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July 24, 2010 / jboo0889

Oh, the people you’ll meet…

Foreword: It’s been a while since my last post, and I was starting to become frustrated with the fact that my lack of inspiration was making it difficult for me to maintain my goal of writing every couple of days. I was looking anywhere and everywhere for something to write about. And a couple of times I started things, but they seemed too forced and simply didn’t work. Finally, though, I have something worth writing about. The funny thing is, I didn’t plan for it at all. In fact, I didn’t even see it coming. I guess that just goes to show that, more often than not, it’s no use looking for inspiration because, when you stop looking, inspiration finds you.

When you spend your summers working at a Subway in a small, Midwestern town, you expect that most days will be unremarkable. And, as it turns out, most days do not disappoint. But every once in a while, something happens and one of those unremarkable days suddenly becomes memorable.

So what was it that made Friday, July 23 2010 memorable? Well, in this case it was more of a who. His name his Teddy Herrera, and he’s making his away across the United States…on a bicycle.

It was a pretty normal Friday afternoon when a young guy I didn’t recognize walked up to the Subway counter and asked to speak to the manager. Usually, this means a complaint of some sort, but when I noticed the Subway logo on the t-shirt he was wearing, I realized he wasn’t hear to complain after all. I couldn’t hear the conversation he was having with my manager, but before long she was nodding in agreement and we were making him a sandwich…on the house. Once he sat down, I asked my manager what his story was. Her response was something I never would’ve guessed. It turns out, this guy – Teddy Herrera – is riding his bike across the country to raise awareness for childhood obesity.

Teddy spent the rest of the evening and most of the following day just hanging out in our small-town sub shop, getting to know us and giving us the opportunity to learn more about him. What I heard of his story is amazing, and I can’t wait to read more about it on his blog (http://acrossamericaforchildhoodobesity.wordpress.com/). I could have easily sat and talked to him about his journey for hours, but unfortunately with dishes to wash and sandwiches to make, I was limited only to bits and pieces of information I got while taking my break or spending a little more time than necessary wiping down tables.

Teddy left Sacramento on June 5 and has been biking across the country since then. He told me that he still has most of his journey ahead of him, but he’s already starting to get serious media attention. He’s even scheduled to appear on Good Morning America when he gets to the East coast. I have no doubt that, before long, tons of people will start to recognize him and his cause will get all of the attention it needs and deserves. And once the head honchos at Subway get wind of what he’s been doing, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he became the new face of Subway (like Jared, only much cooler).

Needless to say, I’m really impressed by Teddy’s mission. Childhood obesity is a serious problem, and it’s great that he’s doing something to combat it. More generally, though, Teddy’s story really strikes a chord with me because it’s absolutely amazing to see someone taking action because of something they believe in. It’s easy to vocally support a cause, but to completely dedicate months of your life to it is unbelievable and almost unheard of these days. Even more incredible, though, is knowing that Teddy has been so successful because of the generosity of the people he has come in contact with – people who are willing to give him a meal or a place to sleep. Though, to be honest, I can’t imagine saying “no” to this guy. He is easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He is amazingly upbeat, and after just a few minutes, it’s obvious that he seriously has a heart of gold and the most infectious, positive spirit.

I can’t express how thankful I am that the small town of Quincy, IL happened to fall on Teddy Herrera’s route across the country. He provided me with a reminder that there are still people out there who will take action when they’re passionate about something. And beyond that he showed me that people in general are still truly good at heart.

Best of luck with the rest of your journey, Teddy. And thank you for some much needed inspiration.

July 3, 2010 / jboo0889

Life is Awesome, #5: Finding the perfect pair of jeans.

5. Finding the perfect pair of jeans

Your frustration grows as you root through the seemingly endless piles of denim searching for the right size and wash. When at last you think you’ve found some suitable options, you head to the dressing room with a bundle of jeans slung over your arm. And then the hard part really begins.

You step into the dressing room, take a deep breath and pull on the first pair. They feel…okay. But, as everyone knows, it’s rarely a good idea to buy a pair of jeans without at least a second opinion. So you step out into the waiting area to see what your friends (who you brought along for exactly this reason) have to say.  They agree. The jeans are just okay but certainly not show-stoppers. This won’t do, and so you head back into the dressing room. The next few pairs get the same reaction. There’s always something that’s not quite right. They’re just a little too snug, an inch or so too long or a wash that simply isn’t flattering.

By now you’re ready to give up. Maybe spending your life in sweatpants isn’t such a bad option after all. But before you throw in the towel, you try one last pair. As you shimmy the somewhat stiff, crunchy fabric up over your calves you can’t help but notice how they hug your legs in just the right way. You get them all the way on, zip them up and fasten the button. It feels good. They’re just snug enough to make you feel secure, but not tight. Now it’s time for the real test. You turn around and give it an over-the-shoulder glance to check out the view from behind. You approve.

You head into the waiting area one last time, but this time it’s just a formality. You strut over to your friends and their smiles and nods of approval say it all. Victory is yours!

Awesome.

June 18, 2010 / jboo0889

That sounds familiar: A tale of pop music cliches

As much as I hate to (sort of) defend it, country music gets some pretty harsh criticism for the subject matter of the songs it produces. People claim you can boil down the genre in its entirety to a handful of themes, among which are tractors, pickup trucks, hard liquor and achy breaky hearts. Now, I’m not saying that isn’t true. I am saying, however, that country music isn’t the only culprit in the crime of musical monotony.

I’m talking about you, pop music. You sit there with your air of staunch superiority, glaring disapprovingly at your country music cousin and pretending that you aren’t guilty of the same crime for which you so violently scold your musical kin. Well, the time has come for you to come off your pedestal and face the music. If you were to take the time to examine the pop library from the past few years, I have no doubt that you would find mountains of recycled themes and ideas that have appeared repeatedly in countless songs. However, I’ve chosen to focus, at this time, on the three that are currently most prominent in my mind and encourage you to make note of the ones you find yourselves.

#1. Girls will (want to) be boys

When Beyoncé released her single “If I Were a Boy”, the first off her album I am…Sasha Fierce, I enjoyed the song quite a bit. Honey B’s voice sounded better than ever and that, paired with the song’s beautiful melody, created the perfect platform from which to project a song that was all about female empowerment. The more I listened to the song, the more I was drawn in by the image Beyoncé was creating – the image of a woman imagining what it would be like if the tables were turned and she was the man in her relationship. The idea was crazy – outlandish, even – but the message was getting to me nonetheless.

Then, all of the sudden, I realized that what I was listening to sounded eerily familiar. Finally, it hit me. I’d heard the very same message a mere year and a half ago when Ciara released her single “Like a Boy.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Beyoncé’s song wasn’t innovative at all. She’d basically taken Ciara’s idea, slowed it down, and fed it to me wrapped in a seductively smooth voice. I was at the same time outraged and disappointed. And yet something tells me this won’t be the last time we hear a girl singing about being a boy. What form will these future gender-bending songs take, you ask? Well, that is the only thing that remains to be seen.

#2. A hip-hop history lesson

Okay, I get it. Hip-hop is more than a music genre. It is a culture – a way of life. It was born in the streets where it continues to grow and evolve as its founders and supporters struggle to make it big whilst being confronted with a multitude of challenges. I understand. Really, I do. And for the love of God, I don’t need to hear another song about it. Or do I?

The musicians certainly seem to think so. I’ll be honest, I love B.o.B.’s wildly popular song “Airplanes,” and I can’t listen to it once without having the chorus on repeat in my head for the rest of the day. But if you look past the catchy, cutesy, optimistic chorus, what you find is yet another history lesson about rap and hip-hop and how things used to be back when rappers were “rappin’ for the hell of it.”

Thank you, B.o.B., for reminding me that today’s hip-hop is all about fame and fortune and that it’s constantly straying from the organic art form it once was. But I’ve heard it all before. I know about the changing. I know about the struggles. Eminem told me all about it years ago with songs like “Like Toy Soldiers.” So please, save your breath, head back into the studio, and write about something that I haven’t heard a hundred times over.

#3. The musical spelling bee

This one is, by far, the worst of all the pop music cliches, and it is, unfortunately, the most prevalent. There was a time when I didn’t mind musician’s throwing a few spelling exercises into their songs. Hell, I will forever be indebted to Gwen Stefani for ensuring that I never spell the word “bananas” wrong again. However, enough is enough. Spelling in songs is beginning to seem less and less like a creative idea and more and more like a way of dealing with writer’s block. It’s like the songwriter says “Oh hey, instead of writing more song, I’m just going to include 30 seconds in which the artist repeatedly spells one of the words from the title.”

The Black Eyed Peas are one of the artists most notorious for using this cliche…Fergie in particular. In fact, the song “Fergalicious” almost sounds more like an actual spelling bee than a song. And the worst part? They spell one of the words wrong. Sorry to break it to you BEPs, but the word “tasty” does not have an “e.”

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why so many artists like to spell in their songs. Perhaps it’s an attempt at educating the masses. I’m all about public education, but there must be a better way. The fact is, when a singer or band spends half of their song chanting letters, they begin to sound less like musicians and more like cheerleaders. If I wanted to hear a spelling bee, then I’d mosey on down to the local elementary school and pop a squat in the auditorium. Step up your game, songwriters, and give me a B-R-E-A-K from the spelling.

June 14, 2010 / jboo0889

Everything’s more fun in a tent.

As we grow up, it’s fun to reminisce about the things we used to do as kids – the way our sense of imagination was completely limitless, turning ordinary places into completely new worlds. But getting older doesn’t have to mean letting go of that sort of youthful and boundless creativity – a fact that my friends and I recently discovered when we turned a section of my basement into our very own giant bed sheet tent.

A backyard camp out has been at the top of our list of things to do this summer, and we had intended to bring that plan to life this past weekend. Unfortunately, the raging storms and pouring rain (which seem never ending these days) have turned my backyard into the beginnings of a swampland, making pitching a tent more or less impossible. Not to be deterred, we decided to turn our camp out into more of a camp in by moving the festivities inside.

But we didn’t stop there.

Once everyone had arrived, I headed to the linen closet and pulled out an armful of old sheets that would soon become our makeshift indoor shelter. After a few minutes of strategizing and furniture rearranging, I took a step back and couldn’t help but smile at the expertly-crafted bed sheet fort. We all eagerly crawled inside, anxious to check out the interior of what would be our home for the rest of the night.

And we did spend pretty much the rest of the night under that homemade tent. As cheesy as it sounds, our little fort quickly became like our own little world where we could all talk and laugh and be ourselves. I never would’ve guessed that a few linen sheets worn thin with age could so perfectly remove us from the rest of the outside world. But for a few hours last night, we weren’t college students working on making the awkward and scary transition into adulthood. We were just a group of kids enjoying each others company and being our young, crazy, uninhibited selves. Maybe it sounds a little childish, but I can honestly say that I learned two very important things last night… that I always want to be a kid at heart and that everything is more fun in a tent.

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June 7, 2010 / jboo0889

You and me could write a plaid romance.

Long gone are the days when plaid was a pattern reserved primarily for cowboys and lumberjacks, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. While I wouldn’t say that plaid was ever necessarily “out” , there’s no doubt that it’s fallen back into favor among the general, fashion-forward population. Now, before I continue, I would like to emphasize that I hold plaid in such a high esteem only insofar as it is limited to plaid shirts. Although I’ll admit to having myself owned a pair or two of plaid shorts in the past, I am now of the opinion that plaid should only be worn on the top half of the body.

Much of the appeal of plaid, as far as I’m concerned, lies in the fact that, even though it can be a somewhat bold pattern, it is surprisingly versatile. When taking the form of a flannel shirt, plaid comfortably finds itself among a young hipster’s staple wardrobe pieces. However, when paired with a solid tie, the right plaid shirt offers a modern twist on the traditional “nerd” look and is perfectly capable of appearing both trendy and professional. Few patterns are able to transition so smoothly from casual to classy, and with a couple of small adjustments, a plaid shirt can easily go from a day at the office to a night on the town. In fact, in a recent article on “How to shop like a GQ editor,” the fashion magazine placed a plaid shirt among the ten must-have items for the fashion-conscious man, further emphasizing the pattern’s superiority.

As a result of this huge spike in popularity, it’s nearly impossible to go to a clothing store and not find a multitude of plaid shirts in a slew of bright colors. Unfortunately, I fear that the “mainstream” appeal is likely to cause plaid to soon fall out of favor with those who consider themselves ahead of the trends (if it hasn’t begun to do so already). In this particular case, however, I strongly feel that abandoning plaid would be a terrible mistake for any aspiring or established fashionista to make.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that everyone wear plaid on a daily basis nor am I claiming to be some sort of fashion authority. However, there’s no doubt that a few plaid shirts make excellent additions to any wardrobe. AND it is incredibly easy to customize to create a look that’s 100 percent unique. With the right assortment of outerwear and accessories, the possibilities are as endless as the varieties of the pattern itself.

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June 6, 2010 / jboo0889

Life is Awesome, #4: Finger painting on foggy windows

#4. Finger painting on foggy windows

Everyone loves spontaneous bursts of creativity. And there’s no better opportunity for that than when you’re sitting in the car and a light fog slowly sweeps over the windows. Your first instinct is to be responsible. With your mother’s disapproving voice ringing in your ears, you reach for the A/C knob, ready to heed her warnings.

But just before switching it on, the temptation proves to be too much. Your pointer finger poised and ready, your hand slowly eases towards the foggy class as your mind whizzes and whirls planning out the masterpiece you will soon create. You make your first swipe, and the noise – a combination between screeching and smudging – fills you with delight. No one can stop you now, and within seconds your work is done. Whether it’s an energetic smiley face, a slightly asymmetrical heart or your name proudly drawn in joyful bubble letters, seeing it sprawled across the glass simply makes you smile.

When at last if you’ve exhausted all of the available window space within an arm’s length, you return to the world of adulthood. You switch on the A/C and watch as slowly but surely your artwork fades and becomes nothing but a memory alongside all of the great foggy window finger paintings.

Awesome.

June 5, 2010 / jboo0889

These are my obsessions…

At any given point in time, I tend to find that there are a few people/places/things/etc. with which I am a bit…obsessed. These things tend to change quite frequently and often vary greatly in nature. Today I have chosen to share with all of you my three current obsessions in the hopes that perhaps one or more of them will strike your fancy as well.

1. Dianna Agron a.k.a. Quinn Fabray

I shamelessly admit that I consider myself a complete Gleek, and, of all the things I love about the show, the character of Quinn Fabray manages to complete capture my heart week after week. With her adorable smile, insanely long eyelashes and surprisingly good voice, Quinn (or as I like to call her, my wifey) is, as far as I am concerned, perfection. I’ll admit, in the first few episodes of Glee, Quinn’s appeal was masked from me by her harsh, overly-perfect ponytail and snobby cheerleader attitude. But soon after she ditched her Cheerios uniform and let her hair down, I fell head-over-heels in love with her. Her version of “It’s a Man’s, Man’s Man’s World” in this past week’s episode basically made me melt (minus the awkward “pregnant” backup dancers), and I’ve already begun preparing for the crippling depression I’ll soon be suffering from after the show’s season finale. Needless to say, I’ll be highly anticipating the premiere of the second season when Quinn Fabray’s shining face will once again grace my TV and/or computer screen.

2. “Hometown Glory” by Adele

The credit for this obsession goes completely to Margaret Spear who convinced me to listen to the song shortly after she discovered her own obsession with Adele. I’d heard of Adele before but wasn’t convinced that I’d like her music. But I eventually gave in and listened to “Hometown Glory” and was immediately hooked.

For starters, Adele has a killer voice. The song itself is beautiful and, in a way, haunting. After listening to it (which I do on repeat), I tend to find the melody playing itself over and over in my head. Also, I love love love the lyrics. As a college student home for the summer, hearing the artist reminisce about her own hometown and what it’s like to go back to it. Bottom line: it’s an awesome song, and you all should check it out!

3. Adventures

It’s not easy coming from the excitement of college in a big city to a relatively small, quiet town w. BUT my friends and I have made it our mission to make the most of the summer, and so far we’ve been wildly successful. The reason? Adventures.

We’ve taken a new approach to having fun by being a little more…creative…than we were in the past. Every night, “adventure” is the name of the game. We meet up at a somewhat central location, pile into a car, and head out to explore a part of the town that we had previously neglected. Before long, we’ve discovered something completely new in this old town that we all grew up in. Sometimes it’s interesting graffiti on the side of a train bridge and sometimes it’s simply a new place to take some fun pictures. We now have an entire list of adventures to complete by the end of the summer, and I cannot wait.

It may seem silly, but going on adventures makes me feel like I’m a kid again…using my imagination and finding something new and exciting around the corners I thought I were so familiar.

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