Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It’s Been a Long Time...(Part 1)

Ok, time to confess. I haven’t written in my blog for several weeks (several weeks? Try several months), and I feel bad about it. The reason I feel bad is because these past several weeks (months) may be some of the most eventful of the year, and even of my life. So many big, important things happened that need to be documented. The only problem is, my memory is not the greatest for things that happened more than a week ago, so I’m sure that some things will get left out. But, I’ll do my best to highlight some of the major events and not make this entry too super lengthy. I do feel, though, to make up for my extended absence, that I should make this blog entry super special. So, here is my attempt to do that. Here it is- the super special extended multi-week blog extravaganza!

Where to begin? Perhaps I should start at the beginning. Or, I could be unconventional and start at the end and work my way backwards, but I fear that may be too confusing. What sticks out to me first is the trip my mom took to Utah to come and visit me (ok, and maybe the Lemleys as well). She came to Utah at the end of August and spent a few days here. It was convenient for me because I had a gap of time between the time I had to move out of one apartment and before I was allowed to move in to my new apartment. So, I was able to spend some of that time in a neighboring hotel room from my mom. I still worked while she was here, so it was a little torturous waiting out the eight hours of work until I could clock out and spend time with my mom. On the first night she was here, we went to dinner at Bajio and invited Erin to come along. We all had a lot of fun talking and eating good food, and my mom invited Erin to my family’s house for Thanksgiving. This was significant because it sparked the idea for a Disneyland trip in November, which will be happening about five days from when I’m writing this (uh...this actually happened almost a month ago). Besides that, I just spent the next couple of days hanging out with my mom, we watched Inkheart, ate good food, and generally had a great time. Then, we travelled back home in California so that I could go to the big Progressive Nation concert with my dad.

Progressive Nation 2009 was AWESOME! Four bands performed and they were all unique and great in their own way. The first band was the instrumental prog metal band, Scale the Summit. They were a fantastic opener and all were great at their instruments and brought the energy level up right at the outset. Bigelf came on next. They were probably my least favorite of the four bands, but they still played a great set of music that sounds like the hard rock of the seventies mixed with some prog metal. One of the coolest moments was Mike Portnoy coming out to play a song with them, it was all really fun. The next band to play was Zappa Plays Zappa, which is actually a tribute band of sorts to the late Frank Zappa fronted by his son Dwezzil Zappa. They were fantastic and blew me away! They played a very intricate progressive rock that was extremely difficult and complex. But, they pulled it all off amazingly. Mike Portnoy came on stage again to play a song with them as well. It was obvious that Mike is a huge fan of Zappa’s music, and after hearing them play, I am too. Then, the main band came out, Dream Theater! Dream Theater is one of my all-time favorite bands and it was a pleasure to see them live and see several songs from their latest album “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” which I absolutely love. The only downside of the concert was that a couple of guys sitting behind us sang every single song really loud and off-key so I couldn’t hear James LaBrie singing. My dad had enough by about the third song, and told the guys behind us to stop singing. It was all a little awkward for me, but I was glad to be able to hear the music more clearly from that point on. One of the most exciting parts of the concert was a big drum battle between all four of the progressive drummers at the concert, and of course Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater came out the victor. Then, the guitarists had a battle, and Steve Vai, a famous guitarist, came out to play with them! The crowd went crazy! The evening was so much fun, despite the large amounts of alcohol and marijuana being consumed (not by me of course, by others in the crowd).

After that, I had to fly on a plane back to Utah to start classes for fall semester. I got settled in my new apartment, which I’m very happy with. It is the same apartment I stayed in for Spring Semester, and I decided to stay here because I knew one of the roommates I would have and I knew I would get along with him. I was tired of having bad roommates that were hard to deal with. Luckily, this semester, I have 3 absolutely wonderful roommates who make things so much easier. I’m very happy with the living arrangement. The only downfall to the whole thing is that my ward is largely a freshman ward, so I feel like the old man of the ward. I’m pretty sure I am the oldest member of the ward (that isn’t in the Bishopric). Luckily, though, two of my roommates are returned missionaries, so I feel that they are more on the same age level as me. But, the ward is really good, so I have no reason to complain.

My classes are also all really good. I decided to only take 4 classes this semester, and it has proven to be a good balance for me. It’s funny though, two of my classes are similar, and the other two classes are similar, so it feels like I learn everything twice. Also, the two different types of classes are complete opposites in Psychology, so it has been an interesting semester. On one side I have Cognition and Behavioral Neurobiology, which are the more biological, brain based side of psychology that feels that everything can be understood by brain functioning. The other side is Critical Issues in Psychology and LDS Perspectives and Psychology, which has taught me the assumptions that most mainstream psychologists hold and how there are serious shortcomings within the field of Psychology. To be honest it has been a little discouraging, and made me waiver in my confidence with my decision to major in Psychology. But, I have made my choice, and regardless will graduate with a degree in Psychology, so we’ll see how that plays out in the future. It should be interesting.

Besides that, a very important part of my life right now is Erin and the time I’ve spent with her. After starting classes for fall semester, I started dating Erin, and have been having a great time with her. We have seen several movies together (Up, Fame, Toy Story 1 & 2, This Is It) and have had dinner a couple times, and have gone to a concert (Star Wars: In Concert). Another memorable time with her was her taking me to my mission reunion. My car had problems the week of my mission reunion, so I wasn’t going to be able to drive to my mission president’s house. Erin was really sweet and kind and offered to give me a ride to the mission reunion. I really appreciated that, it meant a lot to me. I felt bad because during the reunion, I was pretty awkward, since I never really do well at social gatherings with a lot of people. So, I said hi to a few people I knew and left early and got Wendy’s with Erin. I think it was a good choice because it took me out of the uncomfortable situation and allowed for me to spend more time with Erin.

That is really the main problem I have with myself, my crippling fear in social situations. I wish I was able to be more natural and normal and truly express those things I am feeling, but I find myself unable to. Hopefully over time I will improve. Ooh, I got sidetracked a bit with that personal note. Anyways…yes things are going great with Erin and I’m really happy to be dating her. I feel extremely privileged and blessed by the whole opportunity.

Other big excitement over the past few weeks was my trip with Kevin to California to go to CalProg. The week before we were about to leave, my car started acting weird, so I took it to Jiffy Lube to get an oil change. Well, as always it seems, it ended up that I had a bigger problem than just low oil- I had a leak in the oil sending unit, and it ended up costing my family a lot of money to get it fixed by a mechanic. But, it was fixed, and Kevin and I were able to go to California as planned, and we had a great time! My dad got tickets for Kevin and I as a birthday present for me, and we really had a blast. The first band to perform was Touchstone and they did a decent job. They have a female lead singer, which is pretty rare in progressive rock, and she proved to be a really good front woman. The bass player was also a lot of fun, and the guitarist seemed funny, but mainly because he kept having to deal with sound issues throughout their whole set. After their set, Kevin and I went to McDonalds (since I failed to get up early enough for us to be able to get Breakfast before Touchstone started) and discussed how awesome they were. We also pulled out some money at an ATM so that we could buy souvenirs.

The next two bands to play were Agents of Mercy and Karmakanic, and this was what I was most excited about. These two bands have the exact same line-up of musicians, which included some heroes of mine, namely Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold of The Flower Kings and Nick D’Virgilio of Spock’s Beard. Agents of Mercy was led by Roine Stolt since it is mainly his project, and they played a good portion of songs from their one album that came out earlier this year. They really made the songs come to life! On the album the music is very laid back and pastoral, but they really brought out the beauty and fun of the music, I was really impressed. More impressive, though, was their set as Karmakanic led by Jonas Reingold. They blew me away! Along with Zappa Plays Zappa from prog nation, it was one of the most mind-blowing live experiences I’ve ever had. Their keyboard player, Lalle Larsson, was absolutely amazing and mesmerized me with an incredible solo. Nick D’Virgilio, with little rehearsal time, played magnificently, and had an incredible solo himself that was absolutely amazing. I loved this bands’ performance. After them, It Bites performed, and they were great too! They aren’t quite as full blown progressive as Karmakanic, but their songs were really catchy and fun and all the musicians were playing at the top of their game. The only disappointment was the lack of songs from The Tall Ships, which is the only album I have from them. One of the greatest moments while they were on stage was when John Mitchell, their frontman, started playing Supper’s Ready, and then stopped and said, “That doesn’t sound right.” It was funny.

To Be Continued...