Instead of doing micro-journal entries, here's what's on my mind...
Last night I shut off the second of the two servers that have been running at my house for about two years. The office suddenly got really quiet and it was weird. The T-1 gets shut off next week, and all of my sites have been moved to a hosting facility in San Francisco. I almost had a tear... it was like the end of an era.
I remember at the time I got it that hosting costs were getting out of control, so the $1,200/month didn't seem so bad at the time. Then a series of events made it seem like a bad idea. Two weeks later one of my ad providers dropped me. After one month I built a second, more powerful server. A year later I'd find out it crashed all the time because of bad memory. I should've known... the parts arrived within minutes of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on 9/11. Then a month after that I lost my job, so it was not a real good start to things. The good part of that though is that it forced me to be creative, which is how CoasterBuzz Club started.
Off-site hosting is finally less expensive, so the stuff is in San Fran now. While on the surface this sounds like I'll be making money with the sites, in reality I've got thousands on the business credit card to pay off as a result. If I pay myself back money from back in 2000 when I started all this, that means I should start to make money maybe next spring.
Meanwhile, I just picked up the new Michelle Branch album. Am I a big pussy or what? I am so infatuated with her. I've had things like that for female performers before, like Jewel, based more on musical ability than on looks. It's something about the songs that speak to me. I have to admit her last album had great sonic quality to it, but the lyrics were too much about "me" and cheeseball love topics. Now she seems like she grew up, had a few heartaches, and might even be a little pissed off about it. The song "Emptyhanded" might be about a failing relationship, but it's broad enough that it could apply to a job, crappy families, anything that you just want to get out of to make yourself better. I like the song, it motivates me.
Finally, I've noticed lately I don't like to eat anymore. It's because all I eat is crap, and going meal to meal eating more crap makes me feel not digestively shitty, but shitty in the head because I know I'm eating crap. I know in my head it's crap and it bothers me. Something is gonna snap before too long. One day I'm gonna spontaneously eat a fucking salad or something, I know it.
I got the best birthday present ever. I wish I could post it online. Stephanie made me a scrapbook with pictures and quotes from virtually every person who came to our huge (50+ people) luau party.
It's crazy because people remember the weirdest things about me. I've said some pretty funny shit that I didn't even remember.
Above all, the book makes me realize that I have so many friends and so many people have affected my life, just as I've affected theirs. It also reminds me that I have the best wife ever. It's hard to believe that I landed someone who cares so much for me.
Being 30 isn't so bad. Dick and fart jokes are still funny, my privates function normally, sunsets continue to be beautiful, I've got a ton of great memories and best of all, tomorrow could bring great things if I choose to make it so.
It's still fun to be me.
[Note: This post was made in 2003... much has happened since then.]
As I sit here in my last few hours as a twenty-something, I try to reflect on where I've been, what I have, and where I'm going. What a crazy, bumpy road.
A part of me has been spending a lot of time thinking about how much it sucks to reach this milestone, though I've never been able to really put a finger on what it is that bothers me about it, apart from the actual number. Little things like a disappearing hairline and the fact that I can't really eat just anything anymore are a bummer, but not really a quality of life issue.
Let's turn back the clock...
Before school, I was a fairly happy kid that spent a lot of time being split between my parents. I was always doing things with my hands and I had an active imagination. I started to notice physics early on.
Also before school, my brother was born and my parents divorced. I’d spend about one weekend a month with my Dad. My brother and I would only be close until I got to junior high.
School was too easy and boring. I got straight A's without even trying. Growing up in Cleveland at the start of busing, I was not exposed to racism because six-year olds don't know or care why some kids have different skin color.
In second grade, my mom and my step-dad married. While he often meant well, we never really got along very well, and I was always wrong around him. Naturally this is why I always need to be right.
In fifth grade I started noticing boobs, and by the next year I learned how to, well, you know. I had a crush on the little Puerto Rican girl from down the street. I also had a crush on these little home computers like the TRS-80, which few kids had access to.
Junior High rolled around and I was a nerd. I wanted to fall in love (sex didn't really occur to me yet) and at least do some making out. I also wanted to program stuff on the IBM PCjr's in the lab. That got me a lot of ass kicking and therefore no action. I did ultimately get an Atari 600XL and an Apple II+ to mess around with.
High school started out well. For some reason everyone knew me. Then I got into a fight, got suspended, and decided I really didn't like being well known.
Middle of my freshman year, I moved to suburban white bread land, Brunswick, Ohio. Talk about culture shock. What's worse, the honors program kids were all dicks. I'd spend the next few years not really fitting in, spending time among the cheerleaders and what we now call goth kids, all the while working for the city's cable TV outfit. I lettered in girls volleyball as their manager.
By the end of my senior year I started to find myself, got some minor action, but never really got into the mainstream culture.
In college, Ashland University, everything changed. The constraints of high school and living at home gone, I started to find myself. The day I moved in I met Denise Yingling, who would in many ways change my life. I got to be on radio that first week, and made many friends in everything from the sorority scene to theater. The good times began.
Sophomore year I got to be a resident assistant. The girl upstairs, Denise, dropped out of school. Over the course of that year I’d learn that people would hate in the name of Christianity, that I had amazing potential and talent in broadcast media, that my personality was shaped much from my past (and without my consent), and that I still wanted to be in love. I also had my first really close friend, Bob Hammond, who thankfully was a psych major and would go on to become Dr. Bob.
That Thanksgiving break I spent with Denise and fell in love. The two of us not even having a driver’s license took its toll, and it was up and down. I spent a lot of time being miserable that I couldn’t be with her.
In the summer of ’93 I stayed at school, living with a Japanese roommate who didn’t talk much, but went a long way in helping me gain a better understanding of the world. I also spent a great deal of time with one of my instructors, who inspired me and made me realize so many things that I still refer back to today. He also introduced me to Canadian beer and culture. There’s still a Canadian flag on my desk.
My junior year, the Denise thing ended for good, but I eventually vowed to let it all go. That year I found a voice in writing as a columnist for my college newspaper. I wrote about the things people didn’t like to talk about, like sex, AIDS, crushes on girls and really anything that I was going through. I learned that a good friend was self-stalking herself and even blaming me for it. Good friends like the instructor and my other partner in crime (and future best man in my wedding), Frank, moved away to pursue other things. I also realized that one of my other instructors (Jay Papas, a washed up tool banished to academia) was making a career of trying to knock me down, so I told him to fuck off and quit college radio.
But that year ended with another big change. I got my first car (the engine threw a rod the second day I had it) and I landed my first commercial radio job.
That summer I played adult contemporary tunes for money. I lived at home and did the city cable TV job. I did community theater. The super me was coming out, and I was ready to return to school a super dating machine, ready to live it up.
My senior year began with me painting some of the rooms in the house I was renting with a fellow former RA and one of her friends. I got loaded on a box of wine and met some of the RA’s I would’ve worked with across the street in front of one of the dorms. One girl was there, who happened to move in early. She was cute, and kind of freaky and dorky, in a good way. Her name was Stephanie Gall.
She came back to the house for Canadian beer and I tried to kiss her. She wouldn’t let me, but she came back the next night after I got off my radio shift. The super me dating machine would never date anyone else after that.
That year I did a lot of drinking, a lot of late-night radio, bowling, classes from time to time, more newspaper columns, lots of concerts and lots of soul searching about my future. It was at the time, one of the best years I ever had.
I started to really distance myself from Steph at that point because I thought I’d have to move to Billings, Montana to get a radio job. After a couple of months working part time in radio and full-time at a CompUSA, I got my first full-time radio gig in my home town of Cleveland on the top 40 station.
A few months later, late January, 1996, the ratings sucked and required a guy to be moved off of middays to overnights, my spot, because they still had to pay him. I quit, and never landed another gig. That was the last time I stood behind a microphone.
Six months after that, I got a job with the City of Medina, Ohio, to build their city and school cable TV outfit from the ground up. It was that point that I finally got to move out, and moved in with Steph, though we never really talked about it. Things nearly fell apart, but we worked through it and eventually moved into a larger apartment.
I spent three years at Medina, and even coached freshman volleyball for two years. Eventually, the small-town nonsense drove me out. Before I left though, I started a Web site about Cedar Point, which in part led to my next job at Penton Media as a Webmaster there.
In early 2000 I sold the domain name “popworld.com” to a British firm for $100,000. It eliminated credit card debt, paid for my wedding and honeymoon, paid-off my car and eventually served as the down payment for my house. At about the same time I started CoasterBuzz.com, a roller coaster enthusiast portal.
I got married October 27, 2000 to Stephanie Brooke Gall. We spent more than a week on the island of Kauai in what, to this day, was likely the most peaceful experience I’ve ever had. My greatest achievement in life at that point was getting married to someone who made me a better person, and looked out for me.
Shortly after getting married I returned to coaching, this time junior Olympic volleyball, which I found to be far more competitive and interesting. It was also a lot more rewarding because of the relationships you got to build with the kids.
I left Penton Media in April 2001 and we bought a new house. Later that year I’d get laid-off from my job after the terrorist attacks, and spend six months job-free.
Being unemployed killed my self-esteem and tested my marriage. During this time I doubled my programming knowledge and adopted Microsoft’s new development platform. Writing code started to be more fun than it ever was before.
In the spring of 2002 I started to work for Ahola, a payroll processing firm. While not the most exciting job in the world, it was a paycheck, and I was writing software for a living. The summer became about finding happiness again, and prioritizing life.
The last year or so I’ve spent a lot of time soul searching and trying to determine what it will take for me to be financially independent.
So that’s the big picture these days. So much history in three decades. A lot of it isn’t that interesting, but the sheer volume of it astounds me. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come.
It was kind of neat for a change to go to a Web-related event at an amusement park that had nothing to do with CoasterBuzz. Stephanie and I are members of a site called SuicideGirls.com, which is I suppose a porn site (there are pictures of semi-naked girls there) but really more of a community of people that have a minority opinion of what style and fashion mean in our culture. Lots of piercings, tattoos and fabulous hair. With online journals and personal photo albums, the emphasis is more on the members, I think. How many standard porn sites consist of a subscriber base that is about half female?
We got a call Thursday that one of the girls from Chicago needed a place to crash, so she and her boyfriend showed up late Friday night. We were also going to drive one of the locals who needed a ride. I guess that made us the designated Cleveland-area SG transport service!
When we got there, we were met with a number of friendly (and pierced) faces, as well as lanyards with nametags and profile pictures. It felt a lot like an enthusiast event at that point! It was at this point that I also drew a parallel to the enthusiast scene.
Here we have a bunch of people who have some similar interests in the way of music, fashion, politics or whatever. This does not however mean that everyone is automatically going to hang out and talk with each other all day long. The group of 25 or so split up into four or five groups, actually, and that was OK.
So why can't enthusiasts do this? I mean, just because you saw my name on some stupid Web site doesn't mean I want to be your best friend. In my case, I'm just happy to spend some time with my wife since we often have such different schedules. The SG group was OK with this. We spent the day with our house guests and met the rest of the group at the designated times, but pretty much left it at that.
So anyway... regarding the rides...
The first plan was to hit Millennium Force's Freeway line, but with it backed up to Red Garter, and given that they were starting late, we decided to ditch it and take our chances with the line. We worked around to Gemini after stopping for french fries. It was running well, and the crew did an uneven dispatch just to ensure that a train of rowdy look-at-me frat boys would not be in the train that "won" the race.
Magnum is again running so well this year. In fact, I'd say it's the most consistant it has been since I started paying attention to such things. Compliments to the maintenance department on that ride.
We then worked back to Mean Streak before we had to meet the SG group at Snake River Falls for a wet t-shirt contest that would never happen. Mean Streak wasn't horrible, surprisingly enough, and we got a little nice airtime in the back seat.
After the meeting at SRF, we worked up to Midway Market for lunch. Here's something I never noticed before... we went in to eat for $10, and by the time we left, it had gone up to $13. I was not aware they changed the prices mid-day.
Onward to the arcade where we knocked out a game a of DDR. With two machines there now, they're still always in use, and there are always crowds. We got some evil vibes from some parents because they thought we cut off their little girls, but had our quarters up on the machine before they got there. What's the deal? People have been putting coins up since early pinball days, long before Pac-Man even. Did they think the other people were putting them up there for decoration? Anyway, for a change, we actually looked OK doing six-step songs up there. No real hot dogs around.
Onward with our goth couple to Corkscrew to say "hi" to STchick Kara, who is a peddle-stomping machine. The ride is still pretty smooth for its age, and the air on the pre-loop hop is still impressive.
Dragster was open after a late start, being closed the day before apparently because the tensioning pulley broke and the slacked cable caused havoc on the brake fins and launch sled. They were launching pretty consistantly with five trains. The line exceeded the queue and spilled out on to the midway all the way down to the station, so we skipped it.
We hit Iron Dragon next which felt a little smoother than usual. The ride has lost something since removing trees for Dragster, but the dip past Dragster's exit is actually kind of neat since people are so close to the ride.
We headed over to Millennium Force where we found a fairly reasonable queue, probably an hour length. At this point I was starting to burn out, but was somewhat invigorated after my ride. What a difference since the early morning ride I had a couple of weeks ago. I knew we were in for a treat when you could tell just by looking the train was flying through the last turn. I think MF will be my favorite ride for a long time.
With a little time to kill before our last meeting, we hit Disaster Transport where we waited 20 minutes behind some drunk Barbie who was more amused by the $1 3-D glasses than any child I had ever seen. She went on about them with her drunk friends the entire time were in line. If I didn't know better I'd guess she was on crack, too.
We ended the day with a brief wait on Raptor. I tell people all of the time... ride Raptor around dinner time, between 6 and 8. The line builds to two hours in the morning and people wait in that line, then later you've got waits under 30 minutes. This was even a 30,000+ people day at the park, with cars out to the toll booths.
After meeting the SG group one more time in the picnic area, we said goodbye and headed home. Just as with CB, it's kind of interesting to meet some of the personalities in person. We had a good time hanging out with Gwen, even if she was surprisingly very shy. All in all a good day for CP in July, something I usually try to avoid.
This is what life's all about. This is why being 30 is OK. When someone loves you this much, there probably isn't anything in life that can keep you down. My dearest wife Stephanie did this just before I got home from work (the little girls across the street helped).
There is of course a story behind this. About the time we met, I was doing college radio and commercial radio. I had two sayings that I tried hard to live by, and I used them to sign-off with.
The first one was, "Make it fun to be you." That kind of sums up how I feel about mastering your own destiny. The second thing I said, not on the commercial stations but college radio, was, "Peace, love and happiness." Because shit, what else do you really need?
Best birthday present ever. Loving someone and being loved are the two greatest gifts you can have.
More thoughts on life-to-date later...