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30

I’m not an anxious person, and I’ve always had an OK self-esteem, but in the slow, quiet moments of my 20s I spent absurd amounts of time concerned about my identity. About not knowing who I was. About not knowing enough. About not getting enough done. About wasting time. About being a fraud.

Now that I’m 30 years old, all I worry about is my back. 

The small of it. See, it hurts more than it used to, mostly in the mornings.

But back to the tepid taming of my flaming identity crisis. The trick I’ve learned — and they don’t tell you this until you turn 30 — is to realize that everybody is having an identity crisis. All the time. We’re all faking. We’re all frauds. We’re all failures.

Fake it till you make it, then, isn’t just a saying, but a proverb. 

I see it printed on every bumper sticker, every t-shirt, every smile, every handshake, every campaign hat, every resume, every Facebook post, every blog. Fake it till you make it.

Give yourself a break

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ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Devine -Instigator

Prolific songwriters are annoying. You hear about guys like Kevin Devine and you say, “Wow! Can’t wait to get into this,” and suddenly eight years go by and you’ve missed nine albums and two side-projects (see also, Ryan Adams).

Despite some familiarity with his catalogue (mostly the Bubblegum and Bulldozer albums), I fully admit that I should be a bigger fan of Kevin Devine than I am. Here’s my reasoning: 

My name is also Kevin. [√]

I happen to look like Kevin. [√]

I’m a long-time, bitter Brand New fan. [√]

I’ve seen Kevin live three times and he’s always amazing. [√ and √]

What happens is this: I see Kevin Devine in concert, I walk away in awe, and then I listen to his records and come away disappointed. Call it the “Curse of the Great Live Band,” but I find his studio stuff often fails to capture the spirit, energy and vulnerability of what I hear on stage.

There’s also the problem that his recordings sound like crap.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk Instigator (more…)

Album Review: Kevin Morby – Singing Saw

You’re sitting on the coastline of a small, uninhabited island in the middle of the South Pacific. Sand burrows in the creases of your eyes and the corners of your cracked lips. The wind smells of birds. Behind you lie the remains of a small, wooden lifeboat — splintered and upside down; the oar rests upon your lap. An empty 7-UP can visits your feet, rolling up, rolling down, pushed in by the tide and retreating back with it. In the distance is a storm and you wait for its slow arrival, like a train approaching. You smile because you know there is hope in its dark clouds.

This is what it’s like listening to Kevin Morby’s powerful new record, Singing Saw. Put another, perhaps simpler way: it’s good, okay? Really, really good.

The type of good that resonates in the chest and reverberates in the blood. The type of good that sends you searching. The type of good that strands you on an island in the South Pacific.

Before establishing his minimalist and intimate song signature, Kevin Morby first navigated through the busy streets of Los Angeles’ indie music scene (The Babies, Woods). I’m not sure when I first heard the guy, to be honest, but the singer-songwriter’s sophomore album, Still Life, made my 2014 Best-Of List (the song “All of my Life” remains one of my favorite tunes).

Today, Morby has sharpened his sound — Millennial folk to the beat of Beck’s Sea Change and with the drawl of early Dylan. Not to say there isn’t energy lurking behind them calm waves. The first single from Singing Saw, “I Have Been to the Mountain,” punches in with bass, drums, horns, strings, a gospel choir and a guitar effect that can only be described as 1960’s sci-fi. The song is basically a Tarantino film, or say, a Bloody Mary on a sultry day. Recently, it landed on a Pitchfork summer festival mixtape (on the much-coveted leadoff spot of number one). (more…)

Borrowed trouble: My 30 days inside a payday loan office

The cursor blinks and a man hovers over my computer. American flag t-shirt, sleeves off — he coughs into his hands and rubs them together. He’s nervous. On my desk lies his bank statement, three pay stubs and a driver’s license. They are the only items he has in the world.

“You can do $200?” he asks. “All I need is $200.”

“I can do $200,” I say, but I’m falsely distracted: I’m typing — clicks and clacks without regard to timing or rhythm. The store is stuffy today. I’m thinking about going home. Or crawling under my desk, holding my knees and rocking. I’m feeling loansome: i.e., the mental weight from a month’s work of digging irresponsible borrowers under insurmountable debt.

“Yeah,” he says, “that all?”

Sam, who sits next to me, swivels over. She reaches to tap my computer screen, making the monitor shake, her chubby finger with a fat force. Where she taps it reads,

TOTAL LOAN AMOUNT APPROVED: ………………. $750.00

Sam turns her head, smiling at me, nodding, as if to say, “Go ahead, Kevin, you got this. I believe in you.” So I swallow. I have to find my voice again, like a shy 12 year old being forced to sing the National Anthem in front of his friends; it’s in there, but it doesn’t want to come out.

Below my computer screen is a motivational sign:

GOAL: 100% of TLA

Next to the letters is a picture of a steaming coffee cup with a pastry.

The man, waiting, now growing impatient to my silence, stretches. He looks to his right, at the signage hanging on the wall. Big, beautiful green letters,

BE A RESPONSIBLE BORROWER, TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED.

“You’re approved for $750,” I say.

He pretends to think about it: “Yeah,” he says. “I’ll take it. All of it.” (more…)

Final Semester Eve: A Terrified Toast to the Known Unknown

I remember finishing high school PE. That final time ever, you know? A 10th grader at Arroyo Grande High School, CA—sitting on a bench in a quiet locker room, closing my locker for the last time, holding my gross (unwashed) blue and gold garments in a bunch, thinking, Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever change back into my regular clothes after a PE course in high school.

Sentimental, I know.

But it was a big deal to me, back then. To be honest, I don’t even know why. I hated PE.

It was gross and awful.

In high school, once you learn the guitar, exercising becomes pointless.

Anyway, there I was. Just sitting there. Staring at my clothes. “Momentous,” I mouthed.

I did the same thing when the last episode of LOST arrived. Before the episode even aired, I became melancholic. Like, “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever be disappointed by LOST.”

You get the idea.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I start my final undergraduate semester at the University of Rochester. It should be one of those momentous moments, you know. But I don’t think it will be.

Something’s different.

Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser. Or colder. I’m still terrified, certainly. Terrified about everything that’s coming. But ephemeral moments of sadness about things coming to an end. I don’t know. Just not my thing anymore.

Finishing college, for instance, it won’t grab me like other finishing moments have. That’s my prediction, at least. School, to me, is and has been nothing more than an incredible inconvenience. I’ve appreciated the experience, sure, but it’s time to move on. I’m 28, I’m working already, I’m proving myself to the (real) world every single day. (more…)

2014: See You Later, Alligator; 2015: Please Don’t Be a Reptile

The end of the year. How did this happen? One minute, I’m drinking champagne, the next, I’m drinking champagne again. One whole year, gone. Whoosh. Bam.

Throughout the year, it is important to take personal inventories. Did you grow? Did you fail? Will you do better? Writers like Peter Bregman suggest you should do this every day, for 18 minutes. For every other person on the planet, we do this once a year during New Years Eve.

It’s human tradition to procrastinate.

For me, 2014 was an incredible year. It was a hard year, of course. The most challenging year of my life, but worth it.

Here’s what I’ll remember

Growing

Literally. I gained 15 pounds. This is a HUGE deal for me. Up until recently, I’ve been the same weight since high school. I thought my wife was shrinking all my clothes in the laundry. Nope.

I don’t want to be huge or anything, but geez. I just want to be comfortable sitting in a chair.

Travelling

My time in the east coast may be coming to a close, so it made sense to make the most of my location. In 2014, I (i.e., my wife and I) embarked on as many road trips as possible. We also traveled a bit by air, seeing both familiar and new states.

On the road we hit Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Toronto, and almost every inch of New York State. Through the air we hit Texas, Washington, Idaho, and California. (more…)