posted that picture. This was in a field by a farm, where apparently 5 cows were under a tree that was struck by lightning, killing them all. So, to reiterate, there were 5 fairly complete cow skeletons just sitting there for the taking. I posted something to the effect of "I go searching for hours and find 1 bone a year, and you just stumble on 5 SKELETONS!? WHAT THE FUCK!?" 

Instead of laughing at my jealousy, she hooked a brotha up, and I got one of the coolest presents ever- a cleaned and bleached cow skull. It's enormous, and it rules. 

sooooo bad ass

Excellent Christmas at the Nerd Compound.

currently listening to: Dredg- The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thanxmas 9: Introspection and a Call to Arms

9 years ago, a few of the blue zoo crew created a happy little holiday known as Thanxmas. It is held on the first Saturday of December every year, to basically link Thanksgiving meals and family get-together-ness with the onset of Christmas time. People felt that if families could get together for big Thanksgiving feasts, why couldn't a group of really close friends? I missed the first one- it was in Plymouth (at college) and I was in Maine. I didn't realize how cool it was going to be and used to be really lame and didn't go to parties and awesome weekend trips. I went the second year and haven't missed one since. Over the years, it has grown and shrunk, with some being under 20 people and others being near 40. There have been sketchy basement concerts, techno parties, air guitar mustache parties, ball gags, food fights, snowball fights, and my favorite Thanxmas memory- a weezer cover band. I had the idea to play the blue album in its entirety and put together a band with me on drums and vocals, Pog on guitar and vocals, Hilton on guitar, and Underhill on bass. We took it seriously, practiced a ton before (while keeping it completely secret) and had a blast, even though we sadly sounded like garbage. It's still one of my favorite things I've ever done. The excitement of having only 5 people knowing about it the night of Thanxmas, and springing the surprise on everyone by turning the lights off and Hilton playing the opening guitar line to "My Name Is Jonas," then turning on the giant Weezer W I had built out of christmas lights... I loved that moment.

We dress up in our Christmas best- from ugly sweaters to what have become full on costumes. Case in point:

We have a full Thanksgiving dinner, and we do a 20 dollar Yankee Swap, only different than most Yankee Swaps- the goal is to bring the worst present, and nobody ever switches. In most cases, people don't even bring their present home with them- whoever hosts gets stuck with everything. It's at a different person's house every year, and we try to do something special, like powerpoint presentations, concerts, comedy routines, etc. People generally eat too much, get drunk and just party. It rules. I look forward to it every year.

Last year wasn't the best Thanxmas. More people than ever didn't go, some people were pregnant and left early, some had just had children and left early, some were sick and only stayed for a few hours or didn't come at all (I was pretty sick too), and some got way too drunk and spent most of the night on the bathroom floor (hey Gina!) It had all the staples, but it was tame and pretty quiet for blue zoo standards. Thankfully, this year was much better. I showed up earlier than I ever have (I was very late last year, which may have affected my view of it) and we had a very good sized group. Adam's house was enormous and perfect, people were in great spirits, and Wyatt is finally old enough (he was a month old last year) that he could hang out with a bunch of drunk morons and not lose his mind. It was great to have everyone in 1 room and share a lot of laughs and holiday cheer. 

This year also marks the first year that I drank alcohol at this party. It was definitely different. I never felt out of control, but had enough of a constant buzz that I really fully realized just how hectic and loud Thanxmas is. I barely talked to most people- it was just a constant wandering from 1 small group and 1 random conversation to the next. It's always like that, but I think booze makes me more of a short-convo-wander guy than I normally am, and this year was basically an exercise in how little I could talk to someone before moving on to someone else. 

Drinking also affected my pictures. I think I've dropped my camera one too many times, and it's slowly taking worse and worse pictures. The bright lighting combined with my short-convo-wander franticness made nearly all of the pictures blurry and not very well focused. I also had a lot of "why the hell did I take a picture of this?" moments when I went through them. Oh well. I took a bunch though (and stole some), and I'll have them tell the story. 

Thanxmas started out happy and quiet, with odd moments of Kevin inserting himself into other families' pictures:

Wyatt in a Santa suit? Cute overload.

I tried to create my own mixed drink with my favorite liqueur, St. Germain. I forgot how sweet it was, and mixing it with sodas and other super sweet liqueurs made everything taste like insanely sweet syrup. Nobody could handle any of my drinks. But to be fair, only Natalie had even heard of St. Germain, so what the hell do they know anyway?

Jake was looking glorious and Naro, challenged:

We sat down for a lovely Thanxmas meal with more variety than ever this year. And Shaun had a beard!

Looking good, Tara

looking good, Mike

After dinner, Kevin gave a pretty incredible powerpoint presentation on our options for the much lauded Thanxmas cruise. It was hilarious. Just looking around at all of us laughing and joining in on jokes felt great. We're a fantastic little messed up group.

Presents started, and as always, there were some good ones. 

love this picture- it's such a mess (he's wearing a thong btw)

I brought what I feel was the best and weirdest present- a sketchy doll named Corky I found under a table at an antique store, complete with cassette tapes you can play in his back (and it's broken so he sounds like a monster), and a space suit. Pog, to his excitement, got him.

After that, things got ugly, and Kevin put on everyone's presents.

I carried Corky around like he was my baby and got sketchy and weird with him. Here he is petting Wyatt:

Adam blew himself. 

And then Kevin started falling apart.

he's completely gone in this picture

Sadly, most people left pretty early, but Kevin represented Thanxmas hard, staying up and continuing to be a drunken mess late into the night. Here he is jumping on poor Corky's head:

Kevin and Gina eventually disappeared to sleep land, and Pog and I stayed up until like 4 in the morning, playing horrible songs on guitar. We ended with Bon Jovi, singing I'M A COWBOY, ON A STEEEEEEEL HORSE I RIIIIIIIDE at 3:30 while people tried to sleep. When I finally decided to collapse and try to sleep on Adam's couch in 75 degree heat, we came back to see Corky had been moved:

So, we jammed him in the microwave. We definitely scared the shit out of Adam the next morning when he felt like warming up his coffee. 

Corky rules

Throughout my whole life, I've always treasured the quiet moments and serious conversations I find myself in at 3 in the morning after everyone has left or gone to sleep. After messes of blue zoo parties in college, I'd talk to Pog or Sam on the front porch, alone in the dark for long periods. It'd often get serious and was always interesting. I love this kind of stuff and it's that kind of stuff that really solidifies friendships and makes you realize how much you care about people.

Kevin and I decided to film a Thanxmas documentary, and even set up a "confessional room" (like in The Real World") so people could talk about Thanxmas and the night. Sadly, we didn't promote this enough and I only brought 1 tape and 1 battery (so I couldn't have gotten much footage anyway), so we didn't get a whole lot. But after everyone left, Kevin, Pog and I sat in the confessional room and just talked. We had some of that late night talk time- Thanxmas memories, us getting older, college memories, etc. It was great. I took my favorite pictures of the night while drunk Kevin had not only everyone's costumes on, but Christmas lights on his head too:

It's like he's from space or something.

I love these pictures, and I only wish I had realized how good these lights were- I would have taken so many pictures in that room. I feel like they not only look cool, but they capture what I'll remember the time chatting in that room as.

I slept horribly (Adam, turn your goddamn heat down), but had some more laughs (and pancakes) the next morning. This was the first Thanxmas where I stayed over, and even though only Kevin, Gina, Pog, Simone and their friend also stayed over, I'm happy I did. I got the full experience. It was a good Thanxmas. 

Clearly, as we get older, Thanxmas is becoming more of a day event. I got there at 4:30 or so, and there had already been a good amount of people there since 2 or even noon. Kevin and Gina had been there since the night before. I think from here on out, I'll be going up when they do- I like being with my friends too much to have only 5 hours or so together and then having most people leave at 10:30.

It really bummed me out this year how early people left. For the people with kids, I get it. But for everyone else, I just don't. We used to hang out until 2, 3, 4 in the morning. People used to RAGE. For people to stay relatively quiet and leave at 10:30, I just don't get it. It's our biggest party of the year- it's the 1 party that everyone goes to, that everyone has planned year around. It's one of the only times we have our giant retarded group of friends together under one roof- why wouldn't people want to take advantage of that and either stay over, or just leave super late? 

I'm trying my best to not attack my friends or make it sound like I'm judging them. I'm very understanding of where we're all at in our lives. People have kids, pretty serious jobs, and we've all spread out a lot. The trip to Thanxmas used to be much shorter. People go to bed earlier. Life got a lot more serious. I get it. We're older. I just hate that we're starting to show our age, and the passion for partying hard into the night has died out. I mean, we're old- but are we really that old? This used to be the group that would brag about how blown away strangers were when they somehow ended up at a blue zoo party. People couldn't understand how people who were so messed up had somehow found each other. People couldn't understand how that many awesome people regularly hung out with each other. Stories and memories were created all the time, and they were always hilarious. Every new hangout meant more stories to be told at the next one. It's been an awesome 10-15 years or however long we've known each other. Shaun and I once stood in a parking lot from 2 to 4 in the morning, just talking about how special our group of friends was and how lucky we were to have each other.

I don't know, it seems like every year, in a world where it's never been easier to stay in touch, we all fall a little farther away from each other. We know a little less about each other. We talk less. We visit less. We make less of an effort to get together in big groups and rage like we used to. I'm not ready to lose everyone, and I'm not ready to say goodbye to my youth like that. I look at my parents and hate the fact that they don't really have friends, or at least the kind of friends we had growing up. Adults have friends at work or people they play golf with here and there.  Or  they visit every year for a big event, but that's it. How many of your parents still have a big group of friends? How often do they see each other? I never want to lose what I have now. I don't want to see my friends once a year. 

I'm obviously living a very different life than everyone, but at the same time, I guess I'm just writing all of this as a call to arms to anyone from this group who is reading this- first, we should get together more often. And if we're going to have a big party like this every year- let's make it count. Show up earlier. Stay up later. Talk more. Get sillier. Have more fun. Stay over. Take pictures. Make the event count. Keep making memories. We're not that old. We really aren't. We're better than this. 

I really hope this reads more as a rallying cry than a bitch-and-moan whinefest. I think this holiday season really brought it home to me why Thanxmas means so much to me and why I want it so badly to be something more than it may be to a lot of people. I don't have much family. I'm not close to my outside family at all. My Christmas is me and my parents. That's it. A lot of my friends are starting their own families and continuing their traditions as well as starting new ones with their kids. Some don't have kids yet, but are married and have brought entire new families into their lives. Christmas and Thanksgiving are huge events full of family and traditions and passing things on to new generations. They aren't like that for me. For me, they're trying to hold on to what holidays meant to me when I was a kid. I'm trying to make them what they aren't. And as much as my parents and I try and continue with our traditions, it's just not the same. Christmas is starting to feel sad, like it's a sad representation of something that used to mean more. As the years go on, Thanxmas and other get-togethers like it have become my holidays. They're what's important to me. I don't really look forward to Christmas anymore- I look forward to Thanxmas. I need Thanxmas more than I think I ever realized before. 

I'm realizing more and more every year how much this idea is true: that family is what you're born into, but your true family- the one you really love and care about, the one who really knows you- is the friends you choose to be with. I just want to have my "family reunions" be as amazing as I know they can be. I don't want to chase the magic we once had- I want it to be around me all the time. I want my chosen family to get closer, to spend more time together, to be better. Think of how long we've known each other. We've seen couples get together, get married, buy houses, and have kids. We have literally seen an entire new generation of people start to form out of our messed up little group of weirdos. That's beautiful. That's the kind of thing that should make us stop and think about how special what we have is. And most importantly, it should make us work really hard to keep it alive.

What I'm getting at is this- hopefully the new year will bring new events. It's ridiculous that our 2 big events where we all get together are in October and December, and the rest of the year goes untouched. Hopefully, this is the year we add a few more big events. Eventually, I'd love to have something like Thanxmas every 2 months. I think nothing would make me happier then getting 25+ of my favorite people who I've known for like 12 years now under one roof 6 times a year. It can happen, we just have to make it happen.

I guess I'll end this very serious and slightly somber blog on a high note- the current plan for the 10th anniversary Thanxmas is to take a 3 day vacation to Cancun together, with the main goal of having a Thanksgiving dinner on a boat. Plans and prices are currently being ironed out, but if the genuine excitement at this year's Thanxmas is any indication, the second decade of Thanxmases is going to start with a bang. I really hope it does. Let's turn this bitch up a notch.

currently listening to: Envy- "Insomniac Doze"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and family, or "I apparently forgot I had a blog for a month"

Yea blog vacations!?

It got cold. I didn't want to go outside a whole lot. I spent some time at home, I spent a lot of time relaxing and playing video games. I didn't feel like updating and didn't have much to update anyway. I got sick. I got better. I got sick again. I got bored. I got sad. I got happy. I decided there was nothing wrong with playing video games and enjoying my unemployment without having to prove something by going out and doing stuff all the time- my, how seasons change attitudes...

BUT, I'm coming back. I recently talked to a few people who I rarely talk to who are huge fans of the blog, and they yelled at me or at least gave me a "what the hell man?" It's nice to find out that people you don't know that well are honestly bothered when I don't contribute my endless pictures and babbling to the internet. Thanks guys, I really appreciate the love, and please call me on it when I pull my next disappearing act. 

But I'm back. I've recently made some music, have plans (and most importantly a place) to record A LOT of music good and bad, and art has actually been happening. Christmas busy-time is nearly over, and I am finally going to start on some of my projects that I've been putting off forever. So, things are looking up, there are more posts coming, and I'm hopeful for a the least hide-in-my-room-being-miserable winter in quite awhile. 

I guess I'll pick this up where I left off and blast through some stuff. The last post I was going to do before I fell off a cliff was Thanksgiving, so here you go, read about the last holiday 1 day before the current one. I went home to Maine, where it looked like this:

It was so weird leaving dry, snowless NH and driving an hour and 15 minutes north and suddenly there being 4-5 inches of snow on everything. But it was pretty. In fact, I'm in Maine now, and once again, there's snow here and none in NH. Wait- back to a month ago. I spent some time with the 'rents, mostly watching tv and relaxing. Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic. I don't know why anyone would bother eating anything other than turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. I only did the squash to make Mom happy. So good.

In true Alexander household form, we ate at our fancy dining room table, but with a tv at one end so we could watch football. Why be classy when there's football on tv?

I think my favorite thing about Thanksgiving (other than the food) is this retarded meth turkey I made in kindergarten (at least I hope its that old):

miserable monster

I love this turkey and I love that my mom, without fail, always digs it out and slaps it right in the middle of our fancy table. It's the ugliest and best centerpiece ever. Apparently that's what I thought turkeys looked like in 1st grade or whenever I made it. Poor thing.

I also went to Thanksgiving at my Grandmother's house, which I haven't done in something like 10 years. I saw most of the people there at a Thanksgiving luncheon thing like 5 years ago, but I hadn't been to the official Thanksgiving meal in 10 years. My Uncle's daughter (which makes her a cousin? -never understood that stuff) is like 11 now, and the last time I saw her, she was sleeping in her crib. Insane. "Hey complete stranger, we're related."

It was nice in a way to reconnect, but also incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. I got lots of sarcastic "what's it been, 10 years?"s and "hope to see you again sometime"s, but everyone there seemed genuinely happy to see me. It was kind of nice to share some laughs with people from my past, but it was more weird than anything. There wasn't a lot of catching up. It was more just small talk- like we were forced into a room together and were just trying to pass the time. The only questions I got were "where are you living now" and "are you looking for jobs yet?" My Uncle did support my vacation though, and said that he got to do the same thing when he was around my age, and it was amazing for him too.

But it was mostly just quietly uncomfortable and weird. I think, if I'm honest, I only went to make my Dad happy, and to prove that I didn't have to hide from them forever- that I wasn't just going to delete myself from my family.

A lot of people think it's weird that I have zero contact with anyone in my family other than my parents and brother (who I talk to like twice a year), but I think it's really pretty simple if you take the whole "family" label off of it- I have very little in common with these people other than the fact that we're related and I saw them 2-3 times a year while growing up. I didn't chose to see them, I was just carted off with my parents. And after the christmas presents, birthday cards (and parent-forced thank you letters) stopped and being away at college or working weekends in retail meant the visits died out, it wasn't hard to lose all contact. It just kind of happened. I guess the very fact that I'm talking about it means that I somewhat agree that it's odd, but at the same time, spending time with people you barely know twice a year just because you know them is pretty weird too. I don't know. I guess I'm just not that big on family- if you have little in common with a friend, do you continue to try to be friends with them just because you've known each other for a long time? Sure, you do for awhile, but eventually it stops, and if you only saw that friend 3 times a year, how long would it last? I never want it to sound like I don't like these people, it's just always been kind of weird to me how much we hold onto relationships because of the "family" label. 

But anyway, going there meant I got to explore some places I used to when I'd visit there as a kid- from the woods that divided grandma's property from the neighbors, to seeing the neighbor's dogs in their cages, remembering their first dog (that I loved and wanted so bad growing up- a beagle named Spike), to seeing the garbage washed up on the shore of Sandy Pond, to Sandy Pond itself, which I nabbed a beaaauutiful HDR shot of (and only really edited by turning the saturation):

to the creepy basement and it's tiny corner rooms of terrifying darkness, to the awesome TV set up in the living room:

life standing on death

to the Hoarder-esque upstairs that scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. 

Now that I'm an adult and watch TV shows about ghosts, I finally jumped right into the darkest part  of the upstairs that terrifed me the most, and yea, I can see why it scared me so much:

what better thing to have under a tiny light in the farthest corner of the darkness than a doll staring up at you with lifeless eyes?

I also got to check out this painting, which also, for no reason I can figure out, also terrified me as a child. I apparently was scared of this place a lot.

demon child stealing eggs

Back at home, I had an odd night of looking through my college yearbooks too. It's incredible how many people I had completely forgotten about. I only mention this because I also forgot that I made the graduation section. Here's a picture of a much younger, much skinnier, goateed me with a labret piercing, looking pissed/miserable with Kevin looking stoned behind me:

guess they didn't take a lot of pictures on graduation day

The other big thing I did at home was take pictures. All with my iphone of course (as the Instagram obsession continues- lifeofdirtymike- follow me!). So, here's some pretty pictures so I can have my return post be even longer and have even more pictures. 

At the end of my driveway on a walk:

The view from our living room window- Sebago Lake at its glassiest:

I love this shot- I grew up running along these rocks, and few things are prettier in winter than when snow collects on them (and you can catch a sunset).

I went down and took pretty much the same shot 40 minutes later:

For some reason, I really love this shot too- just the ugly grayness of it mixed with the texture from both poor light and a camera phone mixed with an instagram filter. I love the scuzz on the bottom of my Dad's long abandoned dingy boat and the leaf gunk against glassy water. 

currently listening to: Bad Santa on Comedy Central