Coeur d’Alene

In defense of vinyl-loving hipsters (Or, Record Store Day 2016)

There’s a lot to hate about hipsters — I get it. The coffee is never good enough, the beer selection is lacking, we’re poor but always wearing expensive clothing.

Also, we love vinyl records.

Get out of here with your Spotify, Apple Music, MP3s and compact discs. That’s all dirty, digital dope. We want the pure stuff.

Side Note: Yes, I used “we” in the above sentences. Results are in — I’m a hipster. I know it, I can’t help it, it’s what it is. I’m 29 now. The theory is once I turn 30 I’ll graduate to adulthood and can forget about all these silly labels.

Anyway, today is Record Store Day (RSD). Find your favorite local record shop and go buy a few things. They’ll probably have free coffee. You’ll love it. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with RSD. I always go. But to engage an overused cliche, RSD was great before it went “mainstream.” Typical hipster drama. Let’s just say the romance left once 14 year-old girls started stealing records out of my hands (long story for another time).

This year, however, was fun. The lines weren’t too long, everyone was friendly. And best of all, I got mostly what I set out for. As my friend Jake says, “The wax gods were in my favor.”

Here’s the loot:

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  • The Vandals — Sweatin to the Oldies (Live)
  • The Get Up Kids — Red Letter Day Ep
  • Robert Johnson — 10 inch repress (1936)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Picture Disc 10 inch
  • Violent Femmes — Memory/You Move Me (single)
  • Death Cab for Cutie — Tractor Rape Chain/Black Sun (live)

Back to the Quick Defense

I admit it: there’s a lot of showyness about vinyl collecting. It’s great to showcase your collection with a fancy shelf and brag on social media. For me, however, being a vinyl lover (there’s got to be a better name for it?) is about more than just pretension and affectation.

Vinyl records are a treasure hunt. You find the one you want, say an old record you used to love, and it’s like striking gold. In some cases, the prices are so high, you might as well just buy gold, but I digress. Record hunting is also a great way to discover old (but new-to-you) music. I’ve gambled on many dusty, used LPs at yard sales that have later become personal favorites.  (more…)

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Hot Leads and Lonely Stakeouts: My Day of Freelancing for the NY Post

The sky wasn’t dark but it was getting there. My phone had 8% battery charge left. My sunflower seeds were almost gone. I was sick to my stomach — with myself, the media, Internet readers. All this bullshit, because of a rumored sex tape.

I thought back to how it began — an email I thought was a prank.

Kevin,

Are you interested in working for the NY Post today? We need a local reporter to cover the Rachel Dolezal story.

Rachel Dolezal, if you remember, is the white woman who pretended to be black. Err, the transracial woman. At the time, she was making national headlines for being ousted by her parents; she was also the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.

The email I received went on, outlining details of a one-time payment in exchange for eight hours of work. It was signed by an editor/reporter.

Sure, I thought. Yeah right.

Obviously my friends back in New York were making fun of me. See, two weeks prior I had moved from Rochester, NY to Spokane, WA. I was an easy, serendipitous target, as Spokane was steeped in national controversy. I promptly texted my friends and revealed the screenshot: “Ha ha. Very funny guys.”

Really, I was pissed. I was broke and desperate for work after yet another cross-country move — this time post-college. I was living in my parent-in-law’s basement with an interesting amount of credit card debt.

A text returned from my friends. “It’s legit,” they wrote. “We looked the editor up.”

Sweat dripped onto my phone as I hastily replied to the email, my fingers tapping like a jackhammer as if oil hid below my screen: “Yes, yes! God yes! I’m a broke writer in need of work! Will do nude.” I erased the draft, composing myself, returning with tempered thumbs.  

Hello, is this job still available? I have cleared my schedule for the day.

-Kevin

(more…)

Carrs in the car across the USA: Tornados, Volcanos and Floods

My wife and I just Prius’d acrossed the USA. Yes. I’m using Prius as a verb. After two successful cross-country trips (overloaded and overstuffed, might I add), I’m allowed to brag about my Toyota. Aren’t I?

Nine days, six stops. And affordable gasoline! Guess how much gas we spent?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our most recent trip was actually a move: Rochester, New York to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (or the close by Spokane, Washington, where I’ll be working).

That’s a bunch of map

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Rochester -> Louisville -> Nashville -> Memphis -> Kansas City -> Denver -> Yellowstone -> Ceour d’Alene

It’s a crazy mess of a road trip. I know. Here was the thought process:

Kansas City and Denver had family. Admittedly, Nashville was completely out of the way, but we really wanted to see it. And if we timed it just right, we could lock down two nights in Yellowstone. Louisville and Memphis were convenient stops in between.

Most nights we would camp, others we’d stay with family.

Little did we know what we’d discover along the way; little would we see out of our blind spots.

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A quick note on the photos: We shot hundreds, some with our new Cannon Rebel T5, others with our iPhones. My wife took all the good pictures. I took all the weird, squirrelly ones. Also, since there are so many, and we just go home, please excuse the lack of editing. 

Okay, so, you ready? Me neither. Let’s go! (more…)

Interview: Gar Mickelson, Kaleidoscope Community Services

I walk into 2nd Street Commons, a nondescript building in downtown Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho, sandwiched between a dive bar and a closed gun shop. Once inside the first thing I realize is that I have no idea how to categorize the premises, though I try: a coffee shop without a coffee bar, a living room without a TV, a pub without the liquored smell of vomit, a church without a program. There is no schema that fits, and I love it.

People are simply scattered. They look weary, but comfortable, at ease, respite. Some folks relax on the couch while others bustle up and down hallways, in and out of the kitchen.

It is here where I meet Gar Mickelson. He wears a bright smile, gives a big hug, and introduces me to everyone. “This is my friend Kevin,” he says. And everyone I meet makes me feel like family. They, too, give hugs and handshakes.

Gar gives a tour of the facility. As we walk along I continue to meet people, a mix of volunteers and visitors. Some are cooking, cleaning, painting, hauling. The volunteers are passionate and dedicated. Because I am cynical this is all odd for me. I’m waiting for the hook, the agenda, the money making scheme, something to take me out of this fairy tale of genuine coexistence.

We walk into a new room, “Excuse the camping gear,” Gar says. “We’re holding that for someone who was forced to leave his camp site.”

“For free?” I ask. “You’re holding it for free?”

“That’s what we’re all about here, Kevin. ‘Come and be for free.'”

I really want to give Gar another hug, but that would be too weird. So instead, we head into his office, and I ask him a few questions about how Kaleidoscope Community Services started, when it started, and what the heck this place even is.

What is Kaleidoscope Community Services? What is 2nd Street Commons, and how long has the CDA location been established?

Kaleidoscope Community Services is a private, faith-based non-profit corporation based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. KCS exists to bridge the gap between community needs and community resources, and we do this in a variety of ways.

KCS opened the 2nd Street Commons at the end of January, 2014. Since that time we’ve had over 100 volunteers from 10 different churches, served almost 500 gallons of coffee, served almost 1000 meals, and have gone through approximately 6 miles of toilet paper…  (more…)

Relook: The Perils of Landscaping (Kevin Claud Van Damn it!)

You know that awesome, cliché action-movie sequence where the hero jumps out of a car right before it shoots off a cliff? I’m sure you know what I mean.

I’ve always wanted to do that!

Today was going to be an easy day. You know… day off from my main job at the market, do a little side-job yard-work, get a little sunshine. I didn’t realize I’d be jumping off a riding lawnmower as it plunged downhill.

I should explain.

On Wednesdays, I landscape for a really nice lady named Lois. She lives outside of Coeur d’Alene in the “fancy home overlooking the lake on a hill” district. Every summer she rents her house (or yard I should say) for weddings.

She has a nice riding mow, and I genuinely love the job. It’s outside and beautiful and even fun. That said, every landscaper who works a riding mow will mention a turn that makes their teeth grind. My “turn,” happens to have a hill next to it that dramatically declines into wilderness. No problem.

Today, the grass was wet.

Moments

It’s funny how time seems to slow down in radical moments. Looking back, I felt like I could’ve prepped a tuna salad sandwich with the time I had before the fall, which was really only two or three seconds.

I better Titanic off of this thing!

I jumped and hit the ground, soon hearing the mower make a ‘crunch’ sound. I stood up, as slowly as I could muster, and turned my head towards the direction of the renegade-riding mower. God, I didn’t want to look.

“Oh my goodness,” I said. “It’s fine!”

There, downhill, the mower rested in a safe net of bushes. In fact, it couldn’t have had a softer landing. Laughing, I ran down the hill and jumped on the dusty mower and started the engine. I threw the gear in reverse but it wouldn’t go. It tried, I tried, the wheels turned and all, but it wouldn’t go. After a good ten minutes of this back and forth gear shifting, manually lifting the mower, and pushing and pulling in ridiculous helplessness, I rested.

Prayer

I thought about calling some friends, but everyone I knew lived roughly twenty-hours away in California. Lois was gone for a few hours, the only good thing.

“Lord,” I pleaded, “You gotta get me out of this, you gotta send me somebody!”

The hill looks bigger in person, okay?

During the summer, Lois turns her guest room into a bed and breakfast. I thought the house was empty, but I forgot about the B&B guests! Suddenly, I heard a door open.

“Hey! Hey!” I rushed up the hill to the guest’s door with my arms waving. Flustered and bewildered, the man stepped back and threw his fists into a fighting stance (protecting his wife).

“Do you… I… well…” I was out of breathe and apparently lost my vocabulary on the fall. It wasn’t helping my case that the stranger thought me a lunatic. Thankfully, his eyes looked down and saw the green on my clothes and (eventually) the mower in the bushes.

“Did you ride that down the hill?” He asked.

“No… It rolled down by itself.”

His eyes widened and he made the hand gesture of a rolling car. “It rolled?”

“Well no, it roooollllled.” I made the gesture of a smooth downward drift with my hand. I must’ve looked insane. Crazy or not, this answered prayer of a man helped me pull, push, and lift the mower out of the bushes.

It turned out this guy was a saint.

Fin.

Getting out of the bushes was only half the battle, but I will spare you the rest of that crazy story (it included ‘off roading’ further down). All in all, the mower was fine. I even got it back in the yard and finished mowing before Lois came home. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. “Hey, I took your expensive (brand new) riding mow on a joy ride to the lake.”

I didn’t say that.

My conscious got the best of me, and I did tell her. She took it great and actually laughed when I gave her the story. She felt bad for me, could you believe that?

Epilogue

What’s the moral to this tale? Hmmmmm…

Watch out for wet grass?

Don’t cut too close to the edge?

God answers prayer?

Before I left, I took one more glance at the spot where it all went down. The soft breeze was blowing and the sun was finally shining. Down the hill, the bushes were tromped and a freshly made ‘mower size’ trail existed, showing my fateful path. I stood and looked, both triumphant and stupid, gazing with astonishment, and thinking only “Man, that was bad ass.”

[NOTE: This blog post came from 7/28/2011. It has been slightly edited and reworked. I hope to get back on track next week and share some new thoughts. Until then, I hope you enjoy some of my older (odder) tales.]

Kevin & Megan: With a Vengeance

My third wedding anniversary is today! Oh man. Three years, can you believe it? Time flies. It seems just like yesterday Megan and I got hitched at the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center and rode off together on a moped scooter.

“Don’t crash,” she said.

“No promises.”

To celebrate lucky number 1095 (in days), we’re biking the Hiawatha Trail, grabbing dinner in the bustling metropolis of Wallace, Idaho, and—if time allows—seeing a show at the Sixth Street Melodrama.

Broke, jobless, and parent-in-law basement squatters (we’re “basement people” now), we decided to forgo anniversary gifts this year. But shhh, don’t tell her. I’m surprising her still: in two weeks, we’re driving to Rochester, New York where we’ll live for two years.

“Happy Anniversary!!!”

I love my wife. I do. I love her more each day and each year. We’ve stuck it out. She’s seen the worst of me and has suffered through. I’ve lived through her macaroni and cheese.

Together, we make a good team—Team Us.

We talk and laugh and fight. We have inside jokes, and words and phrases of words that make no sense; in public settings, I sometimes forgot I shouldn’t use them.

Strong and independent, beautiful and full of grace, my wife is a wonderful woman who I learn from every day. Thanks for the memories, adventures, and stay-in nights.

I’m looking forward to a few more.

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Our love is here to stay.